Col. John T. Wilder and his men, nicknamed the Lightning Brigade earlier in the year, were near the site of Widow Glenn's house when Rebel forces broke through at the Brotherton Cabin during the battle of Chickamauga (September 19 - 20, 1863). Regiments from Indiana and Illinois armed with Spencer 7-shot repeating carbine laid down a barrage into the advancing Confederates under the command of Arthur Manigault, forcing the Rebels to retreat. As Wilder prepared to join the rest of Union Army on top of Snodgrass Hill north of his position he was approached by Charles Dana, Assistant Secretary of War. Dana ordered him not to join Thomas, nor attack the Rebels between Wilder's current position and Snodgrass Hill.
The effect of Wilder's attack is widely debated. Some say it slowed the Rebel army long enough for General George Thomas to form a line while other argue it was only one in a chain of events that included the wounding of General John B. Hood that slowed the Confederate army.
As the movement to create a memorial to the men who fought and died at Chickamauga grew, the idea of a monument to the men of the Lightning Brigade grew. In 1892 plans were finalized and approved to build the circular tower that allows a bird's-eye view of area of the Confederate breakthough at the Brotherton Cabin and the area where "Blue Thunder" struck. Paid for by privately raised funds, much of which came from Wilder's men, the monument was almost 60 feet tall when a bank failure during the Panic of 1893 put an end to the work. The tower was a scant 60 feet tall at the time. In 1897 work began again and the first phase of building (the outside) is listed as complete in 1899. Work continued on the building until 1904, when the staircase inside the tower was completed.
During a violent thunderstorm in 1915, Wilder Tower took a direct hit of lightning, which damaged the top of the building and the stone staircase inside. Repair crews fixed the damage, essentially rebuilding the top quarter of the structure. On June 8, 1963, the Wilder Monument was rededicated by a group of Civil War Centennial Commissionars from Indiana. It was the first monument on Chickamauga battlefield to be rededicated.
Today the 85-foot tower stands completely renovated. A spiral staircase begins inside the 16X16 foot base, leading to the top where visitors can view almost all of the field of battle.
Chickamauga-Chatanooga National Military Park
Other Attractions in Chickamauga
Lee and Gordon's Mill
Rock Eagle Effigy Mound
Big Red Apple
Historic Squares of Savannah
Babyland General Hospital
Etowah River Bridge
Cooper's Iron Works
Oostanaula River Bridge
John B. Gordon Hall
Relief Map at Ringgold
Relief Map at Dalton
Noble Brothers Foundry
The Big Chicken
Coca-Cola bottle at Turner Field
World of Coca Cola
Skylift at Stone Mountain Park