The event celebrates the great Blue-Gray Barbecue of 1889, when local congressman Gordon Lee invited veter-ans of the Battle of Chickamauga, from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, to return to the site of the struggle for some camaraderie and a friendly cookoff competition. An estimated 12,000 to 14,000 soldiers returned in peace to participate. Now, more than 100 years later, the city of Chickamauga celebrates this unique historical reunion.
The barbecue contest features three categories: chicken, pulled pork and pork ribs. It offers prizes of $250 to the winning team in each category and one overall grand prize of a new gas grill donated by Ace Hardware.
The entry fee to participate in the cook-off is $25 and spots are still available. This year, the contest will be lim-ited to six teams, to give each barbecue connoisseur a greater chance to sell more of his or her dish to the public.
While the barbecue contest is a definite highlight of the modern event, other attractions this year include living history demonstrations, a cannon firing by Marshall’s Battery of Chattanooga, performances by the popular Civil War-style band The Unreconstructed, as well as the Civil War Ball, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. in the gardens at the Gordon Lee Mansion.
Downtown Chickamauga will effectively be transported back in time for one Saturday, though regular downtown vendors will be open to the public as well. All events will be free of charge.
To register for the Blue-Gray Barbecue Contest, call (706) 375-4728. Space is limited.
Chickamauga city manager John Culpepper is proud of this year’s War Between the States Day and will be dedi-cating it to the little-known memory of a former African-American slave of the Gordon-Lee plantation. Clark Lee, an African-American Confederate soldier, was born into slavery in Walker County and, after the war, worked his way to independence and was buried with honor in Chattanooga.
Clark Lee was born on the property of Gordon Lee Mansion in 1848, and not much is known about him until he joined the Confederate Army with James Clark Gordon, son of James Gordon. Both men fought in all the major bat-tles of the war.
“I’ve taken it on myself to try to honor our black Confederate soldiers,” said Culpepper.
He was intrigued by the stories of African-American Confederates and, in his determination to revive half-buried bits of history before they are forever lost, found the hitherto unknown tale of Clark Lee. He discovered that after the war, Clark Lee relocated to Chattanooga and worked in industry until he applied for a Confederate pen-sion, which he was awarded thanks in part to letters of confirmation from the Gordon-Lee family. Clark Lee was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in St. Elmo, one of the most prestigious cemeteries in Chattanooga.
Culpepper hopes that more local citizens will become interested in Civil War history, as the long-anticipated 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chickamauga is fast approaching. The city manager, who wears an-other hat as the chairman of the Georgia Civil War Commission, expects a huge crowd to flow into Walker County in September 2013, and wants every city in the county to be prepared to reap the benefits.
“I want every city in Walker County to be involved in this thing,” he said. “LaFayette needs to get a piece of the pie, Chickamauga, Rossville, all of them.”
Culpepper expects the event two years hence to draw a crowd of approximately 10,000 re-enactors and enthusi-asts to Walker County.
“I think it’ll be one of the largest (reenactments) in the Deep South.”
He hopes that both the War Between the States Day and the 150th reenactment can be promoted as family-friendly events, and that people will come out to enjoy the food, festivities and historical atmosphere this Septem-ber, and each autumn thereafter.