By Christopher Smith
They’ve studied statistics about the other side, they have a game plan in mind and they are ready to fight for victory this weekend, even though they may already know the ultimate outcome.
Football fans? No.
American Civil War re-enactors.
More than 300 re-enactors are migrating to Whitfield County to bring to life the Battle of Tunnel Hill this Saturday and Sunday. The public will have the chance to watch musket-wielding history buffs recreate the battle, which occurs on the very land where Confederate and Union forces clashed 150 years ago (the battlefield is off Clisby Austin Road).
“We’ve done this for 20 years,” said Janet Cochran, president of the Tunnel Hill Historical Foundation which helps fund the program. “We’re very excited for it.”
In the actual battle, 500 to 600 Confederate infantry kept about 4,500 Union troops from gaining a stronghold in Tunnel Hill days before the larger Battle of Chickamauga.
With the National Weather Service calling for a sunny Saturday and only 20 percent chance of rain on Sunday, Cochran says it’s the perfect time for families to get out and see “living history.”
“We really want kids to come out,” she said. “We’re trying to make it easy for families who have several children to come out. Kids really love this kind of thing and the re-enactors love sharing history with them.”
And because the event is smaller than the re-enactment of the Battle of Chickamauga, set for Sept. 19-22, it offers “a more intimate picture,” Cochran said. Some re-enactors, she said, have passed up on Chickamauga to be at Tunnel Hill.
“They like the smaller events,” she said. “It allows more of an ability in being able to interact with each other and the public on a smaller scale. I always hear re-enactors talk about the setting of our event and how much they love it.”
The nearby Tunnel Hill Heritage Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Battles begin at 2 p.m. each day and last about an hour-and-a-half. Admission is $10 (free for children under 12).
“That also includes admission to the historic Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel, the Clisby Austin House (built in 1848) and our museum,” Cochran said. “That’s something we have that not a lot of other places have. Those are historic places people can visit.”
Docents will be around to answer historical questions, Cochran said, adding that the historic sites are “semi self-guided.”
For more information, call (706) 871-1571 or visit www.tunnelhillheritagecenter.com.