Historic Camp Thomas
The presence of military troops at the Chickamauga Park during the Spanish American war constituted the most activities seen there since the Civil War. A small community, called Lytle, grew up just outside the camp.
A contemporary description of the town of Lytle, where the troops arrived, pointed up the massive confusion that typified the first days of the Chickamauga Park. "Debarking from the train of the single track road which is the only railway connecting between Chickamauga and the great camp, the visitor finds himself in the trampling turmoil of 'Fake-town,' as the boys have dubbed the aggregation of shanties and rude shelters comprising the town of Lytle. Fighting his way out of the crush of hurrying man, shying horses, tangled vehicles, piled-up army stores and shouting vendors, he winds to the top of the hill beyond 'Bloody Pond' and looks back upon the maelstrom which he has just escaped. There is no familiar feature in this scene. The sleepy little hamlet has disappeared, and its place has been usurped by a busy railway yard with many tracks, the temporary town, the long lines of one-story warehouses, huge corrals for stock, and heaped-up mountains of supplies for which there is yet no room in the warehouses."
While Chattanooga businesses benefited from the infusion of money each payday, the town of Lytle was always there for those who could not afford a trip to the large city. Any soldier at Camp Thomas could get to Lytle in a few minutes even own foot. A strip of bars, houses of prostitution, and gambling halls known as "The Midway" ran day and night.
Not all soldiers were welcomed at Lytle. Edward A. Johnson, with the all-black 25th U.S. Infantry Regiment, wrote: "we arrived at Chickamauga Park about April 15, 1898, being the first regiment to arrive at that place. We were a curiosity. Thousands of people, both white and colored, from Chattanooga, Tenn., visited us daily. Many of them had never seen a colored soldier. The behavior of the men was such that even the most prejudiced could find no fault ... all along the route from Missoula, Montana, with the exception of one or two places in Georgia, we had been received most cordially. But in Georgia, outside of the park, it mattered not if we were soldiers of the United States, and going to fight for the honor of our country and the freedom of an oppressed and starving people, we were ... treated... with contempt. I must pass over the events and incidents of camp life in Chickamauga.
During the few months of operation more than 72,000 soldiers had been at Camp Thomas. By the middle of September, however, all units, except seven battalions of the Sixth and Eighth U.S. Volunteer Infantry had departed. General Boynton, who in June had been appointed brigadier general of volunteers, now assumed command of Camp Thomas. He ordered all nonmilitary trading establishments closed, including those along the infamous Midway, Lytle quickly became a ghost town.
For more information on historic Chickamauga, please visit the Depot Museum, inquire at Town Hall or look up the homepages for the city of Chickamauga and the Chickamauga campaign trail on the Internet: