This industrial city of 144,776 is known nationally for the lyrical train the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, made famous by bandleader Glenn Miller, as well as for the devastating Battle of Chattanooga, and Chickamauga, one of the last victories for the Confederacy.
Chattanooga is now the state’s fourth-largest city, built around the banks of the Tennessee River. It was this very river that changed Chattanooga’s fortunes when, during the 1930s, the federal government established the Tennessee Valley Authority to conserve and develop the resources of the Tennessee River Valley. The authority directed its massive power plants from the city, and controlled the floodwaters of the Tennessee River. Chattanooga grew from a strategic military prize for the Union during the Civil War to become a leading agricultural and rail center.
Its progress as a city came at a great cost to the Cherokee people, who had lived in the Tennessee Valley. Driven from their land in 1838, on the site of Chattanooga’s Ross’s Landing, the Cherokee were moved west to the Oklahoma territory along what is now known as “the Trail of Tears.” Chattanooga’s downtown region has the Tennessee Aquarium at Ross’s Landing, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, and also the Chattanooga Regional History Museum. The Chattanooga African-American Museum showcases the life of jazz priestess Bessie Smith, who came from the city. Her life is also celebrated during the annual Riverbend Festival’s “Bessie Smith Strut” party.
Chattanooga is also home to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum, spotlighting the city-founded tow-trucking industry.
The best attraction is out of town at Lookout Mountain, the site of the city’s theater of war. The Battles for Chattanooga Museum, formerly known as Confederama, profiles Chattanooga’s surrounding battlefields, including neighboring Chickamauga, in Georgia. From Point Park, visitors can view the 8,000-acre Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and gain an extensive view of Chattanooga—all from the same location where, in 1863, Union General Ulysses S. Grant opened fire on the Confederate fortification at Lookout Mountain.
The park’s main visitor center is at Park Point on East Brow Road, off Route 148.
Chattanooga is serviced by the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport and by buses.