Chickamauga City Manager John Culpepper, local historian E. Raymond Evans and technical partner Bruce Wilkey have collaborated on the book Camp Thomas.
The book details the time when the North and South were mending fences after the Civil War and there was martial law in the South. The U.S. and Spain were at war from April to August 1898, caused by Cubas battle for liberation from Spain, and Camp Thomas became a military town that made the Chattanooga area what it is today.
Being around Chickamauga and walking the battlefield and studying it like it is all these years, I knew that there was some good Spanish-American War history up there and I knew vaguely about the town of Lytle and Midway, Culpepper said. So, we got to a point where Raymond and myself felt like we had covered everything on the Civil War.
Culpepper and Evans put together a proposal for Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell for the book and interpretive signs that are now at Crawfish Springs in Chickamauga. Heiskell agreed and helped with research costs of the book.
Now we have the completed book and we have what Im going to call the Spanish-American War Wayside at Crawfish Springs with four interpretive signs, simply because that was in the same location as the park hotel that was used as an army hospital during the Spanish-American War, Culpepper said.
According to Culpepper, this is part of the heritage tourism program in Walker County.
The battlefield was the nations largest military training grounds during the Spanish-American War and held nearly 72,000 troops at Camp Thomas.
Camp Thomas was the biggest thing that ever happened to Chattanooga, Evans said. It was much, much bigger than the Civil War.
Evans said most of the materials for the book came from old Chattanooga Times papers from that era, and that the Chattanooga Times covered the happenings at the base on a daily basis.
Every day they would just tell what was going on at the park, and that is basically what this book does, Evans said.
The book studies the town of Lytle and how it grew to be a booming economy with a $5 million per month revenue stream, Evans said.
The research into the book cost $2,500 and was funded by Heiskell. Heiskell and Culpepper said renewing interest in the Spanish-American War could boost the economy through heritage tourism.
It was a viable economic center. Without Camp Thomas being here, Chattanooga might not be much bigger than LaFayette today, Evans said.
The Camp Thomas book is $25 and is available at the Walker County Commissioners Office, or at the Chickamauga Battlefield Museum.
We have jumped into the history thing and we have learned so much that people didnt know, unless they were a part of it, Heiskell said.
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