Chattanooga History

When most people think of Chattanooga’s history, they typically think about our rich railroad history. While it’s a big part of what makes Chattanooga “Chattanooga”, our history is woven throughout our vibrant city and the surrounding areas.

Some History Highlights

We’re home to the nation’s first and largest military park, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park; Ross’s Landing on the riverfront, a Cherokee removal site now memorialized by The Passage; a digital and electronic map displaying the battle of Lookout Mountain at Battles for Chattanooga; the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center — serving to inspire future generations with the values demonstrated by Medal of Honor recipients—; the Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal Train Station Complex built in 1909; and museums like the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Bessie Smith Cultural Center and the International Towing & Recovery Museum and Hall of Fame. So take a deep dive into Chattanooga’s history to see what we’re all about. 

How did Chattanooga get its name? 

Ever wondered where the name “Chattanooga” came from? It’s a Creek Indian word for “rock coming to a point.” This refers to one of our most infamous sites, Lookout Mountain, which begins in Chattanooga and stretches 88 miles through Alabama and Georgia. The city itself started out with two different names: Ross’s Landing and Lookout City, but officially took the name of Chattanooga in 1838. 

Train History

Chattanooga’s train history dates back before the Civil War, and with our developed rail lines and river, we were a strategic location for many pivotal moments in history. Chattanooga was made famous by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, who recorded the first gold record with the song, “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” 

Today, you can still be a part of the “Golden Age” and take a ride aboard a train at the Tennessee Valley Railroad or ride up Lookout Mountain on the steepest passenger railway in the world, the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

Be sure to check our events calendar by type for all history-related events.


For more information on traveling to Chattanooga, contact the Virtual Visitors Center by calling (800) 322-3344 or sending an email, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Native American History

In 1816, Ross’s Landing was established along Chattanooga’s riverfront by John Ross, a Chief of the Cherokee Indians. With the organization of Hamilton County in 1819, Ross’s Landing served not only the Cherokee trade center but also as a convenient business center...

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Black History

From art and murals to music and historical sit-ins, Chattanooga is full of culture that commemorates Chattanooga’s Black History and the courageous individuals who left an imprint on the community and the world.

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Civil War History

Because of Chattanooga’s strategic location, flowing river and advanced rail systems, some of the hardest-fought and most complex Civil War battles happened during the fall of 1863 on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Chattanooga was considered the gateway to...

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