Friends of the Gordon Lee Mansion, a local nonprofit group, held its annual Blue & Gray BBQ Contest & Festival Sept. 14 on the grounds of the historic mansion in Chickamauga.
Barbecue vendors offered up chicken, pulled pork, and sandwiches. Further back on the property, a quilt show was taking place.
The “Blue & Gray BBQ” originated in 1889 after the Civil War. During the war, men from both sides who battled in Chickamauga used Crawfish Springs, adjacent to the Gordon Lee Mansion, as a water supply for the majority of the war itself.
According to NoogaToday, George H. Putney of the 37th Indiana Infantry Regiment, was at Crystal Springs in 1863 and wrote: “After going some distance, we came to Crawfish Springs. There we were permitted to fill our canteens, which we gladly did, as we knew the importance of water in a bottle. What a beautiful spring of water that was and is! Think of going from that pure life-giving fountain of clear, cold water, springing up in great abundance, to a great and dreadful battle where smoke and dust and toil and wounds and death hold high carnival. That is war!”
And so, as an unexpected turn of events, in 1889, after the war had ended, Crawfish Springs was the site of a historical union (and perhaps locally legendary) of the veterans of both the North and South. Some refer to the sides as the “blue and gray.”
At this reunion, the soldiers held a barbecue and feasted together. Military bands provided the entertainment, and they held a ceremony called “smoking for peace” in which everyone smoked tobacco from a pipe. Each pipe was created from the wood at Snodgrass Hill and stems from river cane cut at the banks of West Chickamauga Creek.
The “Blue & Gray BBQ” is still held in Chickamauga, and though it is not as revolutionary as it was at the time, it is not meant to be groundbreaking. It is meant to be a celebration of Chickamauga’s rich history and the peace between sides of what is debated to be the bloodiest war in U.S. history.