McLemore Cove and Civil War

McLemore Cove is a valley with elevation of 248 m and length of 15 miles in the “V” between the Lookout Mountain to the west and Pigeon Mountain to the east. It opens to the north and closes to the south. It was named for John McLemore, the chief of the Cherokee, son of a white trader and a Cherokee mother. The cove connects with the head of the Georgia cove and functions as a corridor between Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area and Zahnd Natural Area. The total conservation land reached 20,000 acres. Its ecology importance and historical value attracts the recent land acquisition in 2008 that made it part of Walker County, Georgia’s public property.

McLemore Cove, Walker County, GA

The cove was formed by a combination of resistant dolostone and limestone while the resistant sandstone from the mountains joint in the south end. It is an anticline with arch-like folds and a sequence of rock layers that are older towards the center of the fold. Its unique location between Pigeon Mountain and Lookout Mountain makes it geologically a transition between the Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachian Mountains. The sandstone of the plateau let water seep through cracks and dissolve the underlying limestone layers. Lying between Lookout and Pigeon Mountains, the cove was made famous during the Civil War.

In Civil War, The Union troops used to enter McLemore Cove and Confederate General Bragg hoped to use the Cove to trap Union Corps. The plunging anticline is a very vulnerable site with a dead end created by conjunction of Lookout and Pigeon mountains. It would be hard for trapped troops to escape.

Battle of Chickamauga (lithograph by Kurz and Allison, 1890).

Bragg ordered his subordinates to block the exit from the Cove and attack. However, the generals didn’t comply. The delaying gave the Union General enough time to be alerted of his endangered position. The Union troops withdrew from the McLemore Cove and moved to Chickamauga where it was broader. The Confederate tried in futile to drive the Union troops back to the cove where they would be easier to defeat. On the following day of the battle, the Union troops held strategic position on the high ground and the two armies faced each other in the bloody battle of Chickamauga.

Authored by Liu Yang

Work Cited:

Leigh, P. (2013, September 11). The Mistake at McLemore’s Cove. Retrieved from

Coulter, V. C. (2004). Echoes of McLemore Cove. Walden, TN: Waldenhouse.

Georgia Wild E-Newsletter | Georgia DNR – Wildlife Resources Division. (n.d.). Retrieved from

LeBeau, K. (n.d.). Geological Society of America – Geology and the Civil War: The Battle of Chickamauga – Press Release. Retrieved from