Dalton is the Gateway to Civil War Georgia. Dalton is packed with Civil War sites, and related history. In fact, the United States Government recently declared Dalton and Whitfield County to have more intact Civil War artifacts than any other place in the country. On April 12th 1862, volunteers from the Union Army under the command of James J. Andrews, took control of a train located at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw, Georgia). The Train was normally set to run from Kennesaw to Chattanooga, and would pass through Dalton along the way. Confederate Soldiers gave chase, and briefly stopped in Dalton at the Depot to signal ahead, and warn confederate soldiers stationed along the railroad what had happened. The stolen train, called the General, passed through the Railroad Tunnel at Tunnel Hill, and made it as far as Ringgold before being captured. James J Andrews was tried in a military court, and found guilty. He was hung on June 7th 1862 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, along with seven others who participated in the Great Locomotive Chase.

In 1863, after the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Confederate Soldiers, beaten, and battered, retreated to Dalton to find refuge. General Joseph E. Johnson, commanding officer of the Confederate Army in Georgia, took up headquarters at the Huff House, still standing today. By spring of 1864, Union Forces began a campaign to drive the Confederate Army south, towards Atlanta. Two battles occurred in the area; one at Rocky Face Ridge, and the other at Dug Gap Mountain. Neither battle were major engagements, but they did cede the city of Dalton to Union Forces under command of Major General William T. Sherman. The earthwork formations used in the defense are still present on Dug Gap Mountain and Rocky Face Ridge.

After the Civil War and during the Reconstruction, Dalton, like most towns in the south, struggled economically. The economic depression of the late Eighteen Hundreds lasted until the early Nineteen Hundreds, when a new hope emerged.