ABOVE PHOTO: Reenactment, Union Soldiers.
By Renée S. Gordon
“ You once said that I would crush an enemy and you pitied my foe. Do you recall my reply? Although many years have passed, my answer is the same. ‘I would ever shield and protect you’. That I have done. Forgive all else. I am only a soldier.”
–William T. Sherman
Georgia, founded in 1733, was the last of the 13 original colonies, the first Southern state to ratify the Constitution and the fifth state to secede from the Union on January 19, 1861. The years between the first and last events were pivotal years for the country and Georgia played a significant role.
There were always political, cultural, economic and social disparities between the North and the South but these differences were put aside during the time of the American Revolution. The issue of slavery came to the forefront during the debate over the text of the Declaration of Independence when Jefferson’s denunciation of the institution was removed so that southern delegates would sign. www.vindicatingthefounders.com/library/jeffersons-draft
The differences quickly reemerged in 1789 when an ordinance banned slavery in the Northwest Territory followed in 1808 by the ban on the importation of slaves from West Africa. The South saw it as a willingness on the part of the U.S. Government to “interfere” in the business of slavery. The South controlled the government until the mid-1800s and the election of Abraham Lincoln was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Lincoln said in his 1865 Second Inaugural Address, “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”
We are in the midst of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War, not a celebration but a remembrance and reexamination of a defining event in our history. During this period each state will host events in keeping with their participation 150-years ago, many timed to coincide with the original dates. www.civilwar.org/150th-anniversary
Following Georgia’s Civil War Heritage will take you to the most important battlefields and related sites throughout the state. By April of 1865 11,000 Georgians had died in the war effort, 3,500 blacks enlisted in the Union Army, more than 430,000 African Americans were freed and Georgia had suffered immeasurable devastation. One national reenactment will take place in the state in 2013 and two in 2014. www.civilwarheritagetrails.org and www.gacivilwar.org
The Battle of Chickamauga took place from September 18-20, 1863. More than 34,000 soldiers of the 124,000 who fought were killed on the battlefield making it the largest and bloodiest two-day battle in the Western Theater. On the 20th the Union withdrew to Chattanooga pursued by the Confederates who then occupied the area including the Chattanooga Valley. In November General Grant drove the southern forces back into Georgia and opened the route for 1864’s campaign to capture Atlanta.
Congress purchased 5200-acres of land in 1892 and established Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the first major Civil War battlefield to be designated as a memorial. The current park is more than 8,000-acres, has 1400 monuments and is the oldest and largest military park. Tours should begin in the visitor center with a 20-minute film. The foyer is lined with portraits of the Civil War generals and a museum is filled with displays, dioramas and a timeline. The African American story is presented as part of the interpretation. The trail through the park is filled with monuments and wayside markers. The markers were written between 1889 -95 by actual battle participants. www.chickamaugacampaign.org
James Gordon built the two-story Gordon-Lee Mansion from 1840-47 on the site of the former Cherokee Courthouse. Originally 2500-acres, Gordon owned 21 slaves and the property included six brick slave houses. The main house was constructed with slave labor and all materials, except the nails, were made on the plantation. The house is furnished with authentic period antiques and retains its original floors.
It is the only building that was in the hands of both sides and the only building that went through the battle and is still standing. It served as Union Headquarters and then as a hospital. The library functioned as the main operating theater during the battle and bloodstains can still be seen on the floor. Doctors amputated limbs and threw them out the French doors into waiting wagons. It is estimated that 40 loads of limbs were taken away. Mansion tours are offered. www.gordonleemansion.com
The September 20-22, 2013 reenactment of the Battle of Chickamauga will be the largest in the country with more than 10,000 re-enactors. www.150cwbattle.com
The Battle of Resaca occurred May 13-15, 1864 and was the first major battle of the Atlanta Campaign. In this battle Gen. Joseph Johnston was forced to pull back by Sherman. Approximately 150,000 soldiers took part in the battle and it was the only one in which the combined forces of both the North and South participated. www.resacabattlefield.org
When Mary Green returned home after the battle she found her lawn littered with shallow graves. Mary and her sisters decided to gather and rebury the 450 bodies in what became the Confederate Cemetery in Resaca, the first in Georgia. The 2.5-acre cemetery is on land donated by her father. www.exploregordoncounty.com
LaFayette is a small town with a huge history. Prior to incorporation in 1835 it was known as Chattooga, Chattoogaville and Benton. A battle took place there on June 24, 1864 when Confederate forces attacked Union occupying forces. Reinforcements arrived and the battle ended. There were a total of 28 killed, 60 wounded and 131 captured. The LaFayette Cemetery is one of the few where soldiers from both sides are interred.
The 1836 Marsh House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was headquarters for Confederate General Braxton Bragg to plan the Battle of Chickamauga. The slave built original two-story house had eight rooms and a central hall on 200-acres of land. By 1860 Spencer Marsh owned eight slaves who lived in two slave cabins. The family evacuated during the war, taking only the sugar chest and a cradle with them. They returned to find hoof marks on the floor and bullet and bloodstains on the walls.
PHOTO: Marsh House.
One of the direct descendants of a Marsh slave is responsible for, Helping Hands,” the interpretation of the history of the enslaved workers. The second floor servant’s quarter’s display has photographs and information. www.marshhouseoflafayette.com
Calhoun, Ga’s Harris Arts Center is the home of the Roland Hayes Museum. Hayes, born in 1887 to former slaves, is considered the first African American singer to achieve international fame. The highlight of the collection is a Gildemeester & Kroeger piano used while he practiced. The center hosts concerts featuring African American artists. Free. www.harrisartscenter.com
The Chieftains Museum/ Major Ridge Home, the first brick house within the Cherokee Nation, is a site on the Trail of Tears and a National Historic Landmark. The original house, a two-story, dog-trot, log structure with three rooms per floor, is within the existing building. The house was renovated in 1828 and two rooms were added.
The museum preserves and presents the 19th-century history and the legacy of the Cherokee Indians. Even though Ridge fought with Andrew Jackson and was an assimilated planter with four farms, a trading post, a ferry service and 20 slaves, he was forced to sign away his land and move. In 1839 other Cherokee murdered him because he had signed away Cherokee land. www.chieftainsmuseum.org
The Rome – Floyd Visitor Center is an absolute must stop. The center has information, facilities and the “Last Stop Gift Shop” filled with unique souvenirs and memorabilia. On the exterior there are four exhibits including the 1850 Boswell family cabin, a 19th-century cotton gin and wayside interpretive plaques. www.visitromegeorgia.org
Rome was founded in 1834 on seven hills between the Etowah, Oostanaula and Coosa Rivers. The area is a district known today as “Between the Rivers Historic District.” Because Rome saw continuous action throughout the Civil War It suffered devastation during the Civil War.
A sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf, complete with Romulus and Remus, is the city’s symbol. It was a gift from Mussolini and the Italian Government in 1929 and is a duplicate of one in the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome, Italy. The statue stands on the steps of Rome’s 1914 City Hall.
In 1870 Rome’s iconic Clocktower was constructed. The brick water tower is 63’ deep, 26’ wide and has 107 spiral stairs to the top with an additional 41-ft. tower that houses the clock works. Ten murals depicting the history of the city are displayed in a small museum on the ground floor of the structure.
On November 10, 1864 Sherman issued the order, from his headquarters in Rome, to destroy all public property that was not of use to the Union. Rome’s devastation began immediately and this was the beginning of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Rome has developed a Civil War Trail brochure that is available at the visitor center. www.thecivilwarinrome.org
Myrtle Hill Cemetery was established in 1857 with six levels on 32-acres. The “Guardian of the Hills” is the topmost monument surrounded by 20,000 burial sites. At the entrance to the cemetery is a memorial to Nathan Bedford Forrest who is credited with saving the city in May of 1863 by capturing Union Colonel Streight. The memorial dates from 1908.
By July of 1863 the Romans knew they were ripe for an attack and on July 14th they set aside funds to construct a trio of forts. Fort Stovall, constructed by slaves, was erected just beneath the top of Myrtle Hill Cemetery to protect the western point of entry, the foundry and the Coosa River. The exact location of the fort has not been determined. It is believed that the Union forces occupied Stovall after the Confederates were routed.
After the war the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, or Freedman’s Bureau, field office was situated on Broad Street, once a 132-ft. wide thoroughfare lined with cotton warehouses, from March 3, 1865 to June 10, 1872. More than 5,000 freed slaves reported to this location.
Claremont House offers perfect accommodations for any stay in Rome. Colonel Yancey built the mansion in 1889. This exquisite Victorian Gothic house has a mansard roof, 14-ft. ceilings, 11 fireplaces and 14 distinctive types of hardwood throughout. The mansion has been a B&B and event venue since the early 1990s. All rooms have private baths, luxurious linens and deluxe amenities, cable, WIFI, complimentary snacks and beverages, gourmet breakfast and antique furnishings. Claremont House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. www.theclaremonthouse.net
For information on any of the sites above and to plan a visit consult www.exploregeorgia.org
I wish you smooth travels!
Beginning on June 28th DC2NY Upscale Bus will operate between Wilmington, Delaware and Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches on Lower Delaware at a cost of $25.00 each way. Wilmington buses depart from 100 N. French Street by the AMTRAK Station. Weekend departures and returns are regularly scheduled and information is on the website. www.dc2ny.com
Arlington, Virginia, located a short distance from the National Mall, has launched a StayArlington Capital Summer Vacation promotion. There are an array of sites, including the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Iwo Jima, Arlington National Cemetery, more than forty hotels, numerous dining and shopping opportunities and accommodations are as much as 20 percent less than in D.C. Hotel packages include various extras such as free admission passes or a FREE gift tote from The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. www.simon.com/mall/the-fashion-centre-at-pentagon-city . You can create a wonderful, affordable (remember most D.C. museums are free), vacation with Arlington as your base. www.stayarlington.com