Georgia, the Empire State of the South, played a crucial role in the American Civil War. In 1861, the state boasted numerous growing industrial cities such as Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Columbus, while Savannah was a prosperous cotton and rice port on the coast. The state provided thousands of troops and vast quantities of food and supplies to the war effort.
In 1864 the war came to Georgia with Federal troops, marching from their base in Chattanooga, Tenn., eventually capturing Atlanta and then marching to the sea, leaving a trail of destruction in their path. Many historians consider the loss of Atlanta the final death knoll of the Confederacy.
While many of these historical sites associated with the 1864 Atlanta campaign have been lost to development over the last 150 years. There are many historic sites throughout Georgia that do remain intact and need preservation.
Realizing this need, the Georgia Civil War Commission, was formed by the General Assembly in 1993, to coordinate the planning, preservation, and promotion of structures, battlefields, and other sites that are associated with the Civil War which are not already managed by the state or federal government, as are Fort Pulaski and the battlefields at Chickamauga and Kennessaw Mountain. The commission consists of fifteen volunteers appointed by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.
An early victory for the Georgia Civil War Commission was the battlefield at Griswoldville in middle Georgia, located in Jones and Twiggs counties. The GCWC acquired 17 acres at the site of the only infantry engagement prior to Union General William T. Sherman’s arrival in Savannah during the March to the Sea. That land is now a state historic site.
From its formation, the GCWC focused on the preservation of the battlefield at Resaca, where the troops of Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston collided in May 1864 in the first major engagement of the Atlanta Campaign. In May 2000 a major Civil War preservation victory was realized when the state purchased a 508-acre tract of that battlefield for $2.36 Million. The commission was a key player in facilitating the sale.
The commission played a key role in the recent preservation of a 190-acre tract of land in southwest Atlanta adjacent to Utoy Creek that was included on the Civil War Preservation Trust’s Ten Most Endangered list. The site is laced with trenches dug by Union Gen. John Palmer’s XIV Corps in August 1864 during the siege of Atlanta
In 2001, the commission began negotiations with the landowner, Cascade Properties, to save the property. With philanthropic help from the Arthur Blank Family Foundation, the Georgia Greenspace Program, the City of Atlanta Greenway Acquisition Project and the Quality of Life Improvements Bond Project, the Georgia Civil War Commission facilitated the purchase of the land for the City of Atlanta for $2.65 million. Plans for the site, a heavily-wooded parcel surrounded by a residential area, include trails and interpretive signs.
In 2010, the GCWC co-published a revised edition of Crossroads of Conflict, a detailed guidebook to the state’s Civil War sites, with the University of Georgia Press, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and the Georgia Humanities Council. The Commission also published a booklet entitled Georgia’s Confederate Counties to tell the history of counties whose namesake placed a role in the War. The GCWC continues to sponsor and host national conferences and education and preservation forums and has networked extensively with local, state, and national preservation groups. Commissioners are regularly asked to endorse preservation efforts and serve as speakers at meetings and lectures.
The Georgia Civil War Commission continues to raise awareness of preservation issues across the state and to promote contact between preservation groups as well as tourism of Georgia’s many Civil War sites. We hope that you will assist us in preserving Georgia’s Civil War heritage.