Here in the state of Georgia, the Civil War is very much alive here and now – In the present. While much of the nation has moved on, the last 150 years have been but a moment for Southerners, and not white Southerners alone, as many often suppose. The recent commemorations are a bitter reminder of the wound of that war on the nation. Here in the Atlanta the preparations for upcoming commemorations of the Battle of Atlanta, which took place 150 years ago on July 22, 1864, remind residents of the war’s impact on the city.
There are numerous sites throughout the state of course, but one example, Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, GA, provides an example of the exacting costs of war on women and children. Only a short distance from Atlanta, the ruins of the New Manchester Textile Mills, which have recently found fame after being featured in the Hunger Games franchise, are unique. The mill was one of two sites where white women and children, workers in the mill – which provided cloth for Confederate soldiers – were taken as prisoners of war. (Note: I haven’t had a chance to investigate evidence surrounding the people of color who may have been swept up in this action. Enslaved African laborers built this site – or much of it, but more research is needed to tell this story). This was around April, 1864, when General Sherman ordered the mill burned to the ground because of its war role. Union soldiers stayed at the mill, drilling, swimming, and awaiting orders, before heading to Atlanta for the historic battle.
The research issues surrounding the Civil War have not been exhausted. Too many have not even been considered in the scholarship, let alone our classrooms.