Thursday, October 8, 2009

Guide writer's favorite battlefields, sites

Jim Miles wants to be alone.

While he is visiting Civil War battlefields, that is.

Miles has written eight guides to campaigns, battles and skirmishes. Among them are “Civil War Sites in Georgia, “Fields of Glory” and “A River Unvexed,” about the Mississippi campaign.

His works are part history, part tour guide.

He’s traveled on interstates, blue highways and gravel roads to research the books. Miles likes getting off the beaten track and goes to sites early in the morning or late in the day “to be alone.”

I asked the Georgia-based author this week to identify some of his favorite sites:

-- Antietam: “You really have to go there.” Nothing like the crowds in Gettysburg.

-- Shiloh: Gorgeous scenery, walks

-- Chickamauga: Especially the less-traveled sites and trails.

-- Fredericksburg: “I love to walk around the stone wall” where Confederates under Gen. Lafayette McLaws rebuffed thousands of Federals.

-- Home of T.R.R. Cobb, a Confederate general, which was recently moved to Athens, Ga.

-- Petersburg: “It is so vast and not so much of a crowd.”

-- Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge: “I like the complexity of the battle, how badly [Braxton] Bragg defended it and the bravery of the Union troops going up.”

-- Griswoldville, Ga.: Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces crushed a militia that came out on this field. Hundreds of young and old Georgians died in the carnage. “You can stand and imagine the terrain at the time,” says Miles. “I bet it was just like this when it happened.”

Miles also appreciates Kennesaw Mountain, Jonesboro and Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, where Gen. John B. Hood watched the battle.

He acknowledges Atlanta’s traffic, development and scarce Civil War sites “can be depressing.”

Still, he said, there are times a visitor can conjure a historical moment.

“You have to ignore the present to remember the past.”

Readers can contact Jim Miles and learn more about his books at

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