Friday, July 23, 2010

Use Google Earth to tour battlefield

If only Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had Google Earth when he marched through Georgia in 1864.

He would have known exactly where Cleburne’s Division and other Confederate troops were entrenched down to the parapet and traverse level at Kennesaw Mountain northwest of Atlanta.

Instead, modern-day Civil War buffs and recreational users of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park can take advantage of GIS technology and Google Earth to get a virtual tour.

The park posted the new Google Earth map on its website in June, said Superintendent Stanley Bond.

“I’ve heard comments from people in the history field that it is a good tool,” said Bond, who hired two students at nearby Kennesaw State University to build the map.

The work produced by Tom Powers and Ed Dean, who are geography/GIS majors, is impressive.

With a little practice, you can use a menu of click boxes and folders to bring up multiple overlays of the park.

Powers, a technical writer who has “moved into the digital arena,” did some old-fashioned leg work to produce the text and pop-up windows. He used the park’s library, talked with NPS historian Willie Johnson and found public domain pictures.

“The goal is to increase park visitation,” said Powers.

Powers and Dean converted NPS data files and then figured out how to produce a map that was informative without being overwhelming. Powers put in 150 hours on the project, Dean about 80.

The map is largely organized by where generals were entrenched or moved in the battle during the Atlanta Campaign. Pop-ups feature details on specific engagements during the fighting, which was a brief but costly setback during Sherman’s move on Atlanta.

Walking and horse trails, rivers, streams and railroads also are featured. Google Earth allows you to get a sense of the mountainous terrain and what an advantage it gave to Confederate forces.

Bond hopes one day for the map to drill down with even more detail and list regiments that participated in the June 1864 battle.

Interestingly, neither Powers nor Dean knew much about the history of the site before they started the project last fall.

“I knew there was a battle ... I didn’t know a lot about it,” said Dean, a KSU junior from nearby Mableton.

Click here to download Kennesaw Mountain Google Earth map.

1 comment:

  1. This is amazing! How long will it before virtual tours of the battlefield will be available for download on the internet? Great article, thanks for sharing it with us.