Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Georgia city plans to open Civil War site

A North Georgia city, the scene of a Confederate attack that tried to blunt the Union move on Atlanta, is purchasing battlefield land in the hopes of building a Civil War heritage and nature trail.

The City Council of Dallas, in Paulding County, last month approved the $900,000 purchase of 75 acres from a family. It is attempting to buy another 75 acres and merge this with 20 acres owned by the county to make a 170-acre visitors destination, particularly for those interested in the famous Orphan Brigade. (Click map to enlarge)

Mayor Boyd Austin said he would like the site to open by 2014, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Dallas.

In May 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman moved on Dallas so that he could control routes to Marietta and Atlanta. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s attempt to stop these moves resulted in three major battles in Paulding County – New Hope Church (The Hell Hole), Pickett’s Mill and Dallas.

Students of history know that Sherman and Johnston jousted in northwest Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign.

On May 28, Lt. Gen William J. Hardee’s corps probed the Union defenses at Dallas, with fighting in two points.

The First Kentucky “Orphan Brigade”, in conjunction with Florida troops, attacked.

“They were decimated,” said Austin, citing casualties of around 50 percent.

“Confused by gunfire from a related cavalry action near the Villa Rica Road, a Kentucky unit on the Marietta Road prematurely launched a full-scale assault,” the late historian Philip Secrist wrote. “This unit, the famed Kentucky Orphan Brigade was so badly mauled by being caught in a crossfire that it was subsequently disbanded. Bates’ division became entangled with the enemy and had difficulty disengaging, requiring Hardee to commit additional units from his command to the rescue. The battle continued for the better part of the day along the entire Dallas line. Confederate casualties on May 28 are estimated to have exceeded 1,000 men. “

A road sign says the assault is a notable example of “heroism and disaster.”

After the battle, Sherman moved toward Allatoona, with Johnston following.

Austin would like to see entrenchments on the properties restored and protected. Interpretive signs would help tell the story of the battle and a nature trail would wend through the property.

The tract just purchased by the city connects with Sara Babb Park, which includes recreational facilities.

According to the Georgia Battlefields Association, about 50 yards of trenches are on the Paulding property (right). The purchased 75 acres “has the beginnings of trenches that extend onto Ray Mountain,” says association president Charlie Crawford.

The additional acreage Austin wants to buy has trenches the Union 9th Kentucky held, Crawford said.

“We have a lot of people coming to look for the Orphan Brigade,” says Austin.

Money from the city’s renewed special option local sales tax could go toward the creation of the historic site, the mayor said.

The city also is developing a Civil War Memorial Trailhead to connect downtown to the Silver Comet Trail, popular with bicyclists. A Sons of Confederate Veterans camp is planning to erect a statue at the small park.

Map and Paulding photo courtesy of Georgia Battlefields Association

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