Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This weekend: Tours, talks and 'moonshine' mark 150th anniversary of Atlanta battles

One of the bike tours offered at B*ATL weekend

Perspectives that went largely unnoticed during the nation’s centennial of the Civil War – those of civilians, children, slaves and a prison guard -- are being heard this week at two major events marking the bloody conflict’s impact on Atlanta.

The Atlanta History Center in Buckhead is commemorating the Battle of Peachtree Creek from Friday night through Sunday. The weekend includes family-oriented events and one, “Civil War After Dark,” largely geared for adults.

On Sunday, the 150th anniversary of the battle, a history center blog will be posting real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts related to the clash, which occurred not far from the AHC and ended in the first of three defeats in the city for attacking Rebel troops.

The eclectic, annual event known as B*ATL began last weekend and has events throughout the week. Its prime focus is the July 22, 1864, Battle of Atlanta, which sprawled across the neighborhoods of East Atlanta, Kirkwood and Inman Park and occurred two days after Peachtree Creek. Events continue through Sunday, with Saturday featuring the most activities.

B*ATL will feature its customary van, walking and cemetery tours. But that’s not the only way to learn about the battle’s significance, said Chairman Henry Bryant.

“Someone interested in running, will learn something from the Doublequick (Saturday morning’s 5K run), as unlikely as that may sound,” Bryant said. “In some ways, they might learn more about the soldiers’ actual experience than someone riding around in an air-conditioned tour bus. And the bike tour even simulates a cavalry ride.”

The scheduled storytelling and living histories includes a slave narrative, accounts of African-American soldiers, a farm boy turned soldier and a family that could not escape war.

“A 4-year-old who knows nothing about the Civil War might learn that history can be fun and entertaining by visiting the storytelling making her want to get to know more later on,” Bryant told the Picket. “She might remember years later that she got ice cream or pizza after the story on that hot battle day.

Re-enactors will display military life at B*ATL
“For people who enjoy music, our concerts become an entry point to this history or it becomes something that can bring a tear for its poignancy. The plays can tickle a funny bone or bring a story to life.”

B*ATL’s “Front Lines” experience features re-enactors who demonstrate camp life, drilling and artillery fire. “It offers little boys and grown men and women the chance to get inside the frontlines and up close to soldiers . . . to hear the boom of the cannon or rifles and the smell of black powder. It can rattle your teeth.”

The “Civil War to Civil Rights” tent will feature costumed characters who bring together and connect or contrast the generational experiences from 1864 to 1964.

Bryant also recommends the wreath-laying ceremonies Saturday morning at the monuments of two generals – one Union and one Confederate – who fell that day in battle.

Many people who come to intown neighbors don’t realize they sit on a battlefield or know what happened. B*ATL is geared toward them, too, said Bryant.

“A tour guide … can take you around to the sites and help you know what all of those markers are about, while giving you a feeling for what the people felt and went through on that day, let alone some of the larger political and social implications for that day and now,” he said.

Doing the laundry wasn't quite so easy (Atlanta History Center)

The Atlanta History Center’s program begins Friday night with a musical and theatrical performance, “A Sweet Strangeness Thrills My Heart: The World of Sallie Independence Foster, 1861–1887.”

Dolores Hydock and Bobby Horton tell the story of an Alabama girl who kept a diary and wrote letters to his brothers away at the front. The performance costs $15 for members, $20 for nonmembers.

Most programs Saturday are free for members of the Atlanta History Center and are included in the general admission price for nonmembers.

Events include family activities focused on Civil War cooking, clothing crafts, music and a soldiers’ encampment. A theatrical performance also is scheduled.

At the Smith Farm, living historians portraying civilians, soldiers and enslaved workers will talk about the war’s impact on various populations.

Robert Jenkins, author of “The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood’s First Sortie, July 20, 1864,” will speak Saturday afternoon.

Civil War injured await treatment (AHC)

That evening, curator Gordon L. Jones will lead a tour of the new AHC exhibit, “Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Jr. Civil War Collection.” The collection features rare items made for Confederate troops.

Events continue into Saturday evening, with many aimed for the older visitor.

“The idea for the evening program is to tell about the side of the Civil War that may not be discussed in classrooms  -- details about the battlefield and hospitals, etc. -- and provide interpretation designed for more mature audiences,” said Martha Tye., AHC marketing communications manager.

Betsy Sprayberry will be in her boudoir to discuss undergarments during the Civil War.

Guests can attend an improvisational performance and a guided tour of the “Turning Point” exhibit “to learn weird superstitions and vices that soldiers had during the Civil War. Hear about the seedy underbelly of the war that texts books never taught you!” 

A cash bar will offer moonshine-themed cocktails and local beers.

The Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum in Grant Park won’t be offering adult beverages on Sunday, but is having a family fun day focused on the Battle of Atlanta and the Civil War.

The program, free with regular paid admission, includes storytelling, face painters, games and Civil War re-enactors.

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