Monday, March 24, 2014

'Our time to shine': Kennesaw battlefield, trail club prepare for 150th, seek volunteers

Organizers are updating this website with Kennesaw 150th information

The National Park Service and a group that maintains 20 miles of Kennesaw Mountain trails are preparing for up to 100,000 visitors who will take in interpretive talks, weapons demonstrations, music and ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the battle and the Atlanta Campaign.

Their partnership includes a website that is being updated with events, FAQs and volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

Because of the anticipated crowds, visitors to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park will park in satellite parking lots and take shuttle buses to various points around the park just northwest of Atlanta.

The park staff and the Kennesaw Mountain Trail Club – which is raising $150,000 -- are busy finalizing plans for the sesquicentennial observance that begins Thursday evening, June 26, and goes through a 5 p.m. closing ceremony on Sunday, June 29.

Fred Feltmann, communications director for the trail club, said “lots” of volunteers will be needed.

They’ll be used in many ways: crowd control, guides, assistance in lighting luminaries on the night of the rededication of the Illinois Monument, interpretive hikes and more.”

Illinois Monument on Cheatham Hill will be rededicated (NPS

Frontal assaults at Kennesaw by Union Gen. William T. Sherman failed on June 27, 1864, to dislodge entrenched Confederates. The fighting over several days produced about 4,000 casualties in the eventually successful campaign to take Atlanta.

In 2013, 1.9 million visitors thronged to the 2,900-acre park in Cobb County, taking advantage of its trails, picturesque views and grassy meadows. Only about 20 percent come to learn about the site’s Civil War history.

Officials hope this summer’s events, combined with a new film at the visitor center and a new trail, will give thousands the opportunity to fully appreciate what happened in this scenic spot just northwest of Atlanta.

“One hundred and 50 years only comes around one time,” park Superintendent Nancy Walther recently told the Picket. “It is important for us to remember why this was designated a national battlefield and what went on here.”

Atlanta, Marietta and other communities this year also are sponsoring events related to Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

Walther and her staff and have been working with the trail club on the extensive logistics necessary for the signature observance, which is expected to draw between 60,000 and 100,000 visitors.

24-Gun Battery Trail will officially open in April (Kennesaw Mtn Trail Club)

The role of the website is to build anticipation, seek volunteers, donations and sponsors and direct visitors to events, says Feltmann and webmaster Jerry Givan.

It also will include the times of the various demonstrations and activities and where the parking/bus pickups will be.

The non-profit Kennesaw Mountain Trail Club has raised about $60,000 toward its $150,000 goal. 

Funds will go toward programming, concerts, traffic control, signage, first aid and restroom stations, transportation and more.

“With the help of our community, visitors will experience our Southern hospitality and leave with a lasting sense of our rich history,” says fundraising chair Lucy Denzin.

Trail club and park officials are excited about the upcoming debut of the 24-Gun Battery Trail, along the spot where Federal artillerymen opened up on Confederate positions in the heights above.

“These are some incredible cannon fortifications that the Union army built,” says Walther.

One of several bridges on the new trail (KMTC)

“The Federals massed guns to support attacks. This was for the attack on Pigeon Hill and Little Kennesaw,” says park historian Willie Johnson. “They were there the entire time the Federals were there and held until Confederates evacuated the line” in early July 1864.

The Union batteries were the 2nd Illinois, 5th Wisconsin Light, 7th Indiana and 19th Indiana Light. Lumsden’s Battery was among those in gray returning fire.

The park plans to eventually add interpretive signage to the trail, which is accessible from the visitor center and is near busy Stilesboro Road.

The trail club says the path will be officially open by the end of April. It is about 1.7 miles long, starting from the entrance of the environmental trail to Gilbert Road. The club urges walkers to stay on the path and not endanger the artillery emplacements.

“It is designed to be sustainable, such that it makes gentle grade changes,” said club President Scott Mackay. “There are five new wide bridges along the way and it passes some nice quiet sections of forest.”

Summer vegetation may screen some of the noise along Stilesboro Road.

New movie at visitor center was filmed in 2012 (Travis Devine)

While many will take advantage of the trail system, others attending the commemoration in June may be content to stay on the beaten path for events.

Activities will include music featuring Bobby Horton and bluegrass performer Claire Lynch on June 27.

The recently restored Illinois Monument, scene of the fiercest fighting on Cheatham Hill, will be rededicated at 8:30 p.m. on June 28. Luminaries in a field below will remember more than 3,000 casualties.

The June 29 closing ceremony includes lecturer Rebecca Burns and Oral Moses and the Georgia Symphony Orchestra choir.

In between, visitors to free events can hike the trails, take in living histories and see re-enactors drill and fire weapons.

Johnson, the park historian, said he will have re-enactors placed in Federal and Confederate camps on Cheatham Hill. They will drill, show camp life and have musket demonstrations. Invited units include the 21st Ohio, 125th Ohio, 11th Iowa, the Georgia Division, 45th Alabama and 34th Georgia.

Johnson hopes to have six firing artillery pieces – two each at 24-Gun Battery, Kennesaw Mountain and Cheatham Hill.

Walther said the trail club is indispensable for the year-round operation of the park. Among the coordination with the group is accessibility to events for visitors with disabilities.

She touts the real-time hike at 9 a.m. on June 27 to the “Dead Angle” on Cheatham Hill.

An area along Burnt Hickory Road will have interpretive programs, geared toward both adults and children, on civilian life. A tent aimed for children will be set up at the visitor center. The center also will have information on Civil War medicine.

“It is our time to show off Cobb County’s national battlefield, Georgia’s national battlefield,” says Walther. “It is our time to shine. We have something very special here.”

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