|A section of the Blue Battlefield Trail near I-75 (All photos by Picket)|
Battlefield Historic Site put on its soft opening last weekend. The curious
drove past replica defensive fortifications at
the gate and down a road bordering a scenic valley and forested hills.
The peaceful scene that greeted them belied the fact that the May 1864 Battle
of Resaca in northwest Georgia was the second-bloodiest of the Atlanta
Ten cars came Friday, 20 on Saturday and about 30 on Sunday. Gordon
County Administrator John King and Ken Padgett, head of the Friends of Resaca
Battlefield, pointed out the first visitors were a Michigan family.
The Civil War park, which will have its
grand opening ceremony this Friday at 3 p.m., in some ways carries the mantra,
“If you build it, they will come.”
County officials and the friends group want the site to be an educational,
recreational and historic beacon for local residents, travelers and Civil War
buffs. The park contains significant remnants of earthworks, including an
impressive length of trenches visible on the Red Battlefield Trail (Signs point
out metal detectors are banned and artifacts cannot be removed).
And they would like to see the quiet Exit 320 interchange on I-75 and
the town of Resaca get an economic boost.
|Ken Padgett of the Friends of Resaca Battlefield|
“There is so
much potential,” King said earlier this week during an interview at the site’s picnic
and restroom pavilion.
advantage is the park is right off Interstate 75 between Atlanta and
Chattanooga, Tenn. (Construction of the interstate decades ago did destroy parts
of the battlefield). While there are no signs or billboards noting the new
venue on I-75, Gordon County officials are working with the state to have one
For now, they
are largely depending on websites, local media and groups and word of mouth to
publicize the park. (They don’t know how the Michigan family learned of the
may benefit from a bit of synergy.
Just to the
north is Whitfield County, which is believed to have the most surviving Civil
War fortifications in the country. The Civil War Trust is working to buy and preserve
a 309-acre tract there where Confederates built defensive works on Rocky Face
Ridge before they slipped south to Resaca as Federal forces pushed on toward
Atlanta. Whitfield officials plan to open a park, perhaps next year, according to CNHI newspapers.
Whitfield counties are southeast of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National
Military Park, which draws nearly 1 million visitors annually.
|Section of trenches on Red Battlefield Trail|
historian with the federal park
, said he can now direct those interested in the
Atlanta Campaign to a well-preserved site between Chickamauga and Pickett’s
Mill or Kennesaw in suburban Atlanta.
“In addition to recently developed access at a couple
more Dalton area sites, with the opening of the Resaca battlefield, there's now
a lot more from that first epoch of the campaign for one to visit,” Ogden wrote
in an email. “This also means, for Civil War round tables or other history-based
groups, particularly if they'll do a little walking, there's now … enough in
the Tunnel Hill-Dalton-Resaca area to make a multi-day tour of just that part
of the campaign. With a good guide and a willingness to walk, there's
potentially a day now at Resaca by itself.”
For now, the
Resaca battlefield site will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The park contains most of the battlefield on the early afternoon of May 14, 1864.
Late-afternoon action is on the east side of the interstate. Chitwood Farm, site of an annual Battle of Resaca re-enactment, is a couple miles east of the new I-75 park.
While the battle was a stalemate, Confederates withdrew and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman continued his
eventually successful march on Atlanta.
the new historic site illustrates the growing strength of Rebel fortifications
and the importance of Federal flanking attacks and movements.
the fortifications one sees in the park turned back several Union assaults,” he
said. “This is not just reflective of the course of the Battle of Resaca itself
but also of the larger Atlanta Campaign: W. T. Sherman would use his larger
army to maneuver against Joe Johnston's flanks to force him out of positions
that were seemingly ever more fortified as the campaign extended week by week.”
several hours Monday at Resaca Battlefield Historic Site. A word to the wise:
Bring plenty of water and good walking shoes. The 1.-2 mile Red Battlefield
Trail on the south end is hillier than you’d expect, but the experience was
enjoyable. I saw several deer at the top.
The 2.6 Blue
Battlefield Trail on the northern side of the 483-acre park has a whole
different feel. On its east side, you do walk through some hills that held
Confederates, but as you walk counterclockwise much of it features gorgeous
meadows in the valley that separated the two armies. The west side of the trail
is where the Union brigades prepared for assaults.
Bridges cross Camp Creek and
other small streams. Butterflies flitted about and I saw a large snapping
turtle as I neared the pavilion to conclude my hike.
features many state-produced interpretive panels, with some geared toward children (though
they would be of interest to most anyone). King would like to see more of
them along the trails.
include a helpful inset of a Battle of Resaca map made years ago by the late historian
Bill Scaife. I wished those carried a “You are here” designation to better
orient myself when looking at the park map and Scaife’s order of battle.
and loop trails offer plenty of opportunities to put the battle into
perspective (though I wish a few had not been so jammed with text). King said three part-time park managers at the site and nearby
Fort Wayne can help visitors with further questions on the battle.
Local residents began pushing for the park in the 1990s and the state
acquired the property. The Friends of Resaca Battlefield organized support and raised
money. Georgia appeared poised to build the visitors center after an October
The Department of Natural Resources realized it did not have the money
to finish the project.
Frustrated, Gordon County stepped in and took over, agreeing to do
the construction and staff and maintain the facility. But in
March 2010, citing costs and inherited permit problems, Gordon County
punted on building the site. The state agreed to take the project back, with
the caveat that the county would operate it once the work was done. State budget woes put an end to plans for a visitor's center/museum and film.
Things have come together over the past year. Improvements
have been made to signs and trails and a widening project on Ga. 136 at
Interstate 75 has been finished, allowing for better access to the site.
Exit 320 is
one of the least-developed I-75 interchanges in Gordon County. There’s only a
large truck stop on the east side to offer refreshments to park patrons.
“It is not
going to be a flip-the-switch to economic impact,” King said of the opening.
Still, he touts
in development possibilities and efforts toward building a more educated
workforce. He cites the area’s schools and a new college and career academy in nearby Calhoun. (Gordon County is
known for its floor-covering industry).
acknowledged there was some opposition to the project, particularly a few years
ago during the economic slowdown, he said residents are starting to get on
exciting,” he said. “(We originally thought) the baby was ugly, but it belongs to us. It's not an
ugly baby. It’s beautiful. We are very proud of it.”
He wants to
focus now on the opportunities the site will bring, and asks that groups and
individuals help raise awareness and pitch in to make the historic site a
always focused on getting to this point,” King said. “This is not the end of
the campaign. It is just the beginning.”