Events planned for 150th anniversary of battle
In July of 1864, a battle that began in Kirkwood helped to propel President Abraham Lincoln to a second term in office, according to B*ATL chairman Henry Bryant.
Thousands of men died during one afternoon of fighting in what became known as the Battle of Atlanta. President Lincoln’s Democratic opponent, George McClellan, pledged to make peace with the Confederates. The success of the battle gave Lincoln a much better case for continuing the fight, Bryant said. If the Union had lost, things might look very different today.
B*ATL is planning a week of events in honor of the men who died and in recognition of the battle’s place in our nation’s history. The 150th Anniversary event week kicks off on July 12 and culminates on July 20, two days before the battle started.
Bryant said the dead were “all Americans” no matter the color of their uniforms.
“It is our country’s most deadly war and it was a fairly deadly battle that happened in one afternoon,” he said.
There will be several events throughout Kirkwood, including a 5K and a “Living History Encampment” at Gilliam Park. Bryant said the shooting began around the intersection of Clay Street and Memorial Drive.
“The Clay family plantation was north of Memorial Drive,” Bryant said. “Clay Street was the driveway to the plantation.”
Bryant said Union Gen. William T. Sherman wanted to “cut the city off.”
“The railroad tracks were the big thing,” he said. “That was the big prize in Kirkwood.”
The battle began after the Confederates attempted a sneak attack on the Union troops.
“They were moving into position,” Bryant said. “The Union troops had decided they were vulnerable and decided something might be afoot and they ordered reinforcements to come in from Decatur. They were marching down Clay Street. They were trying to keep a flanking action from happening when the Confederates were already in place.”
Bryant said the two sides surprised each other. Then they started shooting.
But what does the battle really mean for us 150 years later?
“It’s like saying, ‘What does the planes crashing into the World Trade Center mean?,'” Brant said. “What will it mean 150 years from today?”
Bryant said some of the issues people fought and died over 150 years ago are still relevant today.
“In terms of today, we’re still fighting those battles,” he said. “That’s what the Tea Party is all about, some of the same issues that were being cussed and discussed back then.”
The commemoration events span the East Atlanta area, including Grant Park and Oakland Cemetery. There’s a cost of attendance for some of the events, but many of them are free. For a complete tour map, click here.
Emory University announced the creation of a Mobile Tour of the Battle of Atlanta Sites. The University will hold a demonstration on June 18 at the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum.
“Designed to enrich people’s understanding of Atlanta and its history, the smartphone-friendly tour will provide GPS directions and mapping, historical information about each of its 12 stops, and multimedia content including video and historical images,” the University announced via press release. “It requires no download and will be accessible via a web link, BattleAtl.org, which will go live before the June 18 launch.”
During the June 10 Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization meeting, KNO members voted to spend spend $500 to help with the commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta. The KNO held the first of two required votes to contribute $1,000 to the restoration of Civil War monuments.
Bryant emphasized that while there will be many activities during the week-long event, the anniversary is a commemoration, not a celebration of the battle.
“It’s not a festival either,” Bryant added. “We commemorate that in different ways. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun.”