Local author publishes book about the Civil War’s Battle of Decatur
David Allison recently published a book solely about the Civil War’s Battle of Decatur.
Titled “Attacked On All Sides,” the book traces the history of the Battle of Decatur and how it intertwined with the lives of soldiers and Decatur residents at the time.
“Most people have no idea that there even was a Battle of Decatur. It happened at the exact same time as the battle of Atlanta that’s famously known because of the Atlanta Cyclorama,” Allison said.
Allison currently lives in Tucker, Ga. He grew up in Sagamore Hills, attending Lakeside High School.
He is a news editor for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, where he has worked for over 30 years.
“When I was a teenager, the Civil War was a hobby and interest of mine, and I read a lot about it,” Allison said. “One day, they took us on a tour of the town, and they took us to the cemetery – down behind where the Kroger is now, and I picked up two Civil War bullets lying on the dirt road. It was real proof that it had happened – not just writing in a book.”
About four years ago, Allison rekindled his interest in the history behind the Battle in Decatur and started to look into it, deeming today the “golden age” for history with a surge of information available online.
After kick starting his research with Google searches, Allison found connections with people from around the nation.
“I found a lady in Virginia, and one of her ancestors was in the battle. He’d got shot in the arm and was sent to a hospital in Marietta – a great human interest story,” he said. “I also found this lady up in Ohio who’s an archivist for the University of Dayton and has this incredible weblog about another guy in the battle.”
When it was time to process and compile the information, Allison knew that he needed to publish a book about Decatur’s part in the Civil War.
“It’s not a boring dull book about marches and maneuvers. It’s about people, everywhere from NJ to Ohio to Wisconsin, to Georgia and Mississippi, and how they all came to be,” he said. “Maybe a page or paragraph has been written, but it’s a great story that hasn’t been told.”
There were cannons that lined downtown Decatur, armed by 1,000 Union soldiers stationed in the city to shoot down the 3,000 Confederate soldiers barreling through by Agnes Scott College.
“One guy who was in the battle became the Governor of Wisconsin, one guy became a business associate for Andrew Carnegie, one guy lost his leg and became a congressman for Ohio, and one guy lost his arm and founded the oldest law firm in Omaha, Nebraska,” Allison said. “It’s cool that people came together in Decatur for this battle and then went on to lead these different lives.”
Longtime Decatur High School social studies teacher, Chris Billingsley grew up in Decatur, and similar to Allison, became interested in the Civil War at a young age.
“I was born in 1953, and so the 100 year anniversary of the Civil War took place when I was a little boy, around 10 or 11 years old. I remember those activities and people talking about where things took place in Decatur,” Billingsley said, “And that made a real impression on me as kid because we were the kind of boys who wandered all over the city.”
When he began teaching at Decatur High School, Billingsley said that the Battle of Decatur would come up frequently. In the early stages of his career – around the late 70s – the DeKalb History Center presented a lot of information about the battle.
“I think history is always an important teacher in our world today. There are plenty of famous quotations about how important it is to study history,” Billingsley said. “Here in Decatur, it’s a very small community. When something like the Battle of Decatur takes place in our community, it influences people for the next 100 years.”
So, why should people care about the battle of Decatur so many years later?
Allison believes that it’s because of the stories left behind or forgotten.
“Two hundred soldiers were killed or crippled or maned or disfigured. Their stories have never been told and their sacrifice has never been recounted,” he said.
Similarly, Billingsley deemed it important for people to understand their ancestors and the people that connect them to the town of Decatur.
“Residents should ask themselves why and how these men lost their lives – what about their families?” he said. “I think there’s a natural curiosity that many Americans have, and I don’t think there’s a better place to explore history than in the City of Decatur.”
Billingsley said that he’s “enjoyed the book so far” for its detailed and individual telling of soldiers in Decatur.
“It looks like the author has gone into the details, and that’s what we’ve really missed in the City of Decatur,” he said. “The modern reader like myself and most people in Decatur are not going to have a connection, and I think this book will really help us connect with the individual soldiers and the battle of Decatur.”
Copies of the book can be ordered on Amazon.