On the Civil War Trail in North Georgia by Terry Zinn

Some anniversaries are long awaited and some sneak up on us. The One Hundred and Fiftieth remembrance of that “recent unpleasantness” (as the South sometimes recalls the American Civil War) will soon be upon us. Visiting battlefields, memorials, and re-enactments will soon be the rage for travelers, history buffs and those that have heard the names but never visited these preserved sites. Chickamauga in North Western Georgia is one such attraction I’ve long heard of and now have visited.
Each battle and battle field has its own story of, mishaps, the hand of fate, fortune and misfortune shaping its outcome. For Chickamauga, taking place among farm fields, and orchards with deeply wooded boundaries, makes for such a battle. It is told that many of the skirmishes and battles fought here were a result of troupes almost mistakenly bumping into each other through fog and forest cover.
As always the Interpretive Center is a good place to start your motor tour through the battlefield, to get an over view of what you are about to see. It was surprising to me how many monuments have been erected to the fallen comrades from various states. This might partly be due to the fact that one of the first Civil War combatants’ reunions was held here, and continued over the years, and over, believe it or not, barbeque – where parties from both sides of the Mason Dixon Line had informal communion.
A climb up the narrow spiral staircase of the Wilder’s Tower, will give you an over view of the wooded terrain, and an appreciation of the heavily wooded area, which added to the battlefield confusion. Stops at other state’s memorials emphasize the contributions of lives and treasure contributed by both Union and Confederates.
While in the area, a stop at the charming and surprisingly gentrified town of Blue Ridge
gives the weary traveler a welcome respite. A short train ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic
Railway offers a sample of the leisurely pace of times gone by and an easy viewing of the
geography and farms of the area. After a train ride you can stretch your legs with a leisurely art and shop stroll down Main Street, and or a visit to the Art Center where local expressions may be on view. Some of the shops offer upscale products one does not expect to encounter in a small Georgia town. I was tempted to purchase a couple of fine art glass pieces at the Multitudes Gallery, near the end of the stroll – and don’t know how I resisted!
Blue Ridge also offers tubing and fishing in rivers like the Conasauga and Toccoa River among others, and recreation in the 106,000 acres of the Chattahoochee National Forest. A visit is not complete unless you have done some hand picking at Mercier Orchards. Known for their apple varieties harvested in the fall, spring time brings on a crop of strawberries the taste of which is unequalled. Vine ripe you can snack right off the ground level plants as you pick your own explosions of flavor. Did you know strawberries don’t ripen once they are picked? If there is white on the tip, there will always be white on the tip. But at Mercier, among other selections, their seasonal strawberries really are worth a visit. I must come back in the fall for their apples or find them at regional stores.
If you fly in to Atlanta to start your Civil War tour, a visit to the “Turning Point” exhibit at the Atlanta History Center is a must. Other highlights of your civil war trail adventure are the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw (photo), Altoona Pass, and the Booth Western Art Museum, in Cartersville, with its Civil War and world class art including works by Kunstler. For fun the memorabilia of the movie “Gone with the Wind” is on display at the Scarlet on the Square museum in Marietta.
As you can see there is a lot of Civil War history in Northern Georgia for your discovery as your part of remembering the up coming Sesquicentennial.