May 8, 2014

Trails event a great opportunity

— They probably didn’t know it at the time, but 150 years ago Whitfield County residents witnessed the beginning of the end of the Civil War.

For more than three years, the war had split the country and ravaged the South. But Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s capture of Atlanta ensured President Abraham Lincoln’s re-election, reinforced the North’s resolve to finish their opponents and dealt a mortal blow to the South’s chances for independence.

Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign started here in Whitfield County in the spring of 1864, and on Saturday at 1 p.m. at 215 Clisby Austin Drive, near the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center, a Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails marker commemorating the start of the Atlanta Campaign will be unveiled.

Vince Dooley, the former University of Georgia head football coach and athletic director and an avid amateur historian of the war, will deliver the keynote address. Jim Ogden, chief historian at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, will also speak.

It’s a great opportunity to learn about this area’s history and this nation’s history. But the dedication of the marker is just the capstone to a day of planned activities.

Rome’s Eighth Regiment Band will perform period music starting at 12:30 p.m. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will host free guided tours of the nearby Clisby Austin House, which was built in 1848 and served as a headquarters and hospital for both sides at various points in the war; the historic railroad tunnel; and the general store. And Civil War re-enactors will be there throughout the day demonstrating different equipment.

So make plans to attend. You’ll have fun, and you just might learn something.