Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Burning of Atlanta

Yesterday marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War campaign/battle that resulted in Sherman's burning of antebellum Atlanta. It seems fitting that this is also the week I finally receive an answer to the question I asked in November: "Hey Atlanta, what's next? Moving the Peachtree Road Race to Gwinett County?" Sadly, the answer is another direct hit to Atlanta's wonderful Grant Park neighborhood: the Cyclorama, a historic painting that depicts the Battle of Atlanta, is being moved from it's home in the park of Grant Park to the posh northern neighborhood of Buckhead. 

The Cyclorama isn't JUST a painting. Created in 1885, it is still the world’s largest oil painting (42 feet x 358 feet). Since 1893 it has been on display less than a mile from the subject matter it depicts. In 1921 it moved to it's current location: a beautiful building on the National Register of Historic Places (right next to the Zoo Atlanta entrance). It's new home will be 15 miles north of the actual battlelines (just 5 miles from the future Cobb County Braves Stadium).

The location of my home (built 56 years after the battle) can be seen in the painting - I love that. The news of the move brought tears to my eyes in the middle of a work day. After losing the Braves Stadium and the fight against a Grant Park Walmart (on my beloved Beltline no less), this annoucement feels like the nail in "historic" Grant Park's coffin. I never let the crime get to me - but these repeated betrayals by the city - they feel so personal. They sting.

Details about the Atlanta Campaign:
• July 22, 1864: Sherman orders that any artillery positioned within range begin cannonading, not just of the Confederate lines but also of the city itself, which still held about 3,000 civilians (down from 20,000 earlier in the spring). Battle lines correspond with present day Moreland Avenue (south from the Edgewood Shopping center to I-20) and then turn 90 degrees West (towards the city) and follow along 1-20.
• August 9, 1864: The barrage of Union artillery peaks with approximately 5,000 shells fired into Atlanta.
• September 2, 1864: Union Soldiers finally penetrate the city. Atlanta falls to General Sherman.
• Sherman occupies Atlanta for 10 weeks.
• Early November 1864: Sherman orders his engineers to begin "the destruction in Atlanta of all depots, car-houses, shops, factories, foundries."
• November 12, 1864: Orders are given to begin torching designated sites, some with explosive shells placed inside. Locations include a storehouse at Whitehall and Forsyth streets, a bank at the railroad and Peachtree Street and the Washington hotel.
• November 15, 1864: Leaving along Decatur Road (which in turns is also Marietta Boulevard and DeKalb Avenue) Union troops leave a smoldering Atlanta and begin their march to the coast.
• December 2, 1864: Sherman and his troops arrive in Savannah. The city surrenders.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.