Civil War Wednesday: The Navy


Montauk (Photo Credit: The Soldier in Our Civil War: A Pictorial History of the Conflict, 1861-1865, Illustrating the Valor of the Soldier as Displayed on the Battle-field. New York: J. H. Brown publishing company, 1884-85).

Two vessels and their crews carried much history into a February 28 confrontation off Georgia’s coast near Confederate-held Fort McAllister. John L. Worden, former commander of the USS Monitor in the epic encounter with the CSS Virginia in the March 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads, now captained the ironclad USS Montauk. Although the Federals had battled Fort McAllister’s defenders, Worden ignored shelling from the Confederate bastion as he approached a vessel, which had run aground nearby.


The Rattlesnake (Photo Credit: Harper’s Weekly, March 28, 1863).

Slowly, the turret of the Montauk rotated toward the Rattlesnake, once known as the Confederate privateer Nashville. Soon, the remains of the sleek craft, which had once plagued Northern shipping, lay smoldering in the Ogeechee River’s murky waters. The Montauk received her only damage when striking a torpedo (floating mine) as she steamed away from the area.


John L. Worden (Photo Credit: The Library of Congress).

Michael Shaffer

Michael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center. He is a Civil War historian, author, and newspaper columnist, and a member of the Society of Civil War Historians. He serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and assists the Friends of Camp McDonald as a Civil War consultant.

The Civil War Center


The Fox Theatre’s Little Secret

It’s been billed as “America’s favorite moment” and “the pause that refreshes,” but did you know it’s also part of one of Georgia’s most beloved buildings?

Perhaps nothing is more synonymous with Atlanta history than Coca-Cola. It only seems appropriate then that Coca-Cola has a permanent place at one of the city’s premiere landmarks: The Fox Theatre. What makes this arrangement so unique is that Coca-Cola isn’t present as part of a multi-thousand dollar promotional beverage deal but as a piece of the building’s famous Moorish and Egyptian influenced artwork.

You probably have heard the rumors over the years about the hidden Coke bottle at The Fabulous Fox, and so had restoration experts. Similar to finding a needle in a haystack, locating the hidden gem seemed impossible. But, in 2010, employees climbed into the attic of the theatre to check each of the 11-watt bulbs and the 96 three-inch crystals that are nestled in the vaulted ultramarine blue ceiling.

The Fox Theatre ceiling.

The Fox Theatre ceiling.

And there it was, at House Left, a single green crystal made from a bottle of Coca-Cola. Though archivists from the Coca-Cola Company were unable to determine exactly what time period the glass was from, they were able to confirm its authenticity.

Next time you visit The Fox to see a

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show, arrive a bit earlier than usual and take a moment to glance up at the twinkling lights. Watch the projected clouds turn the ceiling into night sky. Can you spot the Coca-Cola crystal?

Photo by Yoonhwa Jang and Emily Fisher.

The Coca-Cola crystal. Photo by Yoonhwa Jang and Emily Fisher.

Fun Fact: According to Fox history, in 1929 when the ceiling of the theatre was painted, job foreman Charlie Jones would make a pre-dawn visit to the Atlanta Dairy on 10th Street every day. There, Jones bought buttermilk that he hauled over to the Fox, where it was used as a binder for the ultramarine pigment used in the paint.

Extra Bit: Want to spot the Coca-Cola crystal but don’t have tickets to a show? As part of Atlanta’s decennial celebration, The Fox Theatre is offering FREE tours throughout the month of March! Click here for all the information. Reservations are required.


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Georgia Grown: Richland Rum



What: Richland Rum

Where: Richland, Georgia

Who: Erik & Karin Vonk (owners) & Jay McCain (Master Distiller)

The Story: Erik Vonk, originally from Holland, came to the United States in 1992 to bring the Dutch-based staffing company Randstad to the states. While in America, Erik decided to purchase a large piece of rolling land outside of Richland, an area with a history of sugarcane farming, beginning his mission to make grow, distill and barrel-age his own sugarcane. What began as a hobby became a full-fledged business in 2011 when Erik and Jay McCain, Master Distiller, created their first 300 cases of Richland Rum. In an industry dominated by large-scale production, the Richland Rum team produces their rum on a much smaller scale and completely by hand using only fresh pure sugarcane juice or condensed sugarcane juice with the water taken out, never molasses. Richland Rum is now officially for sale in shops, bars and restaurants near Richland and in Atlanta.

Find out where you can buy Richland Rum here.

The Richland Rum distillery is open for tours and tastings. Make your reservations here.

Karin Vonk & Erik Vonk, owners and Jay McCain , Master Distiller

[From right] Karin Vonk, Erik Vonk & Jay McCain



541399_4742061705632_1593506690_nLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!



Fan Photo Friday

Submit your Georgia photos for the chance to be featured:

St.Joseph's Catholic Church in Macon,Georgia. Photo by Lester Ian.

St.Joseph’s Catholic Church in Macon,Georgia. Photo by Lester Ian. Submitted via Facebook.

Lake Lanier. Photo by @roxyy39. Submitted via Instagram,

Lake Lanier. Photo by @roxyy39. Submitted via Instagram.

Flint River at Sprewell Bluff State Park. Photo by William Haun. Submitted via Flickr.

Flint River at Sprewell Bluff State Park. Photo by William Haun. Submitted via Flickr.


A Weekend in Savannah, Georgia

This is the story of an unforgettable weekend at the 2013 Savannah Stopover Festival.

The Azalea Inn & Gardens

The Azalea Inn & Gardens

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and I was on cloud nine when I arrived at my Savannah home for the weekend, The Azalea Inn & Gardens. Upon entering the Inn, I was greeted by Innkeeper Shannon, owner Teresa and the “assistant innkeeper” Joey, a Yorkie Terrier the size of my fist. This delightful team of women (and a canine) was as cheerful and welcoming as the yellow exterior of the historic inn. After receiving a tour of the bed and breakfast, I was shown to my room – a spacious area painted in traditional Savannah colors with a large bed, fireplace, balcony and enormous bathtub. After a quick siesta, it was time to head to Forsyth Park to see Athens-based band of Montreal, kicking off my weekend of concerts at the Savannah Stopover Festival, a four-day event that attracts bands on their way to Austin for SXSW.

of Montreal performs live in Forsyth Park.

of Montreal performs live in Forsyth Park.

Honestly, to call it a concert would be an understatement. It was a full-on theatrical performance complete with psychedelic projections, a plethora of costumes and a wrestling match between two guys wearing unitards. After having my mind successfully blown by of Montreal, I was onto my next Stopover shows, including raucous performances from Sun Club, Sun Country and Stop Light Observations. After several hours of rocking out, I was ready to crawl into my plush bed and rest up for Saturday’s adventures.

A beautiful day in Forsyth Park.

A beautiful day in Forsyth Park.

I enjoyed a breakfast feast of quiche, grits and homemade biscuits (courtesy of Azalea Inn & Gardens) before jetting off to explore Savannah by trolley. With 15 stops as well as on and off privileges, the Old Town Trolley Tour was the perfect match for my travel needs. While on the trolley, our guides regaled us with Savannah facts, including the pineapple tradition, the story of “Big Duke” and the tale of how the Olde Pink House turned pink. Off the trolley, I was able to experience Forsyth Park in all of its spring splendor, complete with blooming azaleas and green fountains (in honor of St. Patrick’s Day), the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and its stunning stained glass windows, the federal-style Isaiah Davenport House and the Jepson Center for the Arts‘ “Offering of the Angels” exhibit.

Ponderosa performs live at Knights of Columbus.

Ponderosa performs live at Knights of Columbus. Photo by Sarah Weitman.

I refueled at Leopold’s Ice Cream shop with a big scoop of chocolate chip ice cream before beginning my second night of Savannah Stopover shows. I spent the next several hours hopping from venue to venue seeing one great band after the other, including Country Mice, Cheyenne Mize, Yip Deceiver, Whaleboat, The Whigs and my personal favorite, Ponderosa. When 1 a.m. rolled around, it was time for me to hail a pedicab and head back to my B&B for one final night of Savannah-induced slumber.


Tybee Island

Tybee Island


On Sunday morning, I packed up my things, said goodbye to the Azalea Inn & Gardens staff and headed to Tybee Island for a couple hours by the sea. As I dug my toes in the sand, I reflected on everything I had experienced in one short weekend — history, popular music, culinary delights, Southern hospitality, island life – and then began checking the calendar for my next opportunity to stopover in Savannah.


See my full photo/video gallery from my trip Savannah here.

Do you love Savannah, Georgia? Leave us a comment & tell us why!


Lauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia 541399_4742061705632_1593506690_non social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!