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The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863, and afforded African-Americans in the North the opportunity to volunteer for active service in the Federal army, and Governor Andrew of Massachusetts wasted little time in calling the men to arms. During February 1863, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw took charge of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry – by month’s end, 1,007 soldiers and 37 officers drilled in Boston.
In late May 1863, the regiment boarded ships and headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina, with the knowledge the Confederate Congress recently authorized the return to slavery of captured African-American soldiers. White officers leading black troops faced death or punishment as determined through the courts. Soon after their arrival at Hilton Head, Shaw and the 54th joined forces with Colonel James Montgomery and his Second South Carolina Volunteers, another African-American regiment. Montgomery, supposedly operating under direct orders from the department commander – Major General David Hunter – ordered Shaw to take their combined forces up Altamaha River toward the port town of Darien, Georgia.
Once the troops neared Darien on June 11, Montgomery, who believed the port operated as a safe haven for Confederate blockade-runners, and served as the hometown of some of the South’s wealthiest slave owners, began shelling the vacated town. Local residents, fearful of the Federal blockade ships of the nearby coast, fled from Darien weeks earlier. Once the soldiers entered the town, Montgomery ordered his troops to begin looting and burning the various buildings. Shaw protested against assisting, but when Montgomery pressured with threats of a court-martial, the young colonel of the 54th relented and ordered some of his men to apply the torch. In a letter to his wife, written the day after the action at Darien, Shaw lamented, “Besides my own distaste for this barbarous sort of warfare, I am not sure that it will not harm very much the reputation of black troops and of those connected with them. For myself, I have gone through the war so far without dishonor, and I do not like to degenerate into a plunderer…there was not a deed performed, from beginning to end, which required any pluck or courage.” President Abraham Lincoln, fearing repercussions from Hunter’s activity along the coast, relocated the officer to another theater. Just over one month after the shame of their involvement in the destruction of Darien, the men of the 54th would prove their mettle in leading the assault on Battery Wagner.
 “The 54th Massachusetts Infantry,” History, http://www.history.com/topics/the-54th-massachusetts-infantry (accessed May 20, 2013).
 Russell Duncan, ed., Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), 343.
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.
Sunbury shares history and pleasure in new ways.
Sure, Savannah is a grand Georgia destination, but the Georgia Coast has many other communities to explore just a short drive away. Head south on Interstate 95 and embrace a new notion in Sunbury, where people passionate about the woods, waters, gardens, marshes and trails protect the ecosystem in their family since 1755.
It is rarely possible to overnight in a home on land given to a family as a king’s grant before America was America, but you can at Dunham Farms, where Laura and Meredith Devendorf are the mother-daughter proprietors. This nine-guest-bedroom home is actually a barn! Try to figure out how because the renovation is elegant, the linens exquisite and the furnishings, antiques and reproductions fill the home with immense charm. The meals are gourmet, and attention to detail is abundant through the Dunham Farms 9,400 acres. Kayaking, even by moonlight, hiking 35 miles of trails winding through oaks, pines, wetlands and marsh banks, birding and dreamy relaxing define reason enough for a holiday.
The Devendorfs seem to be protecting these fragile ecosystems in ways to safely share them abundantly. Melon Bluff was the name of 2,300 acres of theirs, which they donated to the Springfield Legacy Foundation for research, education and outreach. Look for 82 of their acres closest to the Interstate, donated in 2013 to become a replica of the Santa Clara Mission, which we should be able to experience next year. That will be a suburb within a suburb, spanning centuries.
Dunham Farms is the continuing site for significant archeological research ever since a coin dated 1526 was found there. Over the next eight years, we might see archeologists at work in test sites throughout the farm, each plot identified first with GIS locators. Send the grandchildren when they’re grown up for a Dunham Farms holiday, because the Devendorfs expect the full archeology might take 75 years! While visiting Sunbury, watch the documentary at Fort Morris, the state historical site, explaining the early days of the community. Fort Morris played a role in the War of 1812 and the Civil War; a visit includes the museum and theater, blacksmith shop and earthworks.
Also nearby is Seabrook Village, a real community from 1865 -1930, that today is an authentic living history village, with restored and furnished buildings, abounding with cultural artifacts from the families living here. These are stories of slavery and Sherman’s scorched earth, early freedom and land ownership. Consider a three-hour guided tour, with a picnic and entertainment if you like. Self-guided visit? Allow at least an hour.
Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972. She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com.
1. Get your sweet onion fix in Vidalia: Explore the history of “America’s favorite onion” at the Vidalia Onion Museum. Adults can discover the economic impact of this famous Georgia vegetable, while children can learn to sort onions and even color their own picture of Vidalia’s mascot, Yumion the Onion. Don’t forget to pick up a bag of onions during the Vidalia onion season (April through July) because once they’re gone, these sweet onions won’t be back until 2014!
2. Experience “Southern Fusion” dining in Lyons: What began as the first movie theatre in Lyons, Georgia, is now home to Elements Bistro & Grill, a unique fine dining experience in the middle of small-town South Georgia. The menu is full of mouth-watering dishes, but I highly suggest that you order the buffalo quail. Your taste buds will thank you.
3. Buy local in Statesboro: Like fresh produce? Then you’ll love the Mainstreet Farmers Market in Statesboro! Open every Saturday from early April to the end of November, this market is the place for fresh local fruit and vegetables, meats and dairy, preserves and baked goods. Be sure to stop by the Garden Table, where you can watch local chefs prepare dishes made with produce from the market.
4. Go just around the riverbend in Uvalda: Experience not one, not two but three rivers when you visit the Magnolia Midlands. Kayak or canoe along the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha rivers with the help of Three Rivers Outdoors, Inc. They can help you plan any river trip – whether you want it to last two hours or two weeks!
5. Spend the night in a barn loft in Brooklet: On the hunt for an authentic farm experience? Look no further than Hunter Cattle Company in Brooklet. Feed the animals, collect eggs, swing on the front porch and spend an evening in a comfortable barn loft when you visit this family-owned and -operated farm.
6. Get a green thumb in Metter: With its cascading waterfalls, shimmering streams, flowering plants and quiet paths, it’s no wonder that people often visit Guido Gardens to find peace. Guided tours of the gardens are offered Monday through Friday, and admission is always free!
7. Discover natural wonders in Douglas: Located within Georgia’s sandy, coastal plains, the Broxton Rocks offer more than 500 species of rare plant life, cave-like crevices and a roaring waterfall. Keep your eyes peeled for unique wildlife, including flying squirrels, the threatened indigo snake and gopher tortoise.
8. Sip wine at sunset in Statesboro: Does the idea of sipping a delicious glass of Muscadine wine as the sun sets over rural Georgia appeal to you? If you said yes, then you need to plan a trip to Meinhardt Vineyards in Statesboro. Whether you prefer red or white, Meinhardt has a wine to suit all tastes. My personal favorite? The peach Muscadine — it tastes like Georgia in a bottle!
9. Fly high in Douglas: Visit the site where 10,000 young men learned how to fly in the PT-17 Stearman at the WWII Flight Training Museum in Douglas. It’s the most intact, complete and original school left in the United States with 13 original buildings still standing, including one that houses the WWII Flight Training Museum, which tells the important and often unknown story of wartime aircrew training.
10. Feed the animals in Nicholls: Kids (and adults) will love the opportunity to feed the animals at General Coffee State Park’s Heritage Farm. Animals on the property include sheep, goats, chickens, donkeys and more! Insider tip: Be sure to buy some farm-fresh eggs while you’re at the park.
Lauren 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!