Civil War Wednesday: Camp McDonald


1917 Version of wartime map of Camp McDonald

On May 29, 1861, President Jefferson Davis issued a call to Georgia Governor Joe Brown, “Troops, armed and equipped, ammunition included, are much needed. Please urge forward with all practicable dispatch.”[1] The governor wasted no time in establishing Camp Brown, located near Smyrna, and calling General William Phillips to command the soldiers assembling there. A few days after receiving the request from Davis, Brown replied, “I have General Phillips Brigade in camp of instruction.”[2] The volunteers trained at this installation until moving to Camp McDonald; the new, 60-acre facility opened on June 11, 1861. Phillips, founder of the famed Phillips Legion, named the camp in honor of his former law mentor and governor of Georgia Charles J. McDonald.

General William Phillips, (Photo Credit: Civil War Times Illustrated).

General William Phillips, (Photo Credit: Civil War Times Illustrated).

The soldiers struggled with their newfound discipline, exposure to disease and the rigors of camp life. One private described conditions in a letter to his wife, “I am enjoying health…we have plenty of beef and flour…but some of the boys says it’s mule beef but it goes by the name of old buck.”[3] Governor Brown received $20,000 from the Georgia Railroad and Bank Company to provide subsistence for the men in training, and they evidently enjoyed abundant supplies, as one volunteer later recalled, “We wasted enough at Big Shanty in one week to have lasted us very well two weeks the latter part of the war.”[4]

Forty cadets from Marietta’s Georgia Military Institute, under the direction of Major Francis W. Capers, assisted in training the volunteers, and as June 1861 ended, Brown could proudly exclaim to Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker, “I have a fine brigade of state troops now in camp at this place. It is a fine body of men, consisting of two regiments…also a battalion of cavalry…well armed and on good horses.”[5] The Southern Confederacy reported on the front page of their July 2, 1861, edition, “A few hours spent at the encampment is very well ‘put in,’ and we advise every citizen, who can spare the time, to lay over one train at Big Shanty and see the soldiers. Though one may not get much idea of war, yet he will see something of the preparation and the machinery by which it is perpetrated.”

Wartime photo of Camp McDonald, (Photo Credit: Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center).

Wartime photo of Camp McDonald, (Photo Credit: Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center).

Phillips and the other officers scheduled a “Grand Review” for July 31, 1861. Governor Brown and citizens from across northwest Georgia attended, producing the largest mass of people gathering in Kennesaw until the return of the General during the 1960s centennial! A soldier participating in the parade later recalled the spectacle, “Gov. Brown made a most fiery and eloquent speech, as only a man who is not about to be shot at can make.”[6] One of the GMI Cadets considered the review repayment “…for their diligent instruction, for it furnished an object lesson in the evolution of troops in line of battle, which could not then be seen elsewhere and whetted a desire for the actual encounter of the field, for which they had earnestly longed. ‘Hope long deferred,’ was at last gratified.”[7]

The initial group of soldiers occupying Camp McDonald departed for Virginia in mid-1861; future requests for additional regiments produced a beehive of activity around the camp again in 1862 and 1863. A volunteer from one of the responding companies, the “Jackson Farmers,” described the conditions in a letter for the June 2-3, 1862, edition of the Southern Watchman. “The name of camp McDonald, familiarly known as ‘Big Shanty,’ has been generally a terror to ‘our boys,’ and upon our arrival here, we were agreeably disappointed by finding it a fair, open country; the camps being situated upon elevated eminences, where the pure air of heaven can reach from all quarters. Water is good and plentiful, and with a proper degree of cleanliness, I can see no reason why this should not be as healthy as any location in Georgia.” A vigorous camp produced brave fighters, a fact Governor Brown proclaimed in a message to the state legislature. “They were a noble, patriotic, chivalrous band of Georgians, and I hazard nothing in saying, military men being the judges, that no brigade in the Confederate service was composed of better material, or was better trained at that time for active service in the field.”[8] During the course of Camp McDonald’s existence, an estimated 13,000 to 16,000 soldiers learned the art of war in Big Shanty.

Today, the Friends of Camp McDonald work to preserve, protect and interpret this ground. Visit their website,, to learn how you can help.

[1] The Confederate Records of the State of Georgia, comp. Allen D. Candler (Atlanta, Ga.: C.P. Byrd, State Printer, 1910), 2:90.

[2] Ibid., 96.

[3] Erwin E. Addy, Erwin Addy to Wife and Children, March 28, 1862, MS 1510, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah.

[4] Hugh W. Barclay, Reminiscences of Hugh W. Barclay, (accessed May 14, 2013).

[5] The Confederate Records of the State of Georgia, 101.

[6] James Lile Lemon, Feed Them the Steel: Being, the Wartime Recollections of Capt. James Lile Lemon, Co. A, 18th Georgia Infantry, CSA (Acworth, GA: Mark H. Lemon, 2013), 15.

[7] Gary Livingston, Cradled in Glory: Georgia Military Institute, 1851-1865 (Cooperstown, N.Y.: Caisson Press, 1997), 52.

[8] Georgia: Confederate Military History: A Library of Confederate States History, ed. Clement A. Evans (Secaucus, NJ: Blue & Gray Press, 1960), 53-54.

Andersonville Trip 2013 068Michael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center , a Civil War historian, newspaper columnist, and author of ‘Washington County, Virginia in the Civil War.’ He is a member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Historians of the Civil War Western Theater, Georgia Association of Historians, and the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta. Michael also serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and as a Civil War consultant for the Friends of Camp McDonald.

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Georgia Ghost Tours

Lawrenceville Ghost Tours

Lawrenceville Ghost Tours. Photo Credit: Tom McBride

1.) North Georgia Ghost Tours – Tours of Watkinsville and Madison include hauntings, local legends and a heaping helping of local history. Both are walking tours of around a mile and given throughout the year. They also offer carriage and kid-friendly tours.

2.) Lawrenceville Ghost Tour– Run by the Aurora Theatre, this tour features local storytellers telling tales handed down over the decades or from recent paranormal investigations.

3.) The Augusta Ghost Trolley– Different ghost-themed tours are offered throughout the autumn, many at multiple times throughout the evening. Advanced reservations are required.

4.) Blue Orb Ghost Tours – Rated the top ghost tour in Savannah, different tour themes are offered at various dates and times. The Halloween Tour and Zombies Tour are for ages 18+, while the Modern Hauntings and City of the Dead Tours are suited for all ages.

5.) Milledgeville Haunted Trolley Tour – An annual Halloween event, the trolley takes to the streets of Milledgeville toward the end of October with twice nightly tours.

jerry-ghost_albemarle26.) Sea Ghosts: Tales of Haunted Port Columbus – Offered monthly throughout the year, the tour itinerary is based on the work of the Alabama Paranormal Research Team and Effigy Paranormal’s work during multiple investigations.

7.) Capturing the Spirit of Oakland – Expect costumes and great tales of Atlanta legends at the annual Oakland Cemetery tours.  For 2013, the tour schedule has been expanded because previous years have sold out well in advance.

8.) Athens Heritage Walks: Haunted History Tour – Want to hear stories of history, haunts, legends, ghostly apparitions, cold spots, tragic lovers, restless Confederate soldiers and unearthed coffins? This tour has it all!

9.) HOWLpharetta Ghost Tour – Get spooked as you hear tales of ghosts that are jokers, eerie and downright scary. The walking tour takes you through the downtown area on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the autumn.

10.) The Fox Theatre Ghost Light Tour – New in 2013, the tours take guests into parts of the theatre usually off limits to the public and follow the footsteps of a Confederate soldier, pay respects to the woman of the house and get better acquainted with the theatre’s eternal fans.

11.) Haunted History Tour of McDonough – Happening annually on weekends in October, the walking tour covers downtown McDonough at a low rate.

12.) A Tour of Southern Ghosts – Featuring storytellers, the annual tradition is back for 2013 at Stone Mountain Park. Each night offers a different cast of six storytellers.

“Scary-etta” Haunted Trolley Tour

“Scary-etta” Haunted Trolley Tour

13.) Scary-etta Trolley and Walking Tours – Departing most nights from downtown Marietta Square, enthusiasts can choose either a walking or riding tour of Marietta’s most haunted homes and businesses.

14.) Roswell Ghost Tour – This 2 ½ hour tour in downtown Historic Roswell tells tales of spirits who reside behind the walls of the antebellum mansions and in the ruins of mills.

15.) Self-Guided Hauntings in Dahlonega Tour – The Dahlonega Convention & Visitors Bureau has put together a map and list of stories about 10 historic and legendarily haunted spots in the town that you can visit at your leisure, at anytime during the year.

16.) Tara’s Tours in Savannah: Tara’s Haunted Tours are sure to keep goosebumps on your arms as you explore dimly-lit streets and hear horrific ghost stories of scary encounters that took place in the very areas you stand.

This post is part of the “Haunted Georgia” series. Keep checking back during the days leading up to Halloween for more! Click here to view our “Haunted Georgia” Pinterest board.

eileenEileen Falkenberg-Hull is a digital marketing professional based in Atlanta who first visited Georgia in 1994 and decided that when she graduated from college she would make Georgia her home. Since 2007 that dream has been a reality. She is the founder and executive director of Occupy My Family and the editor of the Southern Beauty Blog

Halloween at Oakland Cemetery

Gene Ramsay plays Edwin Marsh during the Oakland Cemetery tours. Photo Credit: AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

Gene Ramsay plays Edwin Marsh during the Oakland Cemetery tours. Photo Credit: AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived to take part in one of Oakland Cemetery‘s famous Halloween Tours. I’d enlisted my husband and a couple of friends to take the plunge with me –would people be jumping out to try and scare us? Would we just be trudging around, looking at some of the more famous graves? We were all eager to find out!

The Halloween season is the only time this historic cemetery is open after dark (usually the gates close at sundown), so we were lucky to get the chance to experience it! Our first impressions were good – the gates in the dark certainly set the scene – it was a creepy, gloomy sight. Lights had been placed around the cemetery to illuminate the path we were supposed to walk to the bell tower where our tour would start. It was dark, quiet and, dare I say it, a little scary!

We made our way to the bell tower and began our tour, but we were still unsure of what was going to happen. We slowly started walking around the illuminated walkway with a little trepidation until we came to our first stop, the grave of the Winship family. Mary, the matriarch of the family, was waiting for us to arrive.

IMG_6007Dressed in her fur and hat, Mary went on to tell us about her life. How she married Ernest Woodruff, an influential businessman in Atlanta who was the president of the Trust Company (now known as SunTrust) and involved in many other businesses in the city, eventually taking over The Coca-Cola Company from Asa Candler. His sons, Robert W. Woodruff and George W. Woodruff went on to run the company for years. Later the brothers gave $105 million to Emory University, eventually giving $230 million and the Winship Cancer Institute was born. I realized this was a family, hugely involved in Atlanta’s history, leaving a legacy that makes the city what it is today.

We now realized how the tour was going to pan out – there were 6 stops, where we would hear from some of the cemetery’s most famous residents, each teaching us a little bit about their family history. There would be no ghosts jumping out at us to try and scare us – phew! Instead we were about to meet another 5 very influential people in the city of Atlanta. Julia Bower was next: She was standing next to a pink Christmas tree; drinking a gin – this set the scene for her family story of ‘pure, southern drama’ – she definitely brought the tour to life!

As we stood listening to the stories, every so often a train would pass by, adding an extra sound and dimension to our tour. I always think the sound of a train in the dark is a little bit creepy and it definitely added to the atmosphere! It was time to move on again to our next piece of history. What we didn’t realize was that we were heading into the Confederate part of the cemetery. We were told to sit on straw bales where we were greeted by an unknown soldier from the Civil War. This part of the tour was a tribute to all the citizens who lost their lives fighting at war, particularly during the US Civil War. We were told how all the soldiers who died in local hospitals were laid to rest here, along with those who died at battle and could be identified as being from the local area. Their souls are represented by the statue of a lion in the graveyard. We moved on and walked between the rows and rows of small, white tombstones, each representing a soldier who died during conflict. Some had names; other stones simply said ‘unknown soldier.’

Our tour continued and we met Jefferson Cain. He was the engineer of the locomotive ‘The General’ – it was stolen whilst he was eating at the Lacey Hotel in Big Shanty! He was part of The Great Locomotive Chase of 1862 – his final piece of advice to us was to always make sure we turn off our car engines and take the keys with us when we get out!

IMG_6036We also met Agnes Harriet Woody. She told us how she was technically the cemetery’s first resident. Her husband owned a farm and buried her in its grounds when she died. Later he sold 6 acres of the farm, including the area where she was buried to the City of Atlanta and Oakland Cemetery was born!

On our final stop, we were introduced to Dr. A. W. Calhoun. He was a head doctor who treated people who had problems with their ears, nose, and eyes. He also served on a local school board and was responsible for introducing immunizations in schools, saving hundreds, if not thousands of children’s lives.

While the tour wasn’t exactly what I was expected, I really enjoyed it! I was
expecting ghostly characters and events that were supposed to scare me simply because it was a Halloween Tour and Halloween is usually linked to scary, ghostly happenings! Instead, I felt like I’d gotten a glimpse into my city’s history and was happy to meet some of the famous residents who made Atlanta what it is today. I can’t wait to visit Oakland Cemetery again to see who else resides there and how they influenced Atlanta.

For more information on Oakland Cemetery and their many tour offerings, click here.

This post is part of the “Haunted Georgia” series. Keep checking back during the days leading up to Halloween for more! Click here to view our “Haunted Georgia” Pinterest board.

RachelRachel Richter is a British expat who moved to Georgia at the beginning of 2013. Since arriving in the Peach State she’s become a blogger ( writing about anything and everything she experiences on her new adventure. She’s always looking for somewhere new to explore in Georgia!

Fan Photo Friday

Submit your Georgia photos for the chance to be featured:

Fall at Lake Winfield Scott in North Georgia. Photo by Scott Ellington. Submitted via Facebook.

Fall at Lake Winfield Scott in North Georgia. Photo by Scott Ellington. Submitted via Facebook.

Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Rob Dunalewicz. Submitted via Flick.

Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Rob Dunalewicz. Submitted via Flickr.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia. Photo by @thetrvlprincess. Submitted via Instagram.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia. Photo by @thetrvlprincess. Submitted via Instagram.


Top 5 Things to Do at the Mountain Moonshine Festival

46th annual picture

As the leaves begin to change to beautiful golden, amber and crimson hues, this weekend is the perfect time to head to Dawsonville for our 46th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival. The festival explores Dawson County’s history during Prohibition when running moonshine through the foothills of the Northeast Georgia Mountains was a way of life. The festival has fun for all ages from live entertainment to vintage cars to arts and crafts vendors, but here is a list of the top five things you won’t want to miss at the festival:

1. Meet the Moonshiners: Ever wondered if running ‘shine is still practiced? Folks around North Georgia will be happy to oblige you with many stories, but this Saturday, you have the opportunity to meet Mark and Jeff from the Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners. Saturday’s festivities will kick off at 9 a.m. with a parade of vintage, racing and moonshine cars with Mark and Jeff, both of whom are currently moonshining, serving as our Grand Marshalls.

Vintage Race Car _42. Car Show: If you have a passion or curiosity for vintage, racing or moonshine cars, Dawsonville is where you need to be. In front of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, home to Gober Sosebee’s record-setting racecar, you can view many unique cars and hear a little history, too. If you have a car to enter in the show, bring it on up! We welcome entries on the day of the event.

3. Sample Moonshine: After you have viewed the cars that originally ran white lightning through the hills of North Georgia, stop into the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery and taste the festival’s namesake. Of course, you must be 21 and over to taste, but visitors of all ages are invited to view the working (legal) still and learn about how moonshine is made.

411623_454861111236871_1878741957_o4. See Confederate Railroad:  With hits like “Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind” and “Queen of Memphis,” you will want to stay for Saturday evening to see Confederate Railroad. Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy various live bands beginning at 4 p.m. with Georgia-grown band Confederate Railroad headlining around 8 p.m. Admission is only $5.

5. Unique Vendors: In Dawsonville, we still believe in a slower pace of life. Take time to wander through the multitude of vendor booths to see many unique crafts from copper stills to homemade candles and wreaths. With the smell of many goodies in the air, take a break and enjoy a funnel cake or roasted corn.

For more information, visit or call the Dawson County Office of Tourism Development at 706-265-6278.

Please share your festivals experience by using the #MoonshineFest hashtag on Twitter (, Instagram (, and Facebook (

CHaynesChristie Haynes is the President of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce and Office of Tourism Development. She loves exploring Georgia back roads, sharing a passion for Southern history and culture, shooting sporting clays, and cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs.



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