Civil War Wednesday: Blackshear

State historic marker at site, photo courtesy of the author

State historic marker at site, photo courtesy of the author

“After leaving the cars we were marched off into the pine woods, by the side of a considerable stream, and told that this was to be our camp.”[1] This Federal prisoner wrote of his new home in Pierce County, Georgia – Camp Blackshear. Major General William T. Sherman’s force continued to advance across the interior of Georgia on their way to Savannah, and Confederate officials realized they must relocate the prisoners held at Millen’s Camp Lawton before advance elements of Sherman’s troops arrived. On November 22, 1864, prisoners at Lawton began boarding trains bound for alternate holding facilities; eventually, 5,000 men traveled westward on the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad.

Colonel Henry Forno, the commander at Lawton, received orders to ready a new prison site in Blackshear. Pierce County, located in the southeastern part of the state, not far from the Florida line, seemed a logical location. The proximity to the railroad, and the remoteness of the region, should prevent Sherman’s forces from liberating any prisoners held there. At least one prisoner concurred with Forno’s choice, noting in his diary, “Blackshear is an out of the way place, and shouldn’t think the Yankee army would ever find us here.”[2]


Prisoner medal from Ralph Orr Bates, Billy and Dick: From Andersonville Prison to the White House

Many period sources indicate the holding area at Blackshear lacked stockades like the prisoners had left behind, first at Andersonville, and later at Camp Lawton. Penciling an entry into his diary shortly after arriving in Blackshear, Sergeant John Ransom with the 9th Michigan Cavalry wrote of the grounds surrounding him and the other prisoners, “There is no wall or anything around us here, only guards. Encamped right in the open air.”[3] Offering a different perspective, another prisoner indicated the area “…was completely commanded by military earthworks, with mounted cannon, and was guarded by seven hundred Confederate soldiers.”[4] Regardless of the actual condition of the prison, soon after arriving, Forno began making preparations for another facility in Thomasville, while relocating some of the prisoners from Blackshear to Savannah.

Guards from the Second and Fourth Regiments in the Georgia Reserves continued to keep watch over the 2,500 prisoners remaining at Blackshear, looking on as the Federals constructed shanties to protect themselves from the elements. After Sherman captured Savannah on December 21, 1864, and later began his Carolinas Campaign, the prisoners at Blackshear found themselves on the move once again. Some returned to Andersonville, and others went to Thomasville, Millen, or Florence, South Carolina.[5]

Blackshear prison site, photo courtesy of the author

Blackshear prison site, photo courtesy of the author

Given the horrible environments found in many overcrowded prisons during the Civil War – both North and South – an observation from a soldier in the 4th Vermont Infantry tells of better conditions in Pierce County. “Blackshear has always seemed like an oasis in the memory of those perilous times. Here we were removed from all apparent danger and the guards were more humane.”[6] Today, the Pierce County Historical and Genealogical Society works to protect, preserve, and interpret this site. Visit to learn more!

[1] John McElroy, Andersonville, a Story of Rebel Military Prisons (1879; repr., No. Scituate, MA: Digital Scanning, 1999), 32.

[2] John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary; Escape, and List of Dead, with Name, Company, Regiment, Date of Death and Number of Grave in Cemetery, google books ed. (Auburn, NY: John Ransom, 1881), 131.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ralph Orr Bates, Billy and Dick: From Andersonville Prison to the White House, google books ed. (Santa Cruz, CA: Sentinel Publishing Company, 1910), 24.

[5] John W. Guss, The American Civil War in Blackshear, Georgia: The Story of a Prison Camp, brochure. (Blackshear, GA: Pierce County Historical Society, 1998).

[6] Francis J. Hosmer, A Glimpse of Andersonville and Other Writings, google books ed. (Springfield, MA: Loring & Axtell, 1896), 47.

MikeMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at:

11 Ways to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of “Gone with the Wind”


Before there was Brad and Angelina, there was Scarlett and Rhett. Explore Georgia to celebrate 75 years of this quintessential Hollywood classic.



Photo Credit: Atlanta Restaurant Blog

Atlanta Movie Tours will offer their special Gone with the Wind tour on Saturday, December 13th.  Board a luxury coach for a 3-hour tour based on the world’s most famous novel with the woman who created it. Book your spot here.

In celebration of the film premiere’s 75th anniversary, Oakland Cemetery will bring back their special topic tour on Margaret Mitchell on Sunday, December 14th. Reserve your spot ASAP – tickets for the 3pm tour are already sold out! Click here for reservations.

The Road to Tara Museum, Margaret Mitchell House and Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square will be offering visitors a special admission rate of 75 cents at each location on Monday, December 15th. Click here to learn more.

10650053_10154898555050151_6880114776464112800_nMonday, December 15th: Join the Atlanta History Center in celebrating the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind by reliving the glitz and glamour of the 1939 Atlanta premiere through real-time updates and photos chronicling the event. To follow the live blog, visit and look for posts with #GWTWATL.

Watch a special 75th Anniversary Showing of Gone with the Wind at The Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum on Monday, December 15th. Film begins at 7pm with a pre-show at 6:30pm. Buy tickets here.


Travelguide2014(1)Relive the excitement of the 1939 premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on page 12 of the 2014 Georgia Travel Guide! Order your FREE copy here.

Discover the history and legacy behind one of the world’s most beloved novels through the Gone With the Wind Trail in and around Atlanta, an official state designated trail.

The Gone With The Wind Tour is a nostalgic audio narrative through the rich and romantic antebellum era that inspired Margaret Mitchell’s legendary novel. Be entertained with the tales of Mitchell’s world-renown Gone With The Wind and its unique literary ties to Jonesboro.

The University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Gone With the Wind with a major exhibit. The UGA Libraries has the largest collection in the country of Mitchell’s personal papers and other materials, donated by Mitchell’s brother, Stephens Mitchell. The exhibit will remain on display through the end of 2014.

Photo Credit: Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast

Photo Credit: Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast

Spend the night in the Frankly Scarlett Suite at The Twelves Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Covington. In his book “Antebellum Homes of Georgia,” David King Gleason writes that Margaret Mitchell recommended Twelve Oaks as a model for Ashley’s home in the Gone With The Wind film.

Tour Stately Oaks Plantation in Jonesboro – the home that was said to inspire Margaret Mitchell’s Tara.



Civil War Wednesday: Georgia’s Old Reliable

Lieutenant General William Hardee, Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-7972

Lieutenant General William Hardee, Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-7972

Lieutenant General William J. Hardee, born in Savannah in 1815, graduated from the United States Military Academy, served in the Mexican-American War, and authored a book on military tactics, which both sides consulted during the American Civil War. His manuscript – Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Maneuvers of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen – usually referred to as Hardee’s Tactics – provided basic training for young officers eager to learn the art of war.

Hardee served as commandant at West Point until shortly before his native Georgia seceded in 1861. He cast his lot with the Confederacy, and for most of the war he fought in the western theater, where he participated in the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, and Chattanooga.[1] After the failure of General Braxton Bragg to take Chattanooga, President Jefferson Davis accepted his friend’s resignation and offered command of the Army of Tennessee to Hardee, who declined the position. Davis turned once again to his nemesis, General Joseph E. Johnston. During the Atlanta Campaign, Hardee led one of the army’s three corps, and performed satisfactorily in most engagements prior to the fall of Atlanta. When Davis removed Johnston, and replaced him with General John Bell Hood on July 17, 1864, Hardee felt somewhat slighted, despite the fact he had previously refused to take command of the Army of Tennessee. He and Hood never got along, and Hood blamed Hardee for several losses in the struggle to maintain Atlanta. During the final action of the campaign at Jonesboro, Hardee performed well, given the circumstances, yet again found himself on the receiving end of Hood’s blame game.

Requesting a transfer away from Hood, Hardee received the assignment to head the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. During Major General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea in November and December 1864, Hardee joined with other Confederate officers in the attempt to slow the advancing Federals. Operating from his headquarters in Savannah, Hardee garnered all available men to guard the outer and inner defense systems surrounding the city. On December 15 – five days after Sherman’s forces arrived at the doorstep of Savannah – Hardee dispatched Davis with his assessment of the situation. “Unless assured that force sufficient to keep open my communications can be sent me, I shall be compelled to evacuate Savannah.”[2] Two days later, Hardee received a reply from Davis, which set the plans for evacuation in motion. Davis, eager to protect a Confederate army in the field amid a dwindling supply of soldiers, instructed Hardee to maintain a vigilant observation of the Federal troop movements, while making “…the dispositions needful for the preservation of your army.”[3] On December 20, Hardee and his troops began evacuating Savannah, crossing hastily constructed pontoon bridges onto South Carolina soil.

For the balance of the war, Hardee attempted to slow Sherman’s progress during the Carolinas Campaign, and joined with Johnston in the last major battle in the western theater at Bentonville, North Carolina, where Hardee lost a son during the fighting. Moving to his wife’s plantation in Alabama after the war, Hardee served as president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad. Ill health prompted a visit to a sulphur spring in West Virginia, and during the journey, he died in Wytheville, Virginia, on November 6, 1873. ‘Old Reliable’ – a nickname his soldiers bestowed upon him during the war – rests in the Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama.[4] William J. Hardee proved a capable officer, one who sought to protect his native state against great odds.

[1] Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray; Lives of the Confederate Commanders (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), 124–25.

[2] U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, reprint 1899 ed. Series I 44 (Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1971), 960.

[3] Ibid., 964.

[4] Michael R. Hall and Spencer C. Tucker, “William J. Hardee,” World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society, ABC-Clio, (accessed December 1, 2014).

Learn more about the Civil War in Kennesaw State University’s latest course, 1864-1865: The Conflict Draws to an End. Learn more and/or register for the class here.

imageMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at:

Civil War Wednesday: Sherman’s March to the Sea

Major General William T. Sherman, Library of Congress LC-DIG-cwpb-06583

Major General William T. Sherman, Library of Congress LC-DIG-cwpb-06583

Major General William T. Sherman began making final preparations for his advance through Georgia after he received approval from Lieutenant General U.S. Grant in early November. Sherman, working from his headquarters in Kingston, issued Special Field Orders No. 120; this plan dictated the composition of his forces during the march, and also specified instructions regarding the destruction of all things considered of military value. Splitting his 62,000 soldiers into two wings, Sherman named Major General Henry Slocum to command the left wing, or the Army of Georgia. Major General Oliver O. Howard would lead the right wing; this force carried the Army of the Tennessee banner during the campaign.

In offering instructions on the gathering of supplies during the campaign, Sherman noted, “The army will forage liberally on the country during the march.”[1] This phrase provided enough latitude for the Federal soldiers to take liberties, especially when operating out of the direct view of their commanding officers.

Preparing to “…make the march, and make Georgia howl,” Sherman’s troops began destroying the rails of the Western and Atlantic Railroad and cutting the telegraph lines running along the tracks.[2] Since he planned to break from his line of supply – the railroad – during the invasion, Sherman no longer needed to protect this vital lifeline for his army. Although the special order issued in Kingston granted only the army corps commanders the permission to order the destruction of certain structures, unchecked troops went beyond torching buildings possessing military value. Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalrymen set fire to the square in Marietta, leaving smoke and flames in their wake as they rode into Atlanta.

Major General Joe Wheeler, Library of Congress LC-DIG-cwpb-05988

Major General Joe Wheeler, Library of Congress LC-DIG-cwpb-05988

On November 14, troops destroyed Atlanta’s railroad depot, along with several other buildings. As the lead elements began marching out of the city the following day, Sherman observed what they left in their wake. “Behind us lay Atlanta, smouldering [sic] and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city.”[3] General John Bell Hood, having taken the Army of Tennessee into her namesake state, left only the cavalry force of Major General Joe Wheeler to impede Sherman’s advance. Wheeler, with a force of 3,000 horsemen harassed the Federals at every opportunity. The only major infantry battle of the campaign took place on November 22 outside Griswoldville, when Brigadier General Pleasant Philips ordered his 2,400 men – mostly local militia troops – to charge the fortified position of Brigadier General Charles Walcutt’s Federals. Despite fielding superior numbers, the Southern troops met with defeat as they bravely charged the high ground. Many of Walcutt’s men wielded repeating rifles, and this firepower, coupled with artillery support, proved too much for Philips’s force.

Sherman kept Confederate officials guessing as to his intended target. President Jefferson Davis, along with others in Richmond, took action to send various officers to Georgia in an attempt to safeguard her valuable military assets. Macon, home to a Confederate armory, arsenal, and laboratory, seemed a sure target as the right wing approached. Except for a feint from Kilpatrick’s force, which resulted in skirmishing outside the city, the infantry force continued their southeastern trek.

Arriving in the state capital of Milledgeville on November 22, members of Slocum’s left wing conducted a mock session of the Georgia legislature in the capitol building, while others destroyed irreplaceable books and documents housed in the state library. Sherman’s wings continued their advance on Savannah, where Lieutenant General William Hardee had responsibility for safeguarding the city. When the Federals neared the outer defenses of Savannah on December 10, Sherman began making preparations to open a conduit to the U.S. Navy vessels awaiting nearby with food and other matériel. Only one obstacle stood in Sherman’s way – Fort McAllister.

Some 200 men under the command of Major George Anderson garrisoned the earthen fortification. To take the fort, Brigadier General William Hazen, with nine regiments in support, received the charge. Most of Fort McAllister’s artillery faced the seaward approach, and when Hazen’s men began their advance shortly after 4:00 p.m. on December 13, a few cannon, whose gunners fired from an exposed position offered resistance. Land mines buried along the various land approaches to the fort slowed the advancing Federals and produced several casualties. After 15 minutes of hard fighting, Sherman had his prize. Opening a supply line for his soldiers allowed him to focus his attention on the capture of Savannah. Hardee, along with General P.G.T. Beauregard – the officer in charge of the entire theater of operations – continued to seek advice from Richmond on holding Savannah. On December 17, President Davis dispatched Hardee with a final decision. “Close observation will…enable you to know when the enemy shall send from your front any considerable force, that you may then provide for the safety of your communications and make the dispositions needful for the preservation of your army.”[4]

Heeding the instructions from Richmond, during the evening of December 20, Hardee began evacuating Savannah. His men crossed hastily constructed pontoon bridges of makeshift variety, and stepped onto South Carolina soil. Sherman entered the city on December 22 and sent his famous dispatch to President Abraham Lincoln. “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”[5] After marching for almost 300 miles through the interior of Georgia, and creating a 60 mile-wide swath of destruction, Sherman and his troops would quarter in Savannah for one month before beginning their next campaign, which would take them through the Carolinas.

[1] U.S. Government, The War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, vol. 39 of pt.3 (Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1985), 713. Hereafter referred to as O.R.

[2] Ibid., 162.

[3] William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), 544.

[4] O.R., 44, 964.

[5] Ibid., 783.

imageMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at:

Civil War Wednesday: Lemuel Grant

Captain Lemuel P. Grant, Courtesy Atlanta Preservation Center

Captain Lemuel P. Grant, Courtesy Atlanta Preservation Center

Lemuel P. Grant, a Maine native, who toiled on the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad as a teenager, moved to Georgia to gain employment in the burgeoning railroad industry. He first worked as a construction engineer on the Georgia Railroad, before his promotion to chief engineer on the Atlanta & La Grange Railroad – later renamed the Atlanta & West Point. When the clouds of war began rolling across the horizon, Grant served as president of the Southern Pacific Railroad of Texas, before resigning to receive a commission as a captain in the Confederate Engineer Department.

With the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, Confederate officials increasing concern over the safety of Atlanta prompted action; Colonel Jeremy Gilmer, head of the Confederate Engineer Bureau, turned to Grant. Gilmer addressed his letter of July 16, 1863 to Grant, asking him to “…examine carefully with a view to a proper system of defense, the approaches to, and vicinity of Atlanta.” The engineer chief offered instruction for defending the city, suggesting the occupation of “…the favorable points in the circuit around the place (far enough from the town to prevent the enemy from coming within bombarding distance), by suitable detached works.”[1]

Grant map of Atlanta Defenses, Lemuel P. Grant papers, MSS 100, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Grant map of Atlanta Defenses, Lemuel P. Grant papers, MSS 100, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

After surveying the grounds around the city, Grant dispatched Gilmer in early August. “The question of defensive works around Atlanta is somewhat embarrassing. To make them effective will require a cordon of enclosed works within supporting distance of each other. The line will be between 10 and 12 miles…the points which must be occupied will be, perhaps, 12 to 15 in number, involving an expenditure second only to the defense of Richmond.”[2]

Work on the line of earthworks continued throughout the summer and fall, allowing Grant, on November 1, 1863, to enter his office in the Lynch Building at the corner of Whitehall and Alabama Streets, and update Gilmer on his progress. “The defenses of Atlanta consist of redoubts and rifle pits…generally intended for five guns each. The contour of the eminences…is such…redoubts seemed to me to be the most economical plan. Of these, we have 17…4 unfinished…length of the line… 7 ½ miles, averaging 1 ¼ miles from the center of the city.[3]

Gilmer visited Atlanta in December, inspected Grant’s work, gave his stamp of approval on the system of defenses, and authorized additional funding to augment the series of earthworks and fortifications. In March 1864, General Joseph E. Johnston left his winter headquarters in Dalton to examine Grant’s design. Informed via dispatch of Johnston’s planned visit, Gant agreed to guide the Army of Tennessee’s chieftain on a tour of the various fortifications.

Once the Atlanta Campaign began, and the armies drew closer to Atlanta, Johnston sent Lieutenant Colonel S.W. Presstman to assist Grant in extending the line of fortifications, especially in the northwestern quadrant of the city. The additional earthworks stretched the works to 12 miles in length, and enabled Johnston to assert, “We, if beaten, had a place of refuge in Atlanta too strong to be assaulted and too extensive to be invested.”[4]

Indeed, Grant executed his assignment very well! Captain Orlando Poe, Major General William T. Sherman’s engineer officer, reported on reconnaissance of the Confederate works after the July 22, 1864 Battle of Atlanta, noting, “…it was decided that no attempt at assault should be made upon that part of the enemy’s line which we could see.”[5]


Federal troops at Fort Walker after the fall of Atlanta, Orlando Poe Collection, Special Collections, USMA Library

With the loss of his last railroad supply line after the Battle of Jonesboro, General John Bell Hood evacuated Atlanta. Grant continued to serve out the war, assisting in establishing defense systems in Augusta and other locales during Sherman’s March to the Sea. After the war, he returned to Atlanta, where he served in several elected positions, and as the head of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad, before his death on January 11, 1893.

The Columbus Enquirer, reported on his passing in their January 12 edition, noting Grant had, “…in every way possible worked for Atlanta’s prosperity.” The marker at his grave site carries Grant’s final wish for “…Grant Park to be his monument.” However, perhaps an equally fitting tribute rests inside his beloved park. Fort Walker – named in memory of Major General W.H.T. Walker, killed during the Battle of Atlanta – represents one of the last, and best-preserved examples of Grant’s efforts to defend Atlanta.

[1] Jeremy Gilmer to L.P. Grant, July 16, 1863, Lemuel P. Grant Papers, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

[2] Allen P. Julian, “Atlanta’s Defenses,” Civil War Times Illustrated, 1964, 24.

[3] Ibid.

[4] U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, reprint 1899 ed. Series I 38, pt. 3 (Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1971), 619.

[5] O.R., 38, pt. 1, 132.


imageMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at: