Exploring Historic Downtown Greensboro and Lake Oconee

DSC_0008Quaint and charming are two words that immediately come to mind when describing historic downtown Greensboro. Even though the destination is located between Atlanta and Augusta, once you set foot on Main Street, you’ll think that you’ve stepped back in time – and that’s a good thing.

IMG_6059As you spend hours (or half a day) meandering through the various shops and antique stores, not only will you come across some “must-haves” but also residents who exemplify a strong sense of community and southern hospitality.

You can’t go wrong with anywhere you visit, but you definitely don’t want to miss Genuine Georgia, where you can purchase something made by artisans from the state. Time your visit right, and you may see an artist working on their craft. You can play the part of a picker when you visit Greensboro Antique Mall. With all of the browsing and shopping, you are sure to work up an appetite. You can’t leave downtown without visiting both The Yesterday Cafe and The Potted Geranium. Ask for a slice of buttermilk pie at The Yesterday Cafe, and chance are you might take home a whole pie to share. Enjoy sipping tea in an antebellum home at The Potted Geranium.

IMG_6058If you have an interest in history, Greensboro doesn’t disappoint in this aspect, either. While walking on Main Street, you’ve already passed a piece of history, ‘“The Big Store” J.H McCommons Company. This was the largest retail store between Atlanta and Augusta, and sold nearly everything. Like in many southern towns, the courthouse is a historic building. Build in 1849, the structure is an example of Greek Revival. Behind it is the Old Gaol, which if you are time-crunched this is a must-see. It’s believed to be the oldest existing jail structure in the state, and had remained basically the same since the early 1800s. It was last used in 1890. There is also the Greensboro City Cemetery, featuring unique stone and iron work. It is filled graves of prominent Georgia figures, a Revolutionary War solider and more.

DSC_0123And when it comes time to relax, there’s golfing just minutes away from downtown as well as Lake Oconee (Georgia’s second largest lake) and the many opportunities to explore it. If you really want to indulge, consider staying overnight at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation.  The 251-room property located on the banks of Lake Oconee is all about relaxation and rejuvenation. Book a spa treatment, visit the pool or sit at the lake  -do all three or none at all. Enjoy a meal at one of their many restaurants. One thing is for certain, you aren’t going to want to leave anytime soon.

aprylWatkinsville, Ga.-based freelance travel writer and blogger Apryl Chapman Thomas enjoys traveling throughout Georgia and the Southeast to discover what all the region has to offer. You can read more of her work at Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine (southernhospitalitymagazine.com) and Exploration Travel Magazine (explorationtravelmagazine.com), and by end of the month at her own travel blog, Southern Trippin, southerntrippin.com.

Civil War Wednesday: The Burning of Darien

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

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.[1]

Colonel James Montgomery

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.

Lithograph showing the 54th Massachusetts attacking Battery Wagner

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.”[2] 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.



[1] “The 54th Massachusetts Infantry,” History, http://www.history.com/topics/the-54th-massachusetts-infantry (accessed May 20, 2013).

[2] Russell Duncan, ed., Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), 343.

ms2Michael 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

Surprising Suburbs: Sunbury

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.

Sunrise at Dunham Farms

Sunrise at Dunham Farms

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.

Soldier at Fort Morris

Soldier at Fort Morris

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.

Seabrook Village

Seabrook Village

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 12. 2007 4Christine 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.

Civil War Wednesday: The Navy

Montauk

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.

Rattlesnake

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.

Worden

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