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Day 508: Travelblog - Atlanta, GA

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Not that it's especially relevant to a healthy lifestyle (probably the opposite, if truth be told, considering all the holiday indulgences) but over the next, ah, couple of weeks? I'll share the photos I told you about from our recent trip.

I say "couple of weeks." We were gone for three, but going to, coming from, visits with family, and a few sections of long drives haven't generated many pictures in the sightseeing category.

Unlike our previous ventures, we flew in and out of Atlanta this trip. Not direct, but as a two-hop, and regardless of the miniscule discount, the older I get, the more I think direct flights are the way to go. Do I sound like an old hand at this?

Flights from the UK to the US are always daytime and usually leave sometime in the morning: such was the case here. By the time we landed in GA, it was around 5 PM (see what I mean about those layovers between flights? adds a lot to the travel time) - 10 PM GMT - and I was already tired. Straight to the hotel where we soon went to bed to try to put jetlag behind us.

The benefit of westward travelling is getting up super early and with the five-hour time difference still feeling well-rested.

The morning was already dedicated to business - renting a car, getting American chips for our phones, finding "real" maps and information we needed, shopping for some essentials, etc. By the time we had everything together, half the day was shot, but since our first stops were right in Atlanta, we dived in.

Himself has become caught up in the American Civil War, and one of the primary reasons for this trip was to visit as many of the major Southern battlefields as we could fit in. Hence the rest of our day was spent mostly at Kennesaw Mountain.

During the Civil War, as Sherman worked his way through the South, Atlanta became a primary target, due to its rail lines. Kennesaw Mountain was one of the areas where the two armies clashed, and later - after Union forces won - became a site from which the attack on the city itself was launched.

Today the mountain and some of its surrounding land is a National Park site.

I lived in Gettysburg - and I still don't know how a relatively small town manages to pack so many people in on a summer weekend (probably even more so this year, as it's the sesquicentennial anniversary of the battle) - and I grew up not far from Antietam, so I thought I had some idea of how busy a historic site can get. Between its close proximity to Atlanta and our schedule putting us there on a Saturday, and what with a glorious April spring day - well, "crowded" doesn't begin to describe.

The upside is that because it was a weekend, there was a re-enactment going on, and I always find them interesting. Some of the people involved have uniforms and equipment as authentic as possible, right down to their shoes - throughout most of the 19th century, there was no "left" or "right" shoe, just the same pattern for both. I wonder how comfortable (or uncomfortable!) those are?

At NPS sites we always start with the Visitors Center: it gives us some background - they usually have exhibits or a museum - as well as an overview of the park layout. We pick up brochures and find out if there's an audio tour (today, many of them have tours designed to work through cell phones), and sometimes they have films as well. Kennesaw Mountain has a short film that was well-done, and works for both schoolage as well as adults.

You can see a corner of a re-enactor's tent on the left of the picture. The "troop" was just beginning to gather, and I took some photos as they were getting ready.

Notice the young boy in the group. It's fitting that they have some boys with them, as that was realistic not only for the time, but especially in the South, where recruits were at a premium. Often fathers-and-sons or brothers would join the same troop. Sometimes it also meant all the men in a single family would be lost if the troop engaged in heavy fighting.

There was a drummer boy amongst these re-enactors:

I'm not sure how well the picture will come out, but he's wearing a heavy wool tunic and - probably - woolen trousers. The day we were there was balmy, with some humidity but not a lot. I daresay he would've been sweltering on a typical summer day in Georgia, but I suppose that too is realistic.

The small boy in the center amused me - I guess he was the youngest Reb!

More than once I've wondered about the realism of some re-enactors' groups I've seen. Many are as you would expect drawn to Gettysburg, and the majority are composed of older men. That's not especially authentic in some respects - in the North, they didn't need to rely on oldsters the way they did in the South, particularly toward the end of the war when the CSA was desperate for soldiers. Even in the South, though, old men weren't generally sent far from home, but were more often found in the local troops, used as a last resort in defensive actions.

The reality is that re-enacting is not a cheap hobby. Even basic gear - notably high-quality reproductions - can be expensive. That doesn't shut out younger men from participating, but it may explain why the age is skewed to a predominance of older men, when during the war the reverse would likely have been true.

Still, there is no denying that older men sometimes joined even in the early days. This fellow gives some perspective on the cannons:

No denying he looks the part.

At Kennesaw Mountain, the Visitors Center is close to the base of the mountain. There's a road to the top - it's accessible by car on weekdays, but on weekends the NPS runs a shuttle bus,* closing the road to car traffic. Since we were there on a Saturday, our choices were bus, or hike. The trail is a couple miles long, round trip. The NPS estimates it takes an hour to walk to the peak and back. Distance-wise, it would be doable for me; steepness-wise - aiyiyi, they don't call it a mountain for nothing! We took the bus.

*That is, the shuttle was running the day we were there. One of the park rangers said that it would probably be suspended in another few weeks, as the sequestration budget cuts meant they couldn't afford to operate it this season.

Even then, it's a short, but steep, hike from the drop-off point to the actual peak:

On a clear day the sight from the top must be magnificent - it was somewhat hazy the day we were there, with both the temperatures and humidity rising. Still, we could see the Atlanta skyline in the distance:

At the top we found two boys walking around - they were ten years old, best friends, in the same fifth-grade class in school. How do I know? Because they gabbed our ears off, lol. They were great kids,* engaging, bright, and a real joy to talk to.

*And lest anyone have concerns about children talking to strangers, be aware that a Dad was right there with them, and Mom was within sight.

We were taking pictures of each other (Himself had already taken mine, from behind - typical man! - as we were walking up the peak-trail, and I took one of him at the top) when one of the boys piped up saying "Would you like me to take a picture of you together?"

And so we have a shot of the usual suspects:

After we left the top, we drove part of the auto tour, stopping at points that interested us.

Notice the embanked cannons - the embankments are original to the site, having been put up in 1864.

There was no sign or marker on this abandoned chimney, but we thought it representative of "Sherman's Sentinels," the many house chimneys left standing after the Union army burned so many buildings on their way to Savannah.

The last stop of the day was a poignant one, and a long time in the making.

In the '70s and '80s I worked in the English Department of a college. One of the perks was access to daily newspapers - the office subscribed to several, and I would scan the front pages of most of them nearly every day. In 1982 I came across a story about Alonzo Mann. He was in his eighties at the time, and wanting to ease his conscience (apparently he wanted "to die in peace") he reported a murder he'd discovered some seventy years before.

In 1913, at the age of 12, he was working in a pencil factory in Marietta, Georgia. Another child of about the same age, Mary Phagan, was found dead in the factory basement. Her supervisor, Leo Frank, was convicted of killing her, but before he could be taken to the state prison, a lynch mob abducted and hanged him.

After having spent most of his life hiding a horrific secret, Alonzo came forward to state he had seen another co-worker disposing of Mary's body. The murderer threatened to kill Alonzo if he told anyone, and terrified not only for himself but for his family, Alonzo kept silent, even as Leo Frank was tried and convicted. Not until near the end of his own life did Alonzo talk about what had happened, and how heavily the burden had weighed on him. Because of his testimony, a few years later Leo Frank was posthumously pardoned.

A TV docudrama that I remember finding rather absorbing was made in 1988; it starred some high-powered actors (Jack Lemmon among them) and although I already knew the story, it reinforced for me that the setting was Marietta. And so we were led to the last stop of the day:

Mary Phagan's grave is to the far left, the one with all sorts of flowers and mementos - not a very good photo, but the location was somewhat difficult to get a vantage point. The cemetery is quite large, and had it not been for the sign, I'm not sure we would've found it. (For what it's worth, there are several other historic markers in the cemetery; apparently there are a number of notable people buried there.)

Thus ended our first day out.

Have a good'un, Sparklers - carpe diem!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Great blog and fantastic photos! On our way back to Chicago from South Carolina & Savannah, GA, a few years ago, we stopped (yes, we drove--air fare for 6 is too expensive) at Chickamauga, which is just south of the Tenn/GA border. No reenactments that day--but very eerily quiet. Much flatter than Kennesaw.
    2442 days ago
    loved the pics - especially the one of you...
    2443 days ago
    You are really ambitious when you travel! Great blog. great pictures!
    2443 days ago
    emoticon blog. I liked the pictures and the personal way you explained them, including yourselves in what you wrote. That is the way a blog should be done! Super travel log!
    IKacey co-leader of the Chair Exercise Team
    2444 days ago
    I loved your blog. The picture of you and himself is so awesome.You should frame it. It is so great
    2444 days ago
  • PROT358
    Wow! I have always wanted to go there. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to any more pictures/blogs that may come!
    2444 days ago
    Thank you for the great travelogue. About 25 years ago a colleague -- a Medievalist -- went to a Civil War reenactment and died mysteriously and no cause was ever found. He was rather young.

    That's a fantastic picture of the two of you!
    2444 days ago
    It amazes me how you remember such details to share with us all. Your pics are great and I love the one of the two of you together !!!

    I have a dear friend who is very into the CW and she is a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Her dream would be to have a "paying" job to re-enact, she already has the dress, which she made herself. She knows and has documented her family history leading back to family memebrs in the war. She is very interesting to sit and chat with about it.

    Looking forward to more tales of your trip.
    2444 days ago
  • RFJSJ50
    Wonderful pictures and dialogue! I felt I was right there with you.
    2444 days ago
    I always enjoy joining your trips via your accounts and photos! Thanks so much for sharing not just the photos but the story behind them.
    2444 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    Thoroughly enjoyed.
    2444 days ago
    I almost joined a Revolutionary Reenactment group--the First Marylanders---but the cost of costume, even for a camp follower who needed glasses was too expensive as I was in college at the time. Glad you enjoyed your visit to Atlanta.
    2444 days ago
  • DEBRA0818
    Excellent travelogue! Really enjoyed the adventure and pictures -- it's a great country for traveling by car.

    2444 days ago
  • PICKIE98
    What a great trip!
    I, too, am interested in Civil War.. I love Matthew Brady's life and career, I am mesmerized by the pics. they speak to me. I have a coffee table book that I love,,
    Do not care to travel to the South unless it is Florida, but love to read about the war..
    2444 days ago
    What a wonderful adventure you had! Loved the photos!
    2444 days ago
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