Bartow County’s railroad lines and iron manufacturing capabilities granted her an important behind-the-scenes role in the Civil War long before armies clashed here in May 1864. Pivotal events in the Great Locomotive Chase and the Atlanta Campaign occurred here and both Sherman’s March to the Sea and the Nashville Campaign began here. See these Points of Interest from North to South:
The depot downtown witnessed the last leg of the Great Locomotive Chase, April 12, 1862, when Captain Fuller boarded the southbound Texas and began the final pursuit of the General in Reverse. The Georgia State Arsenal, located here, was destroyed May 18, 1864 when Sherman’s Army took occupation. See Adairsville’s role in “The Cassville Affair” below.
Situated directly in the path of Sherman’s advance, the Woodlands Estate witnessed a battle on May 18, 1864 and suffered during occupation of troops commanded by U.S. Gen. James McPherson. Godfrey Barnsley’s firebrand Irish maid, Mary Quinn, magnanimously referred to McPherson himself as “A gentleman surrounded by rogues and thieves.” Today the estate has given way to Barnsley Resort, for all to enjoy.
A 45-minute delay here doomed the Union espionage attempt remembered as “The Great Locomotive Chase.” The first Confederate “Wayside Home,” or hospital, was here. Many followed eventually serving more than 10,000 soldiers. The Confederate Cemetery, containing grave sites of 250 unknown Confederate and two Union soldiers, is the site of the oldest continuous Confederate Memorial Day Observance. From Kingston, Gen. Sherman requested and received permission from Gen. Grant to execute “The March to the Sea.” Kingston witnessed the last surrender of Confederate troops east of the Mississippi by Gen. William T. Wofford on May 12, 1865. Kingston Women’s History Museums is open weekends, 1-4 PM. 770-336-5540.
Cassville is remembered by Civil War historians for what did not happen here: The Cassville Affair. During the Atlanta Campaign, Confederate Gen. Joe Johnston intended a major offensive here after tricking Sherman into dividing his forces at Adairsville. Quite likely, this offensive would have been successful and leveled the playing field for Johnston’s badly out-numbered troops. However, during the evening of May 18, 1864, Gen. John Hood convinced Johnston to withdraw south to Allatoona. Cassville was occupied by Union Forces from May till October 1864. On October 30, orders were issued to burn Cassville. When the Fifth Ohio Cavalry carried out those orders on November 5, 1864, Cassville residents were given just 20 minutes notice of the town’s fate. Only two homes and three churches survived of the town that had been home to two colleges, four hotels, a newspaper, wooden sidewalks, and the regional courthouse.
The Cassville Affair was such a significant turn of events that one of five Atlanta Campaign Pocket Parks was constructed here by the WPA in the 1930’s. The Cassville Confederate Cemetery contains the grave sites of 300 Confederate soldiers as well as that of Gen. William T. Wofford.
Cooper’s Iron Works
Cooper’s Furnace at the base of Allatoona Dam is the only remnant of Mark A. Cooper’s Iron Empire. Cooper sold the Etowah Mining and Manufacturing Company to the CSA in 1863. A major supplier of munitions to the Confederacy, the iron works and surrounding town were obliterated by Union troops in 1864.
En route to the iron works, note the stone pillars in the Etowah River, parallel to Hwy 41. These supported the W&A rail lines. Destroyed by the Confederates in their retreat from Cartersville on May 20, 1864, the Corps of Engineers reconstructed the bridge in four days and restored Union use of the vital railway.
Few Civil War battles were as intense as that which occurred here Oct. 5, 1864. It was the first in CSA Gen. John Hood’s Nashville Campaign. Like the Nashville Campaign, it was “A needless effusion of blood,” as it was prophetically referred to in the demand for surrender issued by the attacking Confederate General moments before fighting began. Here is the scene:
By early September General Sherman had captured Atlanta and the W&A railroad running through North Georgia was the Union Army’s only link for supplies and communications. The most vulnerable stretch of tracks was here at Allatoona where the train passed through a 175 ft.deep, 360 ft. long pass. It was this pass that caused Sherman to pull away from the railroad in the Campaign for Atlanta and flank from the West. Recognizing its strategic importance, he garrisoned it after the Confederates retreated in May. Trenches and earthen forts were built on either side of the cut joined by a wooden footbridge 170 feet in the air. A million Union rations were stored in the Allatoona Depot.
In late September CSA President Jeff Davis announced Hood’s plan to re-capture the W&A and march for Nashville. Sherman read his speech in the newspaper and immediately sent reinforcements to Allatoona under the command of Gen. Corse. On Oct. 4th, Gen. Hood ordered CSA Gen. Samuel French to march from Big Shanty, destroy the bridge over the Etowah River, fill the Allatoona pass with debris, and meet him back at New Hope – a 90-mile round trip mission through enemy territory. French arrived at Allatoona with 3,276 men to attack 2,025 entrenched Union soldiers. Vicious fighting began. The eastern Star Fort was the scene of the most intense hand-to-hand action. Union defenders fired their Henry 15 shot repeater rifles so fast they became too hot to hold. As the fort ran out of ammunition, Pvt. Edwin Fullington crossed the footbridge three times through enemy fire for more. The Medal of Honor was bestowed on another Private, James Croft, for bravery during this battle.
Although near victory, mid-day Gen. French received word that Sherman was dispatching reinforcements from Kennesaw and decided to withdraw. Sherman’s message inspired the spiritual “Hold the Fort, I am Coming.” While retreating the Confederates discovered the depot stored Union rations, but it was too late to destroy it.
Out of the 5,301 men engaged in the four-hour battle, only 3,698 lived to tell about it – one of the bloodiest days of the war.
Interpretative trail markers lead visitors throughout the battle site. No fee. Maintained by the Etowah Valley Historical Society and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Local Civil War Museum Interpretations:
The War is Hell Civil War art gallery at Booth Western Art Museum (downtown Cartersville) 770-387-1300.
The Bartow History Museum (downtown Cartersville) 770-382-3818.
Allatoona Lake Recreational Facilities and Visitor’s Center Daily 9-5; no fee; 678-721-6700.
Nearby Civil War Must See Sites:
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History
Pickett’s Mill State Historic Site
Additional Civil War Resources:
Etowah Valley Historical Society