In the summer of 1864, all eyes were on Buckhead.
The Battle of Atlanta was a turning point in the Civil War, said Gordon Jones, senior military historian and curator for the Atlanta History Center.
“Buckhead in 1864 was a small, outlying town north of Atlanta, but was situated where Peachtree Road and West Paces Ferry Road crossed, making it a vital crossroads,” Jones said.
“On July 20, Union and Confederate troops fought the Battle of Peachtree Creek just south of Buckhead, along present-day Collier Road, between Piedmont Hospital and Howell Mill Road. This was the first of four major battles fought for control of Atlanta.”
This year, the Atlanta History Center will join other organizations from around the state to offer special events marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Wright Mitchell, president of the Buckhead Heritage Society, was appointed recently to serve on the Atlanta Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. Mitchell said the commission will work with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau to publicize events planned throughout the city over the next few months to residents and visitors.
“The battle of Atlanta was a fairly significant event and certainly a lot of Civil Wars buffs will be coming to Atlanta to visit the battle fields, visit the Atlanta History Center… and we as a city want to make sure these folks can find what’s going on in the community,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, an Atlanta native, said he first learned Civil War history while attending the Lovett School in Buckhead. “That’s how I got interested really in the Civil War was reading historic markers on the campus as a kid,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he and his cousin once took a metal detector around the Lovett School grounds and found bullets and buttons from the Civil War era.
“It really stoked a passion for Civil War history in me,” Mitchell said.
Leigh Massey, senior director of marketing communications at the Atlanta History Center, said the center will host lectures, a temporary exhibit of Civil War artifacts, and interactive programs for families as part of the sesquicentennial anniversary. “We are presenting many programs that will tie into this theme,” Massey said.
In addition to the History Center’s permanent Civil War collection, Massey said an exhibit of artifacts called Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Collection, will be open from July through April 2015.
“It’s going to exhibit an incredible collection of Civil War artifacts,” Massey said. “Some of these will be the first time ever displayed.”
In addition to events at the Atlanta History Center, Wright said the commission will be promoting events held by other organizations throughout the city, including the Historic Oakland Foundation, Atlanta Cyclorama, B*ATL, The Lovett School and the Carter Center.
“There’s going to be a lot going on in Buckhead,” Wright said. “There’s already a ton of events planned, and more will be added as time goes on.”
Jones said 150 years ago, Atlanta became a target for the Union because it was an important railroad hub and industrial center for the Confederacy.
“More importantly, with the war in a virtual stalemate and a presidential election looming, President Lincoln’s efforts to preserve the Union and end slavery were in deep trouble as his opponents called for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy,” Jones said.
“The fall of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, signaled to Northern voters that the war was winnable, and Sherman and Lincoln were winning it. Lincoln went on to re-election in November, and only then did Confederate defeat become inevitable.
“Thus, we like to say that Atlanta was the turning point of the Civil War and the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement – two revolutions that are closely linked.”