Civil War at 150: Northeast Georgia’s connection
The Times begins an occasional series on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with an in-depth look at the life and times of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, who made Gainesville his home years after the war.
The Civil War began 150 years ago today off the coast of South Carolina with the Confederacy battering the Union-held Fort Sumter.
Upon those first volleys, fired at 4:30 a.m., the divided nation would be severely tested, with the examination and dissection of that dark period of history still taking place today.
The sesquicentennial has sparked new interest: A new movie, “The Conspirator,” about President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, is headed to theaters. Magazines featuring the topic on their covers line newsstand racks.
Groups in Georgia — a state torched in Union Gen. William Sherman’s March to the Sea — are recalling the anniversary with a host of public events and re-enactments. The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s tourism division has a website devoted to the commemoration.
A few events are planned in the Hall County area, even though Northeast Georgia’s role in the conflict was limited.
For example, an exhibit is opening this weekend at the Crawford Long Museum in Jefferson, featuring “amputation re-enactments” by Valarie Cox, Society of Civil War Surgeons.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Gen. James Longstreet Chapter its holding its annual Confederate Memorial Day service at 2 p.m. Sunday at Redwine United Methodist Church off Poplar Springs Road in South Hall.
Soldiers departed for the war from the church, where many Confederate soldiers are buried.
But otherwise, the region, particularly the more mountainous spots, didn’t even support Secession, said Glen Kyle, managing director, of the Northeast Georgia History Center in a recent speech to the Gainesville Kiwanis Club.
“Why? The geography up there doesn’t really lend itself to large cash-crop plantations, which means you’re not going to need a large slave force to work that,” he said.
“So they were very unsympathetic to the southern and coastal Georgia planter class trying to pull them into a rich man’s war.”
Also, the area was too mountainous to move armies across and lacked railroad lines vital in supplying troops.
“Nevertheless, by the end of the war, this area ... was laid waste,” ripped apart by family feuds, as well as Confederate forages and searches for deserters, Kyle said.
As for the war itself, the Atlanta Campaign was the turning point of the war, not Gettysburg, as most people believe, he said.
“It was the Union victory in Atlanta that allowed Lincoln to be re-elected,” Kyle added.
Hall County has a strong postwar connection to the Civil War, however. One of the most notable Confederate soldiers, Gen. James Longstreet, moved to Gainesville in 1875.
He spent his remaining years in Gainesville, running the Piedmont Hotel and serving in presidential appointments. He died of pneumonia in 1904.
Kyle said he believes the personal accounts by families affected by the war, even today, “really brings home” the Civil War, which lasted until the South’s surrender in 1865.
Lynda Holmes of Flowery Branch is one of those holding firm to her heritage.
Her great-great-grandfather was Archibald Hanes, who left home in May 1862 to fight in the Civil War.
Hanes joined the 55th Regiment, Company D, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Army of Tennessee, C.S.A., Hall County, Georgia, Hall Volunteers.
The unit was sometimes known as the Hall County Rifles, according to research by Holmes and her cousin, Elaine Thames, also a great-great-granddaughter of Hanes.
Hanes, a North Carolina native, was 19 at the time. He had an older brother, George, and possibly a younger brother, James, who are also listed on the Muster Roll of Company D, 55th Regiment, on the same day, in 1862.
In the spring of 1862, Company D marched to East Tennessee, led by their field officer, Capt. John G. Lester, and then later to Kentucky. The men returned to East Tennessee and surrendered to Union forces at Cumberland Gap in the summer of 1863.
Hanes’ brothers were captured and placed in a military prison in Louisville, Ky. They were later transferred to Camp Douglas, Ill.
“Conditions were appalling and several thousand men died at the camp,” the women’s research shows.
Archibald wasn't captured at Cumberland Gap but his status at that time isn't clear. He appears on a company roll in October 1864 as "absent with leave."
“It just goes deep into my heart that I had ancestors who paved the way for the kind of life that we have today,” Holmes said.
“Of course, the South had to start over ... but look at the big success the South has made in starting over, because of people like Archibald Hanes and many families, loved ones who left and fought and came back to tell about it.”