A three-part series on the Civil War started Thursday night at the University of North Georgia Gainesville, and what better place to start than the Peach State?
“If the war had ended a year before it did, Georgia would have been a relatively minor player,” said John Inscoe, University of Georgia history professor. “We’d be like Florida or Alabama. Who knows what happened there during the war?
“Everybody knows what happened in Georgia.”
Union Gen. William Sherman cut a devastating swath through the state, particularly in the burning of Atlanta, with his “March to the Sea,” an event depicted in the world-famous book and movie, “Gone With the Wind.”
Then there’s Andersonville, an infamous Confederate-run POW camp where some 13,000 men died.
But Inscoe, editor of the New Georgia Encyclopedia, talked about lesser-known facts and topics concerning Georgia’s involvement in the Civil War, which ended April 9, 1865, or nearly 150 years ago.
“Georgia had more slaves and slaveholders than any other Deep South state in 1860 and it was second only to Virginia ... in the South as a whole,” he said.
“That meant that Georgians fully recognized how much was at stake when the secession crisis intensified that year. Georgians were quick to make the security of slavery’s future a central part of the debate over secession.”
Guerrilla warfare has emerged as a “hot button topic” in recent military study of the war, with fighters from both Union and Confederate sides, Inscoe said.
They “terrorized and plundered farms and communities, often seeking deserters or draft dodgers,” he said.
Inscoe also talked about Cobb County’s Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, which is the most visited Civil War site in the country, with 1.4 million visitors per year, nearly twice that of Gettysburg, Pa.
He based much of his talk on “The Civil War in Georgia,” a collection of articles from the New Georgia Encyclopedia published by the UGA Press. Inscoe was the book’s editor.
The UNG series is a project supported by a grant from the Georgia Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities and through funding from the Georgia General Assembly.
Also supporting the effort is Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville.
The second lecture, “UNG Historians Reflect on the Civil War,” is set for March 12, and the final one, “The Human Cost of the American Civil War,” is set for April 9.
The Civil War “had a significant impact on U.S. history and continues to generate interest for both scholars and the general public,” said Deanna Gillespie, a UNG history assistant professor who is organizing the series.