To mark the beginning of the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration, almost hundred buffs came out on a chilly night last month to hear Barry L. Brown and Gordon R. Elwell at the Decatur Public Library introduce their book Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia. It was a seasoned crowd who has been going to the Cyclorama since they were kids, (Elwell made a solo bus trip from Orlando when he 11 years old to see the large oil painting) and an audience who knows the real story on whether Confederate President Jefferson Davis was wearing his wife's dress when the Federal cavalry captured him near Irwinville, Georgia on May 10, 1865. (Davis was wearing Mrs. Davis' shawl.)
Published last fall by the University of Georgia Press, in association with the Georgia Civil War Commission, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and the Georgia Humanities Council, Crossroads of Conflict is a comprehensive guide to the battlefields, markers, houses, relief maps, monuments, statues, museums, mills (mill ruins at Sweetwater Creek shown here), churches, depots, cemeteries, bridges, forts, parks, visitor centers, ferries, courthouses, capitols, prison sites, campsites, trenches, plantations, archives, arsenals, and lighthouses located in Georgia. All is all, 350 sites are included in the book, an increase from the last compilation, which listed 150 sites.
What is impressive is that Brown and Elwell's expansion of Crossroads' scope means the book covers more than just generals and campaigns. For example, they include the site where Atlanta barber and freed black, Solomon Luckie, died from injuries when a Union shell landed near him in July, 1864. (Luckie Street was named after him.) Another story, which Brown and Elwell told at their presentation, features Theophile Roche, a French national and mill owner in Roswell who tried to declare neutrality by hoisting a French flag as the Federal cavalry approached his mill. (Nice try, but to no avail as the Yankees torched the mill anyway.)
The sites are divided by the nine tourism regions of Georgia where individual sites and towns are grouped together geographically. For example, the Historic High Country region features the battlefield at Resaca (which has recently been expanded), and the surrounding areas of interest: the Duncan Norton House, the Resaca Confederate Cemetery and the Oostanaula River Bridge.
This organization takes a little getting used to (though a detailed index and table of contents helps), but the strategy does make sense because if you are traveling to see a battlefield, you certainly want to know which related areas of interest are close by. Brown and Elwell envision people putting this book in their car seat as they drive the roads of Georgia during the Civil War sesquicentennial (GPS coordinates and street addresses are included). If that is the case, sightseers need to bring an atlas as well as the maps in this book were not intended to be used as road maps.
Even if you don't plan on driving around Georgia anytime soon, this book is enjoyable just to thumb through with its many photos and paintings. However, the artwork is not so overwhelming that you don't want to see these places for yourself. The artwork piques your interest without crushing it.
Crossroads is an important catalog of a pivotal time in Georgia and our nation's history. Hats off to all those who played a part in creating this impressive work that combines scholarship, tourism, and some old-fashioned storytelling.
Disclosure: UGA press graciously provided me a reviewer's copy upon my request. And for more information about my own Civil War buff credentials, visit here.