DALTON — The markers are no more than cold aluminum and black enamel, their texts as succinct as a few tweets.
But the larger Civil War stories they summarize are as rich and remarkable as they are obscure.
One tells the tale of desperately hungry women who rioted in towns from Marietta to Columbus and tried to steal food they could not otherwise afford. One in Dalton recalls perhaps the only instance in Georgia where African American Union army troops fought in pitched battle. Yet another in Rincon describes how hundreds of freed slaves, abandoned by Union soldiers, drowned in Ebenezer Creek rather than be captured by Confederates and returned to bondage.
There may be no such thing as an untold Civil War story, but as the state gears up for the 150th anniversary of the war, the conflict’s lesser known events are being officially highlighted in ways not imagined 50 years ago. Through an expansion of the existing historical marker program, the Georgia Historical Society, Georgia Battlefields Association and Georgia Department of Economic Development and other agencies are not trying to change the war’s narrative so much as expand it. ...
‘An important step’
There are 2,000 historical markers around the state, according to the Georgia Historical Society. Of those, nearly 920 reference the war and relay key moments of action, sum up the lives of military top brass and describe what life was like for individual soldiers.
Most went up in the 1960s during the centennial and were coordinated by the state’s historical commission. But interpretation of the contest was kept narrow. Virtually no official signs dealt specifically with women, life on the home front, politics or slavery, which many scholars say was a root cause of the war.
“Multiple interpretations of the same event; That’s what makes history work,” said Brian Wills, executive director of the Center for the Study of the Civil Rights Era at Kennesaw State University. “So it had to happen that eventually the story had to broaden. It’s an important step for Georgia to take.”