A Historical Tour of Civil War Sites in Atlanta

Civil War Reenactment
Civil War Reenactment | Robby Van Arsdale
Photo of Jacy Topps
2 February 2018

From the classic civil war romance novel Gone with the Wind to the legendary “March to the Sea,” Atlanta’s legacy in the conflict will never be forgotten. Originally named “Terminus,” the area that is now known as Atlanta became a major railroad hub before the civil war. Due to its major role in transportation and commerce, Atlanta was vital for the Confederacy’s military operations. For this reason, Atlanta also became a major target for the Union soldiers. In 1864, General William T. Sherman and the Union soldiers captured the city during the “Battle for Atlanta.” The fall of Atlanta would be a major catalyst for the re-election of President Lincoln, and ultimately lead to the defeat of the Confederacy. Sherman marched his army out of Atlanta, south to Savannah, to launch what would become the infamous “March to the Sea.” Take a tour of Atlanta and its surrounding areas and discover where some of the most pivotal moments of the civil war took place.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

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Cannon in Kennesaw Battlefield Park
Cannon in Kennesaw Battlefield Park | Steven Rahn/Flickr
North of Atlanta sits Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Preserved by the National Park Service, the nearly 3000-acre battlefield is where General Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign started – a strategic plan in which the Union soldiers would destroy the supply and commerce hub of the Confederacy. Information about the battle and soldiers can be found at the visitors’ center in the park. Self-guided auto tours of the park are available too.

Oakland Cemetery

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Oakland Cemetery, Oakland Avenue Southeast
Oakland Cemetery, Oakland Avenue Southeast | Courtesy of Historic Oakland Foundation
Just a short drive from downtown Atlanta sits a popular civil war landmark. Founded and originally named, “Atlanta Cemetery” in 1850, then renamed in 1850, Oakland Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Atlanta. A notable connection with the war is in the northern part of the cemetery, where Confederate commander John B. Hood set up his headquarters in a two-story farmhouse during the “Battle of Atlanta”. Rich in history, magnolia and oak trees (the abundance of oak trees inspired its name), the cemetery is the final resting place for nearly 3,000 Confederate soldiers, several Union soldiers and Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell.

Stone Mountain Park

Park, Natural Feature
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Carving of soldiers on Stone Mountain
Carving of soldiers on Stone Mountain | Jim Bowen/Flickr
A carving etched into Stone Mountain, depicting three soldiers of the Confederacy – Jefferson Davis, “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee – on horseback, makes Stone Mountain Park a major destination in Atlanta for civil war buffs. Memorial Hall, located at the park, is where visitors can learn more about the carving and how the civil war impacted Georgia. The 3,200-acre park also features attractions, a scenic train ride, a hiking trail and even a laser show in the summer.

Historic Roswell

Before General Sherman and Union soldiers reached Atlanta, battles erupted throughout Roswell, an area north of Atlanta. Roswell was a town centered around fabric mills which supplied clothing to Confederate soldiers during the war. Sherman ordered his soldiers to destroy mills and arrest the workers. Today, visitors travel to Roswell to get a peek at the antebellum homes that have been restored and the Smith Plantation Home. Before it was restored as a museum, the Smith Plantation, built by slave labor in 1845, was the home of the Smiths – one of the founding families of Roswell. Many of the original furnishings, including slave quarters, a grand piano, barn, kitchen and carriage house, are all beautifully intact. Guided tours are available to all visitors.

Marietta National Cemetery

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Marietta National Cemetery
Marietta National Cemetery | Muffinn/Flickr
Established in 1866 to provide a suitable resting place, the Marietta National Cemetery is a burial place for more than 10,000 Union soldiers. Formerly known as the “Marietta and Atlanta National Cemetery,” Henry Cole, the owner of the land, offered it for a burial ground for both Union and Confederate fallen soldiers, hoping that by honoring those who had fallen together others might learn to live in peace. Upon entering the cemetery’s gate, visitors will see a remarkable granite memorial gate inscribed: “Here rest the remains of 10,312 officers and soldiers who died in defense of the Union 1861-1865.”500 Washington Avenue, Marietta, GA