The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion

The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion

The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion

The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion

Excerpt

Georgians, like all Americans, experienced the Civil War in a variety of ways. With the exception of the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, the state avoided major military conflict until 1864, when for nine months Union general William T. Sherman’s troops moved across Georgia to devastating effect, pushing slowly and painfully toward Atlanta, and then more rapidly toward Savannah and the coast. The Atlanta campaign and March to the Sea changed the course of the war, as John Fowler notes in the overview essay that opens this book. Both events had a direct impact on national politics (particularly on U.S. president Abraham Lincoln’s reelection) and, perhaps more debatably, on Southerners’ continued commitment to the Confederate cause. Sherman’s incursion also left a legacy that was far more traumatic and indelible for the state than would have been the case had the war come to an end earlier, as many assumed it would.

Yet, long before Sherman made his appearance, the people of Georgia felt the hard hand of war, and in ways that had little to do with invading armies or battlefield clashes. Naval encounters and guerrilla conflicts characterized the early years of the war in Georgia, while the prisons and hospitals, factories and plantations on the state’s home front provided critical support to the Confederacy. The historian F. N. Boney succinctly describes the state’s significance to the Confederacy in his book Rebel Georgia: “As Virginia dominated the upper South, Georgia was the cornerstone of the deep South. These states were the two essential Confederate bastions; if either crumbled, the war was lost.” Finally, just as the institution of slavery was central in bringing on the war, so too did its demise at the end of the war play an integral role in shaping Georgia’s postwar society. The liberation of nearly half the state’s wartime populace, more so than any other aspect of Southern defeat, created an economy that was radically different from the antebellum order that Southerners had gone to war to uphold.

These are the stories told here. Through selected articles from the New Georgia Encyclopedia (www.georgiaencyclopedia.org), this book reveals Georgia’s experience of the war, on both the battlefield and the home front, and demonstrates how activity in the state proved vital to the Confederacy as a whole. The content and arrangement of these . . .

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