The Civil War in Georgia, An Illustrated Travelers Guide
Milledgeville's Civil War history falls into two categories: the political activities which occurred here when it was Georgia's Civil War capital, and the occupation Nov. 22-25, 1864 by Gen. W.T. Sherman's split Left Wing, which came together here briefly from Eatonton and Shady Dale to cross the Oconee River. Milledgeville, a planned town inspired by Savannah and Washington, D.C., was the state capital from 1803-68. When the capital was moved to Atlanta in 1868 during Reconstruction, the town experienced economic decline but later rebounded in the early 20th century. Today, Georgia's antebellum capital boasts a wealth of well-preserved Federal-style architecture, enhanced by Greek Revival, Victorian, and Classic Revival houses. Easy to tour on foot and beautiful in the spring, a map and guide to 37 significant sites is available from the Welcome Center at 200 W. Hancock Street, 912-452-4687.
This Greek Revival mansion, built in 1838, was home to the governors of Georgia from 1838 to 1868. When Sherman occupied the town, he slept in his bedroll on the floor of this historic home, from which the furnishings had been evacuated to Macon along with Gov. Joe Brown. Brown was later arrested at this site in May 1865. This national historic landmark has been restored and furnished in period antiques and is open to tours.
This large, historic cemetery has a plot containing the remains of over 20 unknown Confederate soldiers, three Union soldiers in a separate plot, one of the earliest Confederate memorials in the state, and the grave of Gen. George P. Doles. Brig. Gen. Doles was a Milledgeville native who lead the Doles Brigade in the battles of Fredricksburg, Chan-cellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. Considered a great leader, he was killed at Bethesda Church near the entrenchments at Petersburg on June 2, 1864, and replaced by Philip Cook.
The cemetery was originally one of the four public squares of 20 acres each in the town plan of 1803, but it later became known as cemetery square. The Confederate memorial, erected early in 1868, is believed to be Georgia's first permanent, general county monument. It is a small, plain obelisk marked "Unknown Confederates," which cost its sponsors $300, a large sum in the Reconstruction South.
The old state capitol, the site of the famous Secession Convention, is considered the oldest public building in the U.S. built in Gothic Style. It served as the seat of Government of the State of Georgia from 1803-63, and was twice partially destroyed by fire. Restored in 1943, the exterior of the present building is a replica of the original. The beautiful Gothic gates at the north and south entrances to the square were constructed in the 1860s, after the Civil War, of bricks from the arsenal and magazine destroyed by Sherman's soldiers. Today the old state capitol is used by Georgia Military College.
The Secession Convention convened here Jan. 16, 1861, and three days later passed the Secession Act by a vote of 208-89. Two plaques on the wall next to the entrance mention this historic event, with one describing the meeting as "the most brilliant convocation ever held in the commonwealth of Georgia." Elected delegates from all over the state came to Milledgeville, many were among the most able men the state has ever produced. Howell and Thomas R.R. Cobb, Francis Bartow, and Robert Toombs all favored immediate secession, whereas Alexander H. Stephens, Benjamin Hill, and Herschel V. Johnson all favored a delay. The secessionists obviously won out. However, three years later, visiting Yankees repealed the secession ordinance in a mock legislative session, featuring drunken and rowdy soldiers. Gen. W.T. Sherman's men did less damage to the town than what was probably expected by Georgians at the time. His provost guard, which camped out on the statehouse square, burned the brick State Arsenal on the North side, and exploded the brick magazine on the opposite side. Churches were damaged, as was the interior of the statehouse and the state library. Sherman burned the State Penitentiary where Georgia College is located today, but spared two large cotton warehouses, a textile factory, a flour mill and a foundry reportedly because they were owned by Northerners or foreigners.
Across the street from the entrance of the old capitol building is the second Confederate county memorial, unveiled in 1912. It is a 20 foot granite shaft, flanked by two marble statues of young Confederate soldiers.
Controversial Civil War Gov. Joe Brown worked his politics here, for which another book is needed to describe.
This unusual Carpenter Gothic church, consecrated in 1843, was damaged by Union soldiers, their horses, and a nearby explosion when the Yankees occupied Milledgeville. Federal troops stabled their horses in the building (hoofprints are still visible) and poured sorghum molasses down the pipe organ to "sweeten the sound." When Federals exploded a nearby arsenal, it damaged the roof which was originally flat. In 1909, a new organ was presented by George W. Perkins of New York, who had heard about the damage wreaked by Sherman's troops.
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