Masison is the town Sherman thought too pretty to burn, so the locals will tell you. Actually, the general himself never came through Madison, but the Left Wing of Sherman's "March to the Sea" consisting of two army corps under Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum did, and lucky for us today, they did not burn the town, only the industrial and railroad facilities which supported the Confederacy. A depot, cloth factory, cotton gin and 200 bales of cotton were burned. The stragglers or bummers who followed Sherman's army on its march looted stores in town, but the residences were left alone. A communion service was stolen from the Presbyterian Church, built in 1842, but Gen. Slocum ordered it returned. (The church is located at 383 South Main Street. Notice the Tiffany stained glass windows. The service is found at the Madison/Morgan Cultural Museum.)
Madison was located on the Georgia Railroad connecting Atlanta with Augusta and the Eastern Theater. Some say the pro-Union sympathies of Madison Mayor Joshua Hill saved the town from the utter destruction suffered by other Georgia towns in the path of Sherman's men. Hill had recently lost his son Legare at Cassville and had met with Sherman when he went to pick up the body in Atlanta.
Madison had been previously visited by Union cavalry under Col. Horace Capron, who was fleeing with his brigade from the ill-fated Stoneman-McCook Raid. Here Capron stopped to burn commissary and quartermaster stores on Aug. 1, 1864, before being surprised and losing his entire command near Winder on Aug. 3 at the Battle of King's Tanyard. Madison was also the site of Confederate hospitals. Today, the town is a popular tourist site with more than 50 antebellum homes and structures, lovingly built by the planter aristocracy here in Georgia's cotton belt. A tour of homes is sponsored in May and December by local groups, and some homes are open to the general public year round. C.S. Gen. Clement A. Evans spoke at the dedication of the county Confederate monument in 1909, now located in Hill Park, with the soldier at the top looking resolutely north.
Located in a large, brick Romanesque school built in 1895, the cultural museum is an excellent place to start your tour of Madison, with guides to the area's architecture and heritage available here. Also located here is a history museum which contains some interesting Civil War artifacts.
The Joshua Hill Home, privately owned, was built in the 1830s and is located at 485 Old Post Road. A historical marker concerning Hill is at South Main Street and Hill Street. Hill was a pro-Unionist and Whig, but he was drawn into the American or Know Nothing party when the Whig party collapsed in Georgia and was elected to Congress in 1856, beating Linton Stephens. An outspoken opponent of secession, Hill resigned his seat in 1861 rather than withdraw Georgia from the Union with the other members of the Georgia delegation. In 1863, he made an unsuccessful bid for the governorship, losing to Gov. Joe Brown. After the War, he joined the Republican Party, participated in the work of Reconstruction, and was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Brown, where he served until 1873. Despite his politics, Hill remained popular with the people of Georgia. His daughter Belle married Captain Gazaway Knight, Commander of the Panola Guards, a Confederate brigade that was organized in Madison.
The dead in the Confederate section, located near the railroad tracks, consist of 51 unknown and one known Confederate soldier and one black hospital attendant. These men died of wounds or disease in the Confederate hospitals located in Madison, known as Stout, Blackie, Asylum, Turnbull and others, which operated from late 1862 to early 1865. Note the Confederate headstone marked "Unknown Colored Hosp. Attend." Closeby, a headstone marks the grave of a member of the Clinch Rifles, a Georgia regiment which lost every original recruit except the drummer boy, which states: "Handsome, magnetic, intellectual, his friends were many and his life so early sacrificed, was full of promise." Elsewhere in the cemetery find Joshua Hill's grave, where he's buried near his son Legare.
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