Thomasville, founded in the 1820s, was a popular health resort town where wealthy Northerners gathered to avoid the yellow fever and malaria epidemics common to lowland areas. Northerners enjoyed the high elevation, southern climate, and fertile land and bought up huge tracts of land and established fabulous plantations. When the Panama Canal was built and the cause of these diseases discovered, Thomasville lost its appeal as these lessons were applied to lowland areas. The beautiful plantations, farms, and homes remain in Thomasville, many open to tours, including the beautiful 1820 Pebble Hill Plantation. A historic walking/driving tour, with 59 sites, is available from the Visitors Center.
During the Civil War, Thomasville was the last stop west on the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad line running southwest from Savannah. Fearing a raid on Camp Sumter prison camp at Ander-sonville, Confederate authorities decided to establish a temporary camp in Thomasville. The camp was a 5-acre square bounded by a ditch 6 to 8 feet deep and 10 to 12 feet wide, which was dug by slaves. The second week of December, 1864, as Gen. W.T. Sherman knocked on the gates of Savannah, 5,000 Union prisoners were brought here from Blackshear. When Sherman occupied Savannah on Dec. 20, the camp was evacuated and the prisoners marched north to Albany, entrained, and rode back to Andersonville, where they arrived on Christmas Eve, 1864. A historical marker stands near the prison grounds, and lines of the trench can be seen. While in Thomasville, several hundred prisoners died of disease, malnutrition, and exposure, and they were buried in a mass grave in the Old City Cemetery. Established 1842, this cemetery contains the graves of 38 Confederate soldiers, many unusually adorned with scallop shells pressed into concrete. The first black graduate of West Point and former Thomasville slave, Henry O. Flipper, is interred here. Buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Thomasville is Confederate General John C. Vaughn, who commanded C.S. Gen. John Hunt Morgan's forces after their surrender and was Confederate President Jefferson Davis' escort through Georgia until his capture in Irwinville. Also in this cemetery is a statue called Judgment, which first had its home in Savannah as part of the Chatham County memorial, but was rejected by art critics and transported to Thomasville.
Fort Gaines was the location of a Confederate fort, hospitals, and cemetery. A lively walking tour of Fort Gaines is available on weekdays at the Clay County Library, 208 S. Hancock St., and daily at the George T. Bagby State Park (GA Hwy. 39). The frontier town and fort were first established and garrisoned on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River 1814. It was manned twice more, during the Indian Uprising of 1836 and the Civil War in 1863 to protect Columbus from invasion by river. An original Civil War cannon, in its original position, marks the site of the Confederate fort on Bluff St. near the river. The McRae House, at 103 Jefferson Street, served as barracks for Confederate officers stationed here. The Brown Cottage, at 108 Jefferson Street, was the home of James Mason Brown, who left this house to fight for the Confederacy at the age of 14. At the end of the war, Brown rode a train from Virginia to Atlanta, standing up the whole way, then walked 180 miles from Atlanta to Fort Gaines, and fell asleep on the porch, refusing to let his family touch him because he didn't want them exposed to lice and germs. The next day, he burned his clothes, shaved all the hair from his body, and bathed. Then the family had a joyous reunion. The Wayside Home, at 106 Commerce Street, was a temporary hospital used after the battle of Olustee in North Florida. Nine unknown Confederate dead are buried in New Park Cemetery.
In Albany seven unknown soldiers are buried in Riverside/Oakview Cemetery (200 Cotton Ave.). The graves stand next to the city's Confederate monument. In Cuthbert's Greenwood Cemetery, located on Hamilton Ave., an estimated 24 Confederate dead are buried. Most died in local hospitals between 1863 and 1865. On the courthouse lawn in Blakely (U.S. 27) stands the last original Confederate flag staff still standing in Georgia. It was hauled to Blakely by a yoke of oxen and erected in 1861. There were no battles fought in Colquitt County but the Greenfield Church was used as a hospital. Today there is an unconfirmed Confederate cemetery at Greenfield Church (GA 133 south of Moultrie to the Pavo Rd. to Greenfield Church Rd.). White crosses mark the graves of 75-100 unknown soldiers. The 17 unknown soldiers buried in Quitman are a mystery. They are believed to be Confederate soldiers who rode the train as far as Quitman on their way to the Battle of Olustee in Florida. They died mysteriously, probably in a skirmish or as a result of disease, and buried in the West End Cemetery (U.S. 84).
This museum has a section devoted to the county's role in supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War, including uniforms, weapons, and documents. A Civil War memorial is found on the courthouse lawn.