“He was just 11 years old when he joined the cavalry. There were drummer boys and what they called powder monkeys in the navies, who were younger. Some of them joined when they were only 8. But he was the youngest soldier we could find who joined and was given a weapon to fight. The youngest Federal solider we have been able to find was 12,” said historian Gordon R. “Rich” Elwell.
Elwell and Barry Brown, a heritage tourism specialist with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, are the authors of “Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia,” and they spoke Sunday afternoon to the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society at the Crown Garden and Archives on Chattanooga Avenue.
The book covers 350 sites around the state and includes detailed histories, driving instructions and GPS coordinates for each. Brown says the book is the first Georgia tourism guide to contain GPS coordinates. The book is divided into regions.
It was produced by the Georgia Civil War Commission and published by the University of Georgia Press in association with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Humanities Council.
The book also contains 194 photos, such as the one of Freeman’s grave and 20 maps.
“We got to visit these sites and take the photos. It was really a labor of love,” said Brown.
The book features numerous sites in and around Whitfield County from the statue in downtown Dalton of Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston to the old railroad tunnel at Tunnel Hill.
“When that tunnel was built in 1850, it was a marvel of engineering,” said Elwell. “I imagine it will be getting a lot of attention next April, which is the 150th anniversary of the Great Locomotive Chase. I believe there will probably even be a reenactment of the Great Locomotive Chase.”
The Great Locomotive Chase was a union raid that saw soldiers steal a locomotive at what is now Kennesaw and drive it north towards Chattanooga trying to do as much damage to the Western & Atlantic Railroad as they could along the way. The train’s conductor and others gave chase, and finally, just north of Ringgold, the Union soldiers were forced to abandon the train.
Brown said Georgia’s importance to the Civil War is immense.
“In 1864, the north was weary of war. President Lincoln was being challenged by former union Gen. George McClellan, who was running on basically a peace ticket, and it seemed like the North and the South had basically fought to a stalemate,” said Brown. “Without some major victory, Lincoln was looking at defeat in the election. He got that victory on Sept. 2, 1864 when Atlanta fell.”