28 November 2005 by Published in: General musings 5 comments

I’m sitting in the airport in Atlanta as I write this, waiting for my connecting flight on the way home to Columbus. Due to weather, our flight is delayed about three hours, and I am now looking at not getting off the plane in Columbus until 2:30 AM. Sound like fun?

There are few things in life that I despise more than sitting in airports. It’s lost time, time that cannot ever be recaptured. I’ve often thought about sending the airlines bills for my time at my normal hourly billing rate. I know the bills would never get paid, but it surely would make me feel better. Call it civil disobedience if you like.

Of course, wasting time in airports lends itself well to all sorts of random thoughts, a few of which are worthy of including here.

Although it’s not a Civil War book, I’m reading a really fascinating book at the moment. It’s a joint biography of George S. Patton, Jr. and Erwin Rommel by a fellow named Dennis Showalter. It’s really an interesting study–Showalter points out that Patton and Rommel both took different courses to become brilliant armored commanders, both of whom left a tremendous thumbprint on modern warfare. Patton, of course, was an old horse cavalryman who saw the parallels between horse cavalry and modern armor, which Rommel made his fame as a hard-charging infantry officer in the mountains of Italy during World War I. I’m just over halfway through the book–I expect to make a lot more progress on it tonight as I kill time here in this miserable airport. However, of what I’ve seen so far of this book, I can recommend it without hesitation to anyone with an interest in military history.

Being in Atlanta also reminds me of the fragile and terribly delicate nature of Civil War battlefields. Some of the most ferocious fighting of the Civil War took place in and around Atlanta, but with a few notable exceptions, such as Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, precious little has been preserved. In fact, the vast majority of the battlefields here have been developed and no vestiges of them even remain to give a clue as to how to interpret the fighting that took place there. Pine Mountain–where Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk was blown to bits by Union artillery–is the home to multi-million dollar houses, and very little survives, other than an obelisk to Polk that is difficult to find and really requires trespassing to reach.

During the Atlanta Campaign, the chief engineer of the Army of Tennessee, a man named Shoupe, designed arrow-shaped redoubts for the defenses of the river crossings. They were unique, groundbreaking designs, and were really novel. They had 18-foot-high walls, and covered the river crossing sites. I am not aware of them being used anywhere else before or since. The remaining shoupades are under dire threat of development, but apparently a recent deal with the developer has been struck to preserve the last two remaining shoupades. Of the original 36 shoupades, only two remain. All in the interest of progress.

Quite coincidentally, Mike Koepke has a post on his blog today about the imminent destruction of another battlefield from the Atlanta Campaign, the Battle of Lovejoy Station. It really is very sad indeed to see the wholesale destruction of these important sites. The post on Mike’s blog indicates that the developer is relying upon the U. S. Supreme Court’s horrific ruling of earlier this year permitting the seizing of private property by eminent domain for commercial development. I will do an entire post on this Supreme Court decision later this week.

Now, I’m all for development and progress, but as I have said here before, there has to be a way for developers and preservationists to work together, and any effort that leads to the voluntary preservation of any historically critical piece of ground is one that I support wholeheartedly. As Rodney King so famously said, “Can’t we all just get along?”

I hope to be able to post again tomorrow, but with as late as we’re going to get home, I don’t know if I will make it. Stay tuned. My own bed is going to look awfully good tonight……

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Tue 29th Nov 2005 at 12:32 am

    Eric,

    I’ve always been interested in the Shoupades. Some of your readers might be interested to know that a great article on Johnston’s Chattachoochee River line (containing the shoupades) is in one of the very first North & South issues, though the exact issue escapes me at the moment.

    Brett S.

  2. Tue 29th Nov 2005 at 12:37 am

    Brett,

    They’re really fascinating structures, and it’s really a damned shame that only two of them survive.

    I remember that article. I shall have to look it up if I ever get home.

    Eric

  3. Tue 29th Nov 2005 at 6:00 am

    I’ll look forward to your comments on the ruling. Can you include a short guide ‘how to read an US law verdict’ ?

  4. Russell Bonds
    Tue 29th Nov 2005 at 12:04 pm

    Eric:

    I’m a lawyer in Atlanta and a lifelong resident of North Georgia. Your point about battlefield preservation is a good one–the Battle of Atlanta, for all practical purposes, has been paved over entirely. To the north, the boundaries of Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park are increasingly being squeezed by country clubs and townhomes. The house at Kolb Farm (west of Marietta) now has townhouses within spitting distance. Apart from a few “buffs,” no one seems to care.

    As for Lieut. Gen. Polk, fortunately, the site of his death is indeed on private property, but fortunately the owner (Fred Bentley–not surprisingly a lawyer!) not only preserves the site but welcomes visitors. Melvin Dishong, a neighbor across the street, gives tours of the mountain (really more of a little knoll), free for the asking.

    Finally, let me thank you for your blog–it’s tremendously informative and enjoyable. I am inspired by your success in Civil War history while maintaining an active law practice. I am now in the beginning stages of trying the same thing–I’ve had two articles accepted for publication (one on Polk, supra, and one on young Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman), and am well underway with a book manuscript. I would love to e-mail you with a couple of questions if it’s not too much trouble.

    Thanks again.

    Russ

  5. Tue 29th Nov 2005 at 6:11 pm

    Russ,

    Thanks for the clarifications. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Campaign has never been one of my strong points, and hence I am not terribly sure about a lot of it. I’ve not been to about the sites associated with the campaign, and the ones I have visited, I was only there once.

    One site I do recall was a country club with trenches running right through the middle of fairways. At least they haven’t been dug up, but I can’t imagine that having people hacking away at the earthworks with golf clubs is terribly good for their long-term prospects. It saddens me a great deal.

    Congratulations on the pending publication of your articles. It’s always a big thrill to see yourself in print, especially for the first time. Good luck wtih them.

    Eric

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