Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ghost of Allatoona Pass - A 19th Century Haunting in Georgia

Tracks near Allatoona Pass
Much as American newspapers did with UFOs in the 1950s, the papers of the 19th century often covered reports of ghost sightings as hard news. As a result, some of the best documented alleged ghost appearances in American history are those that took place during the 1800s.

One particularly unique story involves a ghost that appeared on the trains of the Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A) during the years after the Civil War.

Deep Cut at Allatoona Pass
According to an 1872 issue of the Atlanta Journal, the ghost appeared on trains as they passed along the stretch of tracks between Allatoona Pass and Tilton, a crossing not far from Dalton in North Georgia.

...This individual appears suddenly on top of the freight cars, takes a seat and remains there for many miles, then the unknown brakesman disappears. Conductors, seeing him, have often gone out to collect his fare, but on nearing him, he would vanish like mist. - Atlanta Journal, Dec. 1872.

The spectre most often appeared as the trains steamed out of the Deep Cut at Allatoona Pass and picked up speed.This prompted speculation among the railroad men that it might be the ghost of a Civil War soldier killed in the frightful battle at the pass on October 5, 1864.

The ghost did not attempt to frighten anyone and seemed more like the mere image of a man than a troubled spirit. It simply sat atop a freight car on the train. It made no sound. It did not move. It was almost as if it were a photograph on the air.

A number of train crews saw the figure and finally a particularly brave engineer decided to get to the bottom of the mystery. Learn what he discovered and read more about the Ghost of Allatoona Pass by visiting

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Battle of Allatoona Pass, Georgia - First Battle of the Franklin & Nashville Campaign

Monuments at Allatoona Pass Battlefield
Not far from Cartersville in Bartow County, Georgia, a beautiful battlefield park preserves the scene of the Battle of Allatoona Pass.

The first battle of Confederate General John Bell Hood's Franklin & Nashville Campaign, the fight took place on October 5, 1864, when Hood sent General Samuel G. French's division to take the Union forts that guarded the Deep Cut at Allatoona Pass. The cut, dug to a depth of 175 feet through the solid rock of the Allatoona Mountains, provided a usable grade for the trains of the Western & Atlantic (W&A) Railroad. This single track was the only source of supplies for General William Tecumseh Sherman's Union army then occupying Atlanta.

Deep Cut at Allatoona Pass
French was to capture and fill the cut before destroying the nearby bridge over the Etowah River, all part of Hood's grand plan to cut off Sherman's supply line even as the Confederate army slipped away through Alabama to Tennessee for a move on Nashville.

It did not take Union scouts long to realize that French was on the move with his 3,276 man division. From a tower on the top of Kennesaw Mountain near Atlanta, Sherman had messages sent by signal flag urging the 976 Union soldiers guarding Allatoona Pass to hold on until reinforcements could reach them. A Northern officer later remembered the message as saying, "Hold the fort; I am coming."

Earthworks of the Star Fort
In 1870, evangelist and composer Philip Paul Bliss heard Major Daniel Webster Whittle tell the story at a Sunday School convention in Illinois. So moved was he by it that he soon wrote the Christian hymn, "Hold the Fort." It remains a favorite in America's churches to this day and, strangely, has also been adopted - although with altered lyrics - as a rally song by the labor unions of Great Britain and the Carribean.

Sherman's two messages actually said "Sherman is moving in force; Hold Out!" and "General Sherman says Hold Fast. We are coming." When asked about the song in later years he said that while he never sent the message "Hold the Fort," that was certainly the intent of his messages.

The Union troops at Allatoona Pass did indeed "Hold the Fort." In a bloody mountaintop battle, they repelled four separate attacks on the Star Fort by the veterans of French's Division.

To learn more about the Battle of Allatoona Pass, the writing of the song "Hold the Fort" and to take an online tour of the battlefield, please visit

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Faulty Reporting Ignites National Debate over Alabama's Confederate Memorial Park

Confederate Memorial Park
There is a lot of misinformation ricocheting around today about Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, Alabama.

An Associated Press report on the park has been picked up by newspapers, National Public Radio, the liberal Huffington Post and a host of other websites and blogs. The original report basically takes the premise that the State of Alabama is spending tax money to care for a park located on the grounds of the state's former Old Soldiers Home while other historic sites are in need of funding.

The idea the writer is attempting to convey, of course, is that state money is being spent on a Confederate landmark while other "more deserving" historic sites do not have the funding they need.

Cemetery at Confederate Memorial Park
First and foremost, its name aside, the park is NOT a Confederate landmark nor was the site involved in the War Between the States. In 1901, a new State Constitution was approved in Alabama that included a provision for a small amount of the state's taxes to be used in providing care for its elderly and disabled Confederate veterans. Union veterans received help from the U.S. Government, but Confederate veterans did not and the responsibility of caring for hundreds of needy and elderly veterans fell upon the people of the state. Otherwise, many of these men would have died homeless.

The inclusion of this item in the state's constitution was not intended to memorialize the Confederacy. Instead it was done to care for aged veterans that the U.S. Government had decided to ignore and forget. Over the years, the home provided a place to live and medical care for hundreds of veterans, many of whom were impoverished due to horrible wounds they had received in battle. Its cemeteries provided a final resting place for them.

Despite much of what is being written on blogs and message boards today, the funding was not a "Confederate tax," nor was it tied to the "Civil War." It simply was a humanitarian gesture to care for old men who had nowhere else to turn - a form of government healthcare, if you will.

Museum Exhibits
The park today preserves the historic grounds and ruins of the Old Soldiers Home and maintains the two cemeteries where more than 300 Alabama solders are buried. The museum there, contrary to much of what is being written there, is not a "Confederate museum." It is a museum that looks at Alabama's role in the War Between the States or Civil War from all perspectives. It does include exhibits on slavery, but also looks at how the war impacted the state. It presents a good balanced view of the war in Alabama and a visit is highly recommended to anyone traveling up and town I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham.

This controversy is absolutely and totally ridiculous. Why should graves not be maintained and what is wrong with Alabama funding a museum that provides a balanced look at the Civil War?

After all, doesn't the U.S. Government do the same thing at its national parks and cemeteries?

To learn more about Confederate Memorial Park, please visit

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Amicalola Falls State Park - Dawsonville, Georgia

Amicalola Falls
Located in the heart of the North Georgia mountains, Amicalola Falls State Park is home to the tallest cascading waterfall in the South.

Four times taller than Niagra Falls, Amicalola Falls is formed by Little Amicalola Creek as it roars its way down the mountain on its way to the Etowah River. The total height of the waterfall is 729 feet and the name is thought to be a Native American word that means "tumbling waters."

The falls were, of course, well known to the early Cherokee and their prehistoric ancestors, both of whom called this part of Georgia home. The Cherokee continued to live in the area until 1838 when they were forced from their homes and driven west on the Trail of Tears. Six years before that, though, a Georgia surveyor saw and described Amicalola Falls. He even tried to climb to the top but like many visitors today, he found the effort was a bit too strenuous for him.

Little Amicalola Creek
With the departure of the Cherokee, the falls area was opened for white settlement. A water mill was built just below the landmark in 1852 and a Methodist campground was established there in 1860.

Today the area around the falls is part of a magnificent Georgia state park. Established in 1940, Amicalola Falls State Park features the waterfalls, seasonal trout fishing, hiking trails, picnic areas, camping areas, cabins, a lodge, visitor center and, of course, great views of the falls.

To learn more about Amicalola Falls, please visit

Friday, July 15, 2011

War Eagle Mill & Bridge - Northwest Arkansas

War Eagle Mill & Bridge
One of the most charming scenes in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas is the view of the War Eagle Mill and Bridge from across the historic mill pond.

The current structure is the latest version of a mill that has stood on the banks of War Eagle Creek (sometimes called the War Eagle River) since the 1830s. Originally built by Sylvanus Blackburn, the mill was a thriving enterprise for two decades before the Civil War.

War Eagle Mill
The first structure was washed away by a flood in 1848, but was quickly replaced. When the Civil War swept with brutal force across the Ozarks, the War Eagle Mill was used to grind grain for both the Union and Confederate armies (at different times, of course!). After the Battle of Pea Ridge, a portion of General Earl Van Dorn's shattered Southern army passed by the mill during their retreat from the battlefield.

The second mill, like most such structures in the region, did not survive the war but was burned before the end of the conflict. The brutual economic conditions of the years after the Civil War prevented the rebuilding of War Eagle Mill until 1873. After it returned to operation, however, the mill served the people of the area for many decades to come.

The present structure, completed in 1973, is the fourth operating mill to stand on the site and is a recreation of previous structures. It is open to the public and is the focal point of major art & craft shows each fall and spring. It is also one of the most picturesque locations in Northwest Arkansas.

To learn more about War Eagle Mill, please visit

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Wild Man - 19th Century Bigfoot Sightings in Arkansas

Swamps of Eastern Arkansas
It might be a common perception that the first recorded sightings of the gigantic, hair-covered creature known as Bigfoot took place in the Pacific Northwest, but this is not true.

As hunters and settlers pushed deeper into the wooded frontiers of the early South, they often came into a contact with a monster that they usually called the "Wild Man of the Woods." Mirroring modern-day accounts by eyewitnesses who say they have seen Bigfoot, the 19th century reports indicate the Wild Man was a gigantic, hair-covered creature with unusually large feet.

Some of the most compelling written accounts originated in Arkansas in the 1840s, although these same reports indicated the monster had been seen there as early as 1834. In 1846, however, a newspaper story spread across the nation reporting a sighting near Crowley's Ridge west of Memphis. The monster's track, it was said, "measures 22 inches, his toes are as long as a common man's fingers, and in height and make, he is double the usual size."

Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas
The description of the footprints clearly is almost identical with modern accounts and is one of the earliest recorded descriptions of a Bigfoot's tracks.

The sightings in Arkansas continued to be covered by the nation's newspapers until the eve of the Civil War when, of course, other news took priority. By the time the war ended, the Arkansas Wild Man had almost been forgotten, although the term "Arkansas Wild Man" continued to be used to describe rowdier residents of the Natural State.

There are, of course, Bigfoot sightings in Arkansas to this day and the southwest corner of the state is famed for its Fouke Monster (immortalized in the low budget film "The Legend of Boggy Creek"). But the historical 19th century accounts survive as some of the earliest accounts of the mysterious creature and as such are a unique part of the history of the Natural State.

To read a full account, please visit

Friday, July 8, 2011

Columbia, Alabama - Historic Sites & Points of Interest

Purcell-Killingsworth House in Columbia
A charming and historic community nestled along the Chattahoochee River in the Wiregrass region of Southeast Alabama, Columbia is an often overlooked heritage destination that is well worth a visit.

Founded in 1820 as settlement spread across lands taken from the Creek Nation by the Treaty of Fort Jackson, Columbia was an important river crossing and port community even from its earliest days. The arrival of steamboat traffic on the Chattahoochee River just a few years later, however, spurred a boom that made the town one of the most prosperous on the river between Eufaula, Alabama and Apalachicola, Florida.

Old Columbia Jail
The cotton and other commerce for a significant area of the Wiregrass region (named for a tough, wire-like grass that grows in the pine woods) passed through Columbia, where it was loaded aboard paddlewheel riverboats for transport up to Columbus or down to Apalachicola on the Gulf. This spurred a strong commercial district with stores, warehouses and other businesses. The town for a time was even the county seat, although that status was lost as the vast expanse of the original Henry County was carved up into numerous other counties as the population of the region grew.

Columbia remained a vital river port until the railroad was finally extended into South Alabama during the last decades of the 19th century. The town on the river was bypassed in favor of a new community - Dothan - and Columbia's commercial interests slowly faded.

Summer House at Columbia Cemetery
The town survived, however, and today is the center of a unique, picturesque and historic area with many points of interest. The historic Old Columbia Jail, for example, dates from the Civil War and is one of the last surviving original wooden jails in the Deep South. The unique summer house that serves as an entrance way to Columbia Cemetery is more than 100 years old.

There are charming historic homes and churches, including the architecturally unique Purcell-Killingsworth House. Just four miles or so away across the river in Early County, Georgia, stands the beautiful Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge. The southernmost 19th century covered bridge in the nation, it spans a charming little waterfall.

To learn more about Columbia and the surrounding area, please visit