Atlanta’s role as an industrial, hospital and transportation center for the Confederacy ended abruptly in late August and early September 1864 when triumphant Union forces took control of the city. Fires, destruction and chaos were the signs of the times, but the war was essentially over for At-lanta in those hot late summer days 150 years ago.
As we mark the Sesquicentennial of those horrific war years, the best place to get a basic under-standing of Atlanta’s role during that time is the outstanding Civil War exhibit at the Atlanta History Cen-ter. This is the largest Civil War exhibit in the Southeast — it has approximately 1,400 historic artifacts on display.
Although the whole war and its aftermath are examined via weapons, clothing, cannons and an ex-tremely helpful series of videos and interactive stations, the main emphasis is on the Georgia campaign to take Atlanta.
The organization and display of this wealth of artifacts and information is stunningly beautiful and a tribute to this history museum’s excellence. Almost all conceivable aspects of the war are covered. There are exhibits showcasing life on the home front, medicine, popular vices and, of course, an array of weaponry from hand grenades to artillery. Perhaps most evocative of the violence and destruction were the several Southern battle flags with their tattered edges from bullets and even bloodstains in one case. A beautiful, to scale, cross-section of the massive defensive earthworks which surrounded the city is a true curatorial work of art.
The large exhibit ends with a section showing the immediate and long-term consequences of the war for Southern life. The exhibit is permanent but there is no better time to view it than on the 150th anniversary of so many of the events depicted. The Atlanta History Center is located at 130 West Paces Ferry Road and is open daily. There is free parking and tickets include the 33-acre grounds and gardens, two historic houses and many other exhibits. For more information, visit www.atlantahistorycenter.com.