While Union General William Tecumseh Sherman certainly would not poll very high among historical figures in Georgia, no one can deny the historical significance of his role in Georgia during the Civil War.
On a hot and steamy Friday morning, the first ceremony honoring the upcoming Sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the start of the Civil War in Georgia took place in front of the Mill Pond House at George L. Smith State Park near Twin City in Emanuel County.
The occasion: the announcement by the president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society, Dr. W. Todd Groce, that seven historical markers commemorating Sherman's March to the Sea campaign would be replaced. The Society also added two new markers.
The Society was established 171 years ago to preserve Georgia's history. It was given permission in 1998 to take over the operation of the historical marker program throughout the state from the Georgia Historical Commission, which had overseen the markers since its inception in 1951.
Dr. Groce said Friday that he expects many people will come to Georgia during the 150th anniversary in order to visit its Civil War sites, because "While Virginia may have Grant and Lee, we in Georgia have Sherman."
Groce said the staff of the GHS's discovered in a state-wide survey that there were 919 Civil War markers in Georgia, and that 85 were directly related to General Sherman's March from Atlanta to Savannah. They also discovered that some 15 percent were in need of restoration or repair.
In concert with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Historical Society has repaired and restored the markers.
Groce said that both State Sen. Jack Hill and State Rep. Larry (Butch) Parrish went to "great lengths" to ensure that the Historical Marker program was able to continue its operations even in tough budget times.
Sen. Hill said, "Georgia's history is really important to all of us and must be preserved, especially when it concerns the most important periods in Georgia's history such as the Civil War."
Hill continued: "These markers help us understand the sacrifices these people, our ancestors, made when they answered the call to arms because they loved their country and the South."
Hill admitted that "With the tough economic times, it gets harder and harder to justify every expenditure, but I will continue to fight to ensure that the money needed to preserve our history is always there."
Dr. Groce announced the Society staff has developed a new online program that allows people to select the Civil War markers they want to visit, and then creates a driving route that takes them to all of the markers they select.
The program can be accessed by going on-line to www.georgiahistory.com and then clicking on the Georgia Historical Markers link on the right side of the page. From here you can create a personal tour, and then print it out.
Dr. Groce added that the information can be downloaded into a Global Positioning System, which will then plot out the route.
Emanuel County was well-represented at the event by Jane Durden, who is the current president-general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy; and by Donna Brinson, who opened the ceremony by singing the famous Civil War song, "Home Sweet Home."