Civil War Buffs, Beware . . . .

Although Sherman's March to the Sea, the Battle of Atlanta, and Sherman's burning of Atlanta were pivotal events in the Civil War (or, if you're an un-Reconstructed rebel, "The War Between the States"), please don't come to Atlanta in search of Tara--it isn't here.  If it ever had been, Gen. Sherman would have destroyed it anyway; but there is hardly a vestige of Gone with the Wind here, for better or for worse.  Atlanta was a very young city--and not much more than a railroad depot, the end of the line--when it was torched in the 1860s.

 If it's antebellum mansions you seek, you're better off heading down Interstate 20 east about fifty miles to Madison,  which was spared destruction (so the story goes) because Gen. Sherman knew people who lived there.  


For a large display of Civil War artifacts, visit the Atlanta History Center (AHC), near Peachtree Road in the Buckhead neighborhood of northwest Atlanta, which also has a scholarly library for serious research, as well as very well-done permanent and rotating historic exhibits--from slavery and civil rights to politics and Coca-Cola.  In 2016 the Cyclorama (a giant, panoramic painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta, formerly housed in its own building on the grounds of Zoo Atlanta's Grant Park), will open to the public in its brand-new home at the AHC.   Great for families and school groups, on the grounds of the AHC you'll also find the Tullie Smith farm house, a genuine antebellum house--not the grandiose plantation of  a Twelve Oaks or  a Tara, but  a place that was occupied by people of more modest means, and much more representative of how Southern farm families actually lived.  The yard is planted with indigenous flowers and vegetables, and the house is furnished with  genuine furniture and housewares.  Also available for touring here is the "Swan House," a mansion donated to the Historical Society by a weathy local family, if you want to see how a privileged few wealthy non-farm Southerners lived.  (Trivia for movie buffs:  In "The Hunger Games," The Swan House was used as the location and set for President Snow's house, both interior and exterior shots.)

Oakland Cemetery, on Memorial Drive, just a stone's throw from downtown Atlanta, contains remarkable examples of tombstones, family vaults, and memorial statuary dating back to before the Civil War.  At the center of this massive cemetery are rows and rows of small, blank markers, indicating the bodies of the unknown Confederate dead, most brought up here off the streets following the Battle of Atlanta.  A large stone carving of a wounded lion lies in their midst, a symbol of the dying Confederacy.  Regardless of your politics, it is an emotional sight.  Also buried here are golfing great Bobby Jones and Miss Gone with the Wind herself, author Margaret Mitchell.  But there's also an old, historically significant Jewish section; and, as in other old cemeteries, Oakland's family plots tell their own stories . . . like the parents and children who died within days of each other during the flu epidemic of 1918.   Or the angel statuary, carved by hand, decades before electric stone-cutting tools.

East of Atlanta in downtown Decatur's historic Old Courthouse on the Square, the DeKalb History Center (open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and during Decatur's many festival weekends) has a rotating collection of Civil War artifacts, along with changing exhibits ranging from Mid-Century Modern architecture and interior design to the local dairy industry and a photography exhibit of images from the 1950s and 1960s.  Currently (2014-15) its "Tears and Curses" Civil War exhibit features a moving collection of personal items--a child's porcelain doll, diaries, military equipment, and other local artifacts from that period.  Civil War walking tours are available periodcally throughout the year; check with the Decatur Welcome Center at 130 Clairmont Road just half a block from the Old Courthouse, to see when they're offered.  

Throughout Atlanta/Fulton County and Atlanta/Decatur/DeKalb County you can see Civil War battle sites.   Check out   for more information.  These markers dot the urban landscape, along sidewalks and busy streets as well as in parks and residential neighborhoods.

For a preserved Civil War site, you can take Interstate 75 north to neighboring Cobb County (Kennesaw) and hike up Kennesaw Mountain.  But Tara's not there, either.