Battlefield park opening will mark 13 years of effort

by Sarah Fay Campbell

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Muskets send smoke skyward as part of an authentic Civil War re-enactment at a Brown's Mill Battlefield Association-sponsored event at the Coweta County Fairgrounds in late July 2012.

When the Brown's Mill Battlefield Historic Site south of Newnan opens to the public on July 27 it will be the culmination of more than 13 years of effort.

The site of the pivotal cavalry battle in the War Between the States was purchased as green space by Coweta County in 2001, and development of a park at the historic site finally began in late 2012. That was after years of planning, design, and waiting.

'We finally did it,' said Carolyn Turner, president of the Brown's Mill Battlefield Association. 'It's almost difficult to verbalize how we all feel about this because all we can do is grin all the time. It really is awesome.'

The grand opening celebration will include mounted cavalry reenactors, historians on site to talk about the events of the battles, a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting, a cannon and rifle salute, geo cache activities for the kids, food and music.

The site itself includes a 'parade ground' and 0.9 mile of 10-foot wide slate-topped walking trail, half of which is wheelchair accessible, with benches and interpretive signs telling the story of the battle. The signs will have 'QR' codes that can be scanned by smartphones and will lead to more information and, eventually, videos.

One sign will list the names of everyone who died during the battle.

Students at Coweta County School System's Central Educational Center are working on the videos for the website, BattleofBrownsMill. org .

But that is just the first phase.

'The entire master plan would develop more trails; there are also plans for a small visitors center,' said Sandra Parker, Coweta County comprehensive planner and the driving force behind the development of the battlefield site. 'That will take place in the future, sometime, when funding is available.'

Hopes are to one day have some staff, as well.

After the grand opening, the park will be open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to dusk, and Sundays 1:30 p.m. to dusk.

The ribbon cutting will be at 9:45 a.m., and the dedication ceremony with color guard will follow at 10 a.m.

Historians will be on site until 2 p.m. and the grand opening lasts all day.

Because the parking lot on site has only 26 spaces, there will be shuttle service for the July 27 festivities from the Coweta County Fairgrounds on Pine Road.

Only visitors who use a wheelchair will be allowed to park on site, said Parker. A special pass will have to be obtained at the fairgrounds; a standard handicapped decal won't be sufficient.

The shuttles will be running from 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., and will be running often during the day.

There will be three school buses, a minibus and two vans, Parker said. At 5 p.m., on-site parking will be opened up to everybody.

Hopes are for good weather and a good crowd.

'We hope that we have a good turnout, we really do,' Parker said. 'Because we want to show the place off to people.

'We're just really excited to finally be in this position, where we do have a facility that the community can enjoy and appreciate,' she said.

Turner said when she talks to people about the imminent opening of the park, 'they can't believe it is finally happening.'

'I think that is pretty much everybody's feeling on this,' she said. 'There have been so many people throughout the years who have supported this and kept the whole thing alive.

'Now it is finally happening and everybody has been so supportive,' Turner said.

The Battle of Brown's Mill itself was an important battle of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign - and not just because it was a rare Confederate victory.

It forced Sherman to change his plans for how to wage war on Georgia.

Federal Brigadier General Edward McCook and Major General George Stoneman were sent to destroy railroads to cut off the supply lines for the Confederate army defending Atlanta.

McCook cut the Atlanta and West Point Railroad in Palmetto and captured and burned 1,000 Confederate wagons in Fayetteville.

He arrived in Lovejoy on July 29 and began wrecking the Macon and Western Railroad. When Stoneman didn't show up for their rendezvous, McCook began retracing his steps toward the Chattahoochee.

They began to be pursued by Confederate cavalry and headed up Lower Fayetteville Road to downtown Newnan. There, on East Broad Street, they met a trainload of 'dismounted' Alabama cavalry who had stopped in Newnan because of the damage further north. After a skirmish, the federals retreated.

General Joe Wheeler showed up later with 720 men; he divided his force and they headed down Grantville Road (now O ld C orinth R oad) t o intercept the Yankees.

They met at the intersection of Ricketyback Road (now Millard Farmer) and Corinth Road, near where Robert Brown had a mill on Sandy Creek.

With the Confederate victory at Brown's Mill, Sherman realized he wasn't going to be able to completely cut off the rail lines.

'That was his whole strategy - cut the railroad lines and kind of starve' Gen. John Bell Hood out of Atlanta 'so he could save his manpower,' Parker said. Sherman didn't want to have to besiege the city but after Brown's Mill, he had no choice.

'So he began the bombardment of the city,' Parker said.



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