Commemoration precursor to battle reenactment planned for October
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Visitors to the Brown’s Mill Battlefield site Saturday got to hear from hungry Confederate soldiers, Union prisoners, a field surgeon, officers, and a family that lived near the battlefield during the A Window Into the Past: The Aftermath tour.
Led by costumed tour guides, small groups walked along the old Ricketyback Road as they encountered scenes from the aftermath of the battle, which took place on July 30, 1864.
There were 150 dead after the battle – 100 Union soldiers and 50 Confederates. Confederate General Joe Wheeler, however, captured some 1,300 troops. They were bound for the infamous Andersonville Prison. But first, they were taken to a warehouse on East Washington Street.
The tour began with two Confederate cavalry men – one mounted on a mule – talking about how long it had been since they’d had a proper meal. They contemplated returning to Newnan, where they hoped to find some real food.
Next, a Confederate soldier guarding three Union prisoners and bound for Andersonville. “You think I’m going to let you take us to Andersonville?” one said to the guard.
“The prisoners were hungry, tired, and dreaded going to Andersonville,” said tour guide Elizabeth Beers, who played Fannie Beers, a nurse and hospital matron who cared for the wounded in Newnan and at the battlefield. Fannie Beers is called “The Florence Nightingale of the Confederacy” by some. She wrote about her experiences in her memoir, "Memories: A Record of Personal Experiences and Adventures During Four Years of War."
When Beers was sent to the battlefield, she was directed to bring water, peach brandy, and soup – if she could round up any.
Some Confederate soldiers being treated in Newnan’s hospitals – who were able – walked the few miles to Ricketyback Road in order to take part in or to observe the battle.
As the tour went on, the Confederate Cavalry men taunted the prisoners.
There was also a Union surgeon trying to stitch a wounded soldier without most of his equipment. Federal ambulance wagons were confiscated by the Confederates.
“It’s very difficult [to tend to the wounded without the equipment he needed],” the surgeon told those on tour. He asked them to get a message to the Union commanders and tell them he needed supplies.
Farther along, outside a camp tent, Dan Loftin portrayed his wife’s great, great uncle, Thomas Smith. Smith, of Willow Dell – recently renamed Senoia – said he hoped he could visit home before the army moved on.
Then, three Confederate officers discussed future plans.
Just up a hill were members of the Cook family, who witnessed the battle near their home. They had been checking on the wounded, seeing who was dead and offering some comfort – including a swig of Beers’ peach brady – to those who were wounded. Mrs. Cook wept and prayed over her young niece – who was killed by shots from the battle – in her front yard.
The last scene was a small Union camp, with a few uncaptured soldiers lurking in the wood line.
The tour was one of several events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Brown’s Mill – all leading up to the reenactment in October.
While the real battle was in July, the major anniversary observances planned in Coweta will be held in October.
Carolyn Turner, founding member and president of the Battle of Brown’s Mill Association, is in charge of events, including a reenactment of the battle that will take place at the Coweta County Fairgrounds, located near the battleground site, Oct. 10-12. There will be an educational day held at the fairgrounds on Oct. 10.
Jan Bowyer, chair of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society Sesquicentennial Committee working on events to commemorate what took place in Coweta during the Civil War, is heading up details for programs and displays downtown on the weekend of the October reenactment. There will be activities at the historic train depot on East Broad Street, as well as a medical triage display on South Court Square.
In the courthouse, there will be educational and hands-on sessions with the Army of Tennessee Field Hospital reenactors. Because of limited seating in the courtroom, there will be a sign-up process for people to attend.
The battle started with a skirmish at the Atlanta and West Point Railroad Depot in downtown Newnan, and ended at the Brown’s Mill battlefield south of Newnan.
And that’s how the events will begin Oct. 11-12 – with a skirmish at the depot on East Broad Street. A medical triage unit will be set up at the depot, and there will be a large number of Civil War-era artifacts on display at the depot.
After the skirmish, some of the wounded will be taken – by stretcher – to South Court Square to a replica camp of the wooden medical sheds that were placed around the Court Square while Newnan served as a hospital town.
The 1904 Courthouse replaced an earlier courthouse that was standing on the square during the time of the Civil War battle.