By Henry Bryant
Scott Petersen has been a regular contributor to the Porch Press over the years as well as a community activist and officer in the SAND organization. He has also done a lot of good work and advocacy for the environment and history in Atlanta and Dekalb County with special emphasis on his home base here in the Porch Press area. In last month’s paper he had an article “Civil War Trenches” that contained several errors.
Readers were not able to take advantage of his offer for tours and more info because the email was incorrect. If you are interested in finding out more about the Civil War fortifications along the Chattahoochee River on the west side of town, Scott’s email address is email@example.com. Scott also knows a lot about the old Atlanta Prison Farm and ConstitutionLakes area just off of Moreland Avenue south of the Starlight Drive-In.
The Porch Press apologizes to history buffs out there, but the editors mistakenly corrected the spelling of Intrenchment Creek to what they assumed was the proper spelling with an “E” instead of an “I.” Historically the name of the creek uses the “I” spelling, and it shows up on early maps that way. Scott had it spelled correctly as Intrenchment Creek.
I spent a good amount of time last year researching General Walker in initial work to restore the monument to him. The WalkerMonument is located in East Atlanta at I-20 and Glenwood Avenue where the General died. I would like to correct a couple of statements about General Walker’s relevance to the Porch Press neighborhoods.
First, the area behind the giraffe habitat at Zoo Atlanta is commonly known as FortWalker. It did not get that name until well after the General was killed in the opening moments of the Battle of Atlanta. The fort in Grant Park, originally known as Battery K, was in place even before the fortifications were added to encircle the city of Atlanta, which was in the current downtown area. Lemuel P. Grant, Grant Park’s namesake, is given credit for scouting and engineering the fort and city fortifications in 1862-63.
In those years, General Walker was in Mississippi near Jackson with his troops as support in the Battle of Vicksburg. He went on to Tennessee and was at the Battle of Chicamauga during that time. He most likely would not have had time for scouting trenches in southeast Atlanta. On July 9, 1864, General Walker crossed the ChattahoocheeRiver at Bolton Road making his way towards the city, traveling through it and encamping on Peachtree Street near present-day Brookwood. He then moved further north to join the fighting at Peachtree Battle only days before the Battle of Atlanta. He was then ordered on a 15-mile march down and around south Atlanta to attack the Union lines on Flat Shoals and Moreland Avenues on July 22.
General Walker and General Hardee did spend one hellish night in the area of Intrenchment Creek and the Atlanta Prison Farm. Unfortunately for them, it was in the middle of the night, and they were lost. The nearest documented battle lines seem to be north of there, off of Bouldercrest Road (General Smith for one). If there was any time for digging trenches, that is where they would be.
General Walker died in battle here and was seen as a hero by the citizenry of Atlanta for having led the effort to protect the city from the invading Union Army. The Confederate Soldier’s Home, which housed veteran troops who had marched with Walker, was located on Confederate Avenue. To those men he was certainly a hero. The General was also from a prominent Georgia family. For those reasons, streets, high schools, and other landmarks were given his name as our neighborhood developed on the historic battlefield.
Intrenchment Creek, as it leaves the doorstep of Cabbagetown (today in culverts underground) on its way to the Atlanta Prison Farm and the South River, was a natural barrier between the opposing forces in our neighborhoods on the west side of the Union lines. There may have been some hurriedly dug trenches in the area of the creek. The creek gully itself may have served as a trench providing cover from miniballs. Many times what is thought to be a Civil War trench today was really an agricultural terrace from yesteryear, put there either before or after the War.
This year’s Battle of Atlanta commemoration for the battle’s 149th anniversary will be held this summer between July 13 and 21. The BATL tours and other programming are a good way to learn more about this history in its sesquicentennial years. The website at www.batlevent.org will be updated soon. In the meantime, Scott’s correct contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Henry Bryant