Sunday, August 05, 2007

Atlanta Tour - Civil War Style

I have never been very good at exploiting the attractions of my own fair city. I am great at traveling elsewhere and taking in the sights. I've just never been good about doing that in Atlanta.

I have always wanted to take a tour of Atlanta's famous Civil War battlefields, so when my dad asked me if I wanted to go on a tour of the Battle of Atlanta, I jumped at the opportunity. The tour was held by a local man in the city of East Atlanta (yeah, who knew there was actually a city called East Atlanta. I just thought that was everything east of I-285). It became a family affair since my Dad, my brother, my mother and I all went, and it turned out this was the 143 anniversary of the battle itself.

We came to find out the "Battle of Atlanta" was actually confined within a small area east of town, near the modern-day intersection of I-20 and Moreland Avenue. The organizer gave us a packet of maps with positions of different army groups juxtaposed with modern days streets and highways. I was amused to find out that modern-day Flat Shoals Road is actually a native American trading path. That street existed in some for or another long before the original European invasion.

Unfortunately the primary map the organizer gave us, while read right-side up, had North at the bottom. This confused me all the way through the tour. I was so confused in fact, that I thought the attacking group was the Yankee army, when in fact it was the Yankees that had dug in and the Rebel army was making a flanking move to take them out. I'll have to go back again next year, and get it all sorted out, finally knowing which way is up.

Another fantastic sight we got to see is Atlanta's historic Cyclorama. The Cyclorama itself has quite a history, but it is its subject matter that makes it so special. It is a LARGE painting in the round depicting a part of the Battle of Atlanta. The audience begins by taking a seat in a darkened theater, and when the lights go up the entire seating area begins to spin clockwise. Your initial view is as if you are standing in the middle of the battlefield facing East, and in fact you can see the small spires of Atlanta on the horizon. A fixed moment of the battle is raging all around you as gray clashes with blue. A narrator points out historically documented events that are depicted in the painting. The seating area completes its 360-degree journey, and you are back where you started.

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