By Sam Burnham
We are once again seeing a spat surrounding the display of Confederate flags in Georgia. This time the flags, which supporters are often told only belong in a museum, are reportedly being forced from a museum.
The Nash Farm Battlefield Museum has announced, in a statement on its Facebook page, that it will be closing permanently as of June 1st. The reason cited is that Henry County District 2 commissioner, Dee Clemmons, has ordered the removal of all Confederate flags from the property, including the museum and gift shop. According to members of the Friends of Nash Farm Battlefield, the group had already removed a Second National flag from the the flag pole in front of the museum as well as an entrenchment demonstration that had been installed as an educational tool.
According to an additional statements on the Nash Farm Battlefield Facebook page, Clemmons was invited as a guest at an awards ceremony the Georgia Civil War Commission was hosting inside the museum. While visiting the site for this event, Commissioner Clemmons made a demand to Cassie Barrow, past president of the group, that all Confederate flags be removed from the museum to avoid offending anyone.
What is even more troubling is that Clemmons is also reportedly demanding that the word "battlefield" be removed from the park's name citing that no battle took place there and that the land itself has no historic connection to the war. According to the website of the Civil War Trust, the Nash Farm was the site of the August 20, 1864 battle known as Kilpatrick's Raid, the largest cavalry breakthrough saber charge in Georgia's history.
Multiple attempts to contact Commissioner Dee Clemmons were unsuccessful and she did not respond to any of my messages. Commissioner Clemmons' District 2 is home to the Nash Farm Battlefield Park.
This represents the bulk of the information that is available to me as I write this. I will clarify that the remainder of this post is my opinion. It is what I have come to believe in light of the available information. What follows is commentary, not news.
I'd like to start out by saying that in nearly 40 years of visiting Civil War sites, museums, battlefields, cemeteries, etc, I have yet to encounter a Civil War museum that does not display Confederate flags. The purpose of such a museum is to tell the story of the battle or event that is being commemorated there. This involves telling the stories of both sides involved. It is unrealistic to expect such a museum to not display flags and emblems of both sides. I have never seen a museum censor the history they portray like Commissioner Clemmons is reportedly demanding the Nash Farm to do. Once you begin to censor history, you can effectively rewrite it to say what you want it to say. That is a very dangerous precedent for an educational and cultural center such as the Nash Farm Battlefield Museum.
Next we need to discuss the reported statements Commissioner Clemmons made about the historic significance of the battlefield. Insisting that this property is not a battlefield and that the word battlefield be removed from the park's name and signage suggests that the commissioner may be trying to keep certain areas of the park from being redeveloped as she sees fit, rather than strictly adhering to the recommendations of historians and preserving historically significant areas. It suggests that someone may not want to be bound by the need for preservation at the Nash Farm Battlefield. If this were the case, it could raise serious ethical questions about such changes.
And I don't want to ignore the economic impart of tourism in Georgia. Much of those tourism dollars come from historic sites, especially pertaining to the Atlanta Campaign and The March to the Sea. Events at and near Nash Farm Battlefield played a pivotal role in the Atlanta Campaign and helped lead to the fall of Atlanta. Censoring this history robs students and adults alike of a powerful educational resource that interprets the history of our state and teaches us about ourselves and the land we call home.
I can't think of any excuse that would justify censoring the history in the exhibits in the museum of The Nash Farm Battlefield. There is no other historic site in our state, or neighboring states, that is held to this dangerous standard. It makes me worry about what might be next. What will Commissioner Clemmons find offensive next? What will have to be censored next? And in seven years of operation, the only documented case of a museum visitor being offended that I've found was Commissioner Clemmons on the night of the Georgia Civil War Commission's awards ceremony.
The flags need to stay, the historians, not agenda-driven politicians, need to determine what is in the museum, and the battlefield must be preserved. This should be the only acceptable outcome of this spat.
By Sam Burnham
It wouldn't be the annual Georgia Road Trip without a full report. This year that report starts near the geographic center of the state.
In 1807, the state government, in its entirety, was packed into fifteen wagons and transported, with military escort, from the former capital, Louisville (pronounced "Lewis-ville"), and headed to the new capital, Milledgeville.
The town was named for former Governor John Milledge who proposed the idea of a more appropriate capital for the growing state. The town was designed specifically to serve as the capital and the squares were laid out with each having its own purpose. As the story goes, the crew sent to locate and survey the appropriate location found a spring and, after tasting from it, determined they had found the perfect spot and that spring was designated as the exact center of town. To this day, that spring still flows but access to it is not public and we cannot accurately report further on it.
So it goes.
The new capital city created the need for an appropriate home for the state executive. Georgia decided to construct a house that would reflect the status of power and influence that the state had achieved.
The mansion, to this day, is an impressive example of Greek revival architecture. I personally find it much more suitable for the role than its successor on West Paces Ferry Rd. Scheduling did not permit an inside look at the home but the curb appeal alone suggests that this building is what a state executive mansion should be and I look forward to a return visit.
As the antebellum capital of Georgia, Milledgeville and The old state capitol served as the location of the state's secession convention. the convention met January 16-19, 1861. Delegates including Robert Toombs, Alexander Stephens, the Cobb brothers, and Augustus Wright gathered in the house chamber to debate the issue. In what might be the greatest debate in state history, Stephens and Toombs found themselves in rare opposition. The two friends gave their arguments, Stephens against and Toombs in favor of secession. Stephens calm and calculated approach was unable to disarm the sheer force of the oration and personality of Toombs and secession won the day. Georgia left the union on January 19th.
After the war, it was determined that Milledgeville was too remote and too difficult to reach for it to be a good location and the seat of state government was relocated to the railroad hub of Atlanta. As that city has exploded in population and commerce, I wonder what impact the proximity of possible lobbyists has had on our government. While some studies suggest that smaller, more remote state capitals are more susceptible to corruption, it stands to reason that putting distance between the statehouse and lobbyists can never be a bad thing. The added charm and small town culture of Milledgeville could also help state government better relate to the areas of the state that have not been swallowed by the sprawl of Atlanta - the areas that house our agriculture and tourism industries.
For this reason, I think the state would be better off with the seat of government still in Baldwin County. This isn't going to happen under any circumstances and I have no delusions otherwise. But, for these same reasons, Milledgeville is an outstanding place to visit. We have barely scratched the surface of this area at this point and we will make a return visit.
In the meantime, if you make it to the Old Capital Museum, tell them we sent you, and let us know what you think!
The Georgia Road Trip continues....stay tuned!
By Sam Burnham
The search for stories, photos, adventure, and vintage goods carries us all over this state and beyond. Ringgold, near the Tennessee line is a frequent destination. This quaint Southern town has a vibrant downtown in which shops, businesses, and restaurants fill the historic downtown buildings.
On our last visit there, we asked the cashier The Ringgold Feed & Seed where we should eat. We wanted somewhere locally owned and operated. Her recommendation carried us to Richard's.
Richard's is one of those places every Southern town should have. The waitresses, quick with a "sweetheart", run around working like bees but, when asked about it, claim that they don't have very much to do.
The menu rotates. Oh you can get a burger or pork chop any day of the week but each day has two entrees and if you want one of them, you go on that day. The sides rotate somewhat as well to correspond with the meat of the day.
I wasn't hankering for meatloaf or Italian roasted chicken, so I took those fried pork chops from the everyday menu. As much as I like applesauce with my pork chops, the fried okra and mashed potatoes with white gravy called out and I went with that. Leigha took the meatloaf and the same sides, hold the gravy. I think she was disappointed that I didn't choose different sides so we could critique further but now we can offer two votes for the fried okra and mashed potatoes. Especially the okra, which was not mushy or messy. It was crisp like it should be. very tasty. The mashed potatoes were tasty as well.
The meatloaf was moist, they are generous with the onion and ketchup. It was very flavorful. Leigha says it was just how she likes it. The pork chops were a generous portion. They were breaded and cooked in a manner so that they didn't reduce to meat and mush once I started cutting them. They we delicious and I would definitely choose them again. Cornbread muffins and sweet tea rounded the meal out well.
The friendly atmosphere and the locals on a first name basis with the wait staff combined with an excellent meal and an great price (we both ate for under $20) make Richard's worth the short drive past the Cracker Barrel and other chain joints that sit just off the interstate. If you are hungry in the Ringgold area, get off at Exit 348, drive on into town and give them a try.
Richard's Restaurant and Catering is located at 906 Lafayette St in Ringgold. They are open Mon-Fri 6:30 am to 8 pm and Saturday 7 am -11 am.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire