Resaca, just south of Dalton, is the site of a two-day battle in May 1864 where Confederates tried to stop the brutal, scorched-earth march to Atlanta by Northern Gen. William Sherman. Over 6,000 men were killed or wounded in that bloodbath. Now this historic battlefield is again the focus of conflict.
Georgia has been attempting to purchase 1,200 of the most pristine parts of the Resaca battle site from the Ed Weaver estate. The intent is to create a state battlefield park as a wonderful tourist lure.
The Georgia Civil War Commission led the effort to privately raise $2.5 million. Along with utilizing state and other funds, an offer to purchase began between Weaver's attorney and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources real estate unit. The negotiations, according to Georgia Civil War Commission Treasurer Steven Longcrier, "were very long and frustrating until last summer when, unknown to even to their attorney, the Weaver family sold the property for $2.6 million ($250,000 less than the state's offer) to a 32-year0old carpet manufacturer named Scott Fletcher."
The state then approached Fletcher (who gives new meaning to the term "carpetbagger") about buying part or all of the land, or even agreeing to a combination purchase/lease/conveyance package. Fletcher kept changing his mind and even recently said he is "more interested in making rugs than in preserving Georgia history."
Last month, the negotiations ended.
Now Longcrier and others fear Fletcher will make good on a threat to clear-cut the land, where old entrenchments and undisturbed fortifications would be lost forever.
We believe that at least part of the Resaca battlefield should be preserved as a state park.
That's why some state legislators and historic preservation activists are calling for Governor Roy Barnes to exercise the state's right of imminent domain (condemnation at fair market value) if Fletcher remains stubborn. Or maybe the governor could at least threaten to take this action, thus perhaps forcing Fletcher to finally settle on a fair sale price.
These are radical steps but, as Longcrier points out, "We would have never saved Kennesaw National Military Park had not the federal government utilized its right of imminent domain to save it from developers in the 1930's."
Invoking the state power of imminent domain is often utilized when building highways. Why should the governor hesitate to use it in order to preserve a historical site, especially since all else has failed?
Copyright © 1999, The Augusta Chronicle
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