On May 13-15, 1864, outnumbered Confedearte froces under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston fought a bitter battle at Resaca, trying to shield the critically important railroad town of Atlanta from a Union army commanded by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. The Confederate forces succeeded in defending their position at Resaca, with each army suffering about 2,700 casualities.
But when the Union forces withdrew and moved west and south, Johnston was forced to fall back again toward Atlanta. By September, the city had fallen to Sherman, who then began his infamous March to the Sea, destroying all that he found in his path between Atlanta and Savannah.
More than 130 years later, much of the Resaca battleground still exists - the trenches, the hills, the fields. The state Department of Natural Resources has been attempting to buy the site for years, to preserve it as an important part of Georgia history. But the current owner, Scott Fletcher, has not negotiated in good faith with the state.
State officials still hope to reach agreement with Fletcher, but they have recently made it clear that if necessary, they are prepared to use the power of condemnation to get the property at a fair price. That's entirely appropriate. The 1,200-acre parcel is a unique and irreplaceable resource that absolutely must be placed under the state's protection.
Private property owners such as Fletcher deserve a fair price if their land is required for public purpose, but they are not entitled to hold the public hostage. The government is granted the authority to condemn property to prevent just that kind of situation.
Fletcher's lawyer, Howard Jones, says it's 'discouraging' to hear the state talking about condemnation as an option. That's wonderful; it means the message is getting through. The Resaca property does have a special value, a value created by the sacrifice of men who died there fighting for what they believed in.
The state is not required to pay extra to those who would milk that sacrifice for personal profit.
Editorials represent the position of The Atlanta Constitution and are written by its editorial board, whose members are Cynthis Tucker, Jay Bookman, Maureen Downey, Marilyn Geewax, Joe Geshwiler and John Head.
Copyright © 1999, The Atlanta Constitution
The State Natural Resources board ought not to give up on saving Resaca, one of Georgia’s most important Civil War battlefields.
The heart of it, 1,200 acres just north of Calhoun, was purchased recently by a young carpet manufacturing tycoon for $250,000 less than the $2.8 million the state offered – money raised largely from private foundations and citizens through the efforts of the Georgia Civil War Commission. Evidently state officials were blindsided by a local broker representing the interests of the estate of Edward Weaver, owner of the property. State officials were dealing with the Oklahoma lawyer who represents the family – and he claims not to have gotten notice of the deal.
The purchaser, 32-year-old Scott Fletcher, a textile executive, has hardly endeared himself to the local community or the state he chose to make his home four years ago. He commented to the media that he was more interested in making rugs than in preserving Southern history.
State officials say they’ll explore obtaining other parts of the battlefields, not as pristine, that aren’t in Fletcher’s hands. At one time, the state discussed with Fletcher purchasing 78 acres for a visitors center and leasing another 175 acres. But even that fell through when Fletcher demanded a separate ramp off I-75 to his property.
Given the scorching criticism Fletcher has received from the community and media, perhaps he’ll have a change of heart. He should be made aware that the DNR board can recommend that the governor exercise the power of eminent domain, which state law grants for historic preservation.
Nobody can recall when that power was used, if ever, and we agree that condemning private property should always be a last resort. But, Resaca, site of the battle that signaled the beginning of the Atlanta campaign in 1864, may be worth it. It is one of those rare sites that contains original trenches and fortifications. Aside from the Griswoldville battlefield near Macon, which the state purchased last year, Resaca is the only remaining untouched battlefield in Georgia.
Time is running out on preservation of Southern history including sites that depict important black and Native American events. One of the little-known places that ought to be preserved is the Marietta site where 275 black soldiers, members of the U.S. Colored Infantry, are buried. This year’s state budget contains about $100,000 to support exploring creation of a Historic Trails program in Georgia to link battlefields and historic sites – similar to one in Virginia.
But that’s the second challenge. The first is to preserve Resaca. State officials ought not to walk away from it yet.
Editorials represent the position of The Atlanta Journal and are written by its editorial board, whose members are Jim Wooten, Jeff Dickerson, Martha Ezzard, Susan Laccetti Meyers and Richard Matthews.
Copyright © 1999, The Atlanta Journal
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