Atlanta's Growth Imperils Civil War Battlefields

The Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park in Northern Virginia. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images. i i

hide captionAtlanta isn't the only place where suburban sprawl is touching Civil War sites. Here, heavy traffic passes by the Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park in Northern Virginia. In 2005, a study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the battlefield among America's most endangered historic places.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
The Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park in Northern Virginia. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Atlanta isn't the only place where suburban sprawl is touching Civil War sites. Here, heavy traffic passes by the Stone House at Manassas Battlefield Park in Northern Virginia. In 2005, a study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the battlefield among America's most endangered historic places.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Cannons sit at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images. i i

hide captionCannons sit at the Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Va.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Cannons sit at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Cannons sit at the Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Va.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Civil War enthusiasts are fighting over battlefields threatened by the urban sprawl surrounding Atlanta, fearing that history will be lost to real estate development.

Dan Brown is in charge of the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, near Atlanta. He controls 3,000 acres of national land. It's the land outside the battlefield preserve that is being eaten up by development.

"This acreage right here across the street is now all condos. These 64 acres ... [have] been bulldozed and they're building about 100 homes," Brown said. "I met with a developer two days ago on these 20 acres here, and they'll be putting subdivisions here."

The list goes on and on all around the park. Kennesaw Mountain is about 30 miles north of Atlanta. The once sleepy farmland is now prime suburban property.

Home prices are expected to start in the $750,000 range and even exceed $1 million, according to developer Larry Thompson, who stands on a fresh path of red clay that snakes through the woods of his newest project, called Beauvoir.

"It's very expensive real estate, and the mountain and the park are very good marketing. People pay the price for that kind of stuff," he said.

The upscale subdivision will border directly on wooded national property. Thompson says the park service made sure the new homeowners will not be able to use the battlefield as a backyard.

"We agreed to build a fence at that property line. The park wanted that to protect the artifacts," said Thompson, noting cannons on a nearby hill.

The canons were part of the Battle of Kennesaw in 1864, a fight that produced 4,000 casualties (3,000 for the Union, and 1,000 for the Confederates). The battle marked the last Confederate victory before Gen. William Sherman burned Atlanta.

History buff Fred Bentley says there were at least four more battle lines in Cobb County, Ga., where many more soldiers lost their lives. He owns the top of the county's Pine Mountain, where Confederate soldiers dug out the earth to hide their artillery.

"General Leonidas Polk was killed in my front yard," he said, vowing never to turn over his land to developers. Today, a 15-foot obelisk commemorates Polk's death.

His resolve is what Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association, wants to hear. He loves the feeling he gets when standing in Bentley's front yard.

"You see where the artillery position was. You see where Gen. Polk was standing. You get perspective," he said.

Susanna Capelouto of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports.

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