The AJC’s Battle of Atlanta feature is fantastic

Image: Library of Congress
Image: Library of Congress

There’s no better evening reading than the special piece the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released to cover the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta.

On July 20, 1864, the Union began its invasion of Atlanta, led by General William T. Sherman. It was a turning point for the Civil War, and the entire country. Now, has re-told the story using 21st-century technology.

Through interactive maps and infographics, the battles that forever changed Atlanta are brought to life. It’s a five-part series that you’ll end up wishing was longer, once you’re done reading.

(Watch: Check out the new College Football Hall of Fame before it opens)

You can check out the feature here. Among the interesting facts brought forth by the AJC that I never knew were:

– Just before the Civil War began, Atlanta was barely one of the 100 most-populous U.S. cities, but the Union quickly learned they couldn’t win the war without capturing Atlanta. This was because the city was a meeting point for several railroads, and also because …

– During the first three years of the war, Atlanta’s population doubled to 20,000. The Confederacy was using the city to pump out weapons, food and everything else the Rebels needed, using the railroad system to quickly export those supplies. The Union had to cut off the head of the Confederacy, so to speak.

– Eleven Southern states didn’t even put Abraham Lincoln on the 1860 Presidential ballot. Those states felt they’d need to secede if Lincoln won, knowing he’d abolish slavery, so they tried everything they could to prevent Lincoln’s victory.

– Lincoln didn’t have much of a chance to win reelection in 1864 because many Northerners didn’t believe the war was winnable. Winning the Battle of Atlanta changed that belief, and Lincoln ultimately won the election.

– Sherman and his Union troops bombed Atlanta for 36 consecutive days, starting July 20, 1864. Still, only 25 or so civilians died during the shelling, because most of the non-soldiers left town ahead of the invasion.

– Atlanta wasn’t really “burned to the ground” by Sherman; Union troops laid siege to the city through months of bombs that destroyed buildings. However, when Sherman decided to march southeast toward Savannah, the Union troops did destroy many key Confederate buildings, knowing the city would be turned back over the the Rebels as soon as they left. The Union had to ensure the city was worthless to the Confederacy, so they razed all structures that were important to the Rebel cause.

– The Battles of Atlanta were among the 10 bloodiest battles of the Civil War, and the only one of those 10 battles without a single acre of battlefield preserved by the National Park Service or state governments.

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