Civil War buff finds history in back yards: Neighbors march where Sherman did

Just back from a business trip to France, Clifford Sears was jogging along the Chattahoochee River last week when he saw 100 fellow residents of Huntcliff subdivision wending their way into thick woods and scampering up steep ravines.

The Cincinnati native said later that he had never been keen on Civil War history, but he became an instant buff after joining the enthusiastic band of hikers.

"I never knew there were rifle pits less than 100 yards from my house," said Mr. Sears.

Many others from the community of about 420 homes were equally surprised to learn how close they were living to traces of the torturous summer of 1864, when Northern and Southern forces clashed at the Chattahoochee.

Civil War expert Michael Hitt was literally bringing history to Huntcliff residents' back doors. Many in the group were familiar with his exhaustively researched map of battle sites along the river south of Roswell and his book, "Charged With Treason," about 400 Roswell mill workers shipped north by the invaders.

It was the first time Mr. Hitt had presented an on-the-spot program to a community.

A short stroll away on the riverbank, Mr. Hitt, in a federal officer's uniform, pointed with a sword to vestiges of the war days, like the chimney of the Kelpin home across the river and sites of vanished landmarks along the Hightower Trail.

"There's a tiny little island just downstream," Mr. Hitt said. When the Federals' XVI Army Corps of 10,066 men was crossing, the band set up on the island and played marches.

"There's a sketch in my book by an Ohio soldier from that side of the river looking this way. The terrain matches up perfectly" with the present, Mr. Hitt said.

As the group struggled up a hill between the river and Buckhorn and Huntcliff Lake cul-de-sacs, he explained: "A trench means a place where several soldiers get in line and shoot from behind it. A rifle pit was for from one to four or five. You can tell where a pit was. They're these depressions next to trees with the bright green moss around them. Moss covers the dirt that was dug out."

When Gen. William T. Sherman's troops crossed the river, routing the enemy, the stage was set for Sherman's final push of the Atlanta campaign.

Stephen Schmeiser, president of the Huntcliff Home Association, said Mr. Hitt and Mr. Brown will be invited to repeat their program in the fall for residents who were away on spring-break trips last week.

A second map by Mr. Hitt and Mr. Brown, showing details of the town of Roswell's Civil War role, is due out in a few days. Like the first, it will be on sale at Bulloch Hall for $15.

Copyright 1992, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, All rights reserved.

By Actor Cordell STAFF WRITER, Civil War buff finds history in back yards: Neighbors march where Sherman did., 04-11-1992, pp J/14.