When facing a physically superior team, you’ve got to keep from making any big mistakes, grind them down and hope that late in the game you can take advantage of any weakness, says former University of Georgia head football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley.
Dooley said Confederate Gen. Joe Johnston was following a similar strategy in 1864 as his Army of Tennessee faced Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces during the Atlanta campaign. But Confederate President Jefferson Davis didn’t see the wisdom of the strategy and replaced Johnston with the “more offensive minded” Gen. John Bell Hood, who lost Atlanta that fall.
Dooley spoke Wednesday morning at Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Crow Valley during the dedication of a new Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails marker. With his wife Barbara by his side, Dooley described how, for a few days in May 1864, the church found itself the center of the Western theater of the war.
Dooley described the start of the Atlanta campaign as Union forces probed Confederate lines near the church.
Dooley, who has a master’s degree in history, is a board member of the Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails Association.
“I enjoy history. I especially enjoy Civil War history. And I recognize the importance of it,” he said.
The association is erecting more than 40 markers from Chattanooga to Atlanta.
“It took us 12 years just to get this one, so it’s a slow process. But when it’s over, it’s going to be very beneficial to the state. It’s going to be very beneficial to this community,” Dooley said. “People who are Civil War buffs want to go to places they haven’t been to before, and these markers will help bring them to places such as this.”
Association Executive Director Steve Longcrier said the Poplar Springs marker has a special meaning for him.
“My great-great-grandfather, Henry Edward Longcrier, was a private in the 30th Alabama, Pettis’ brigade,” he said. “They were on the northern part of Rocky Face Ridge. They were part of the defense line.”
Longcrier said the markers the group is erecting have two purposes.
“One is educational. We’d like to think that we are adding to the markers that have been put up over the years. The type of marker we are putting up allows us to have photographs and maps and things the other markers don’t,” he said. “But we are also trying to market them and promote them so that people come see them, and when people come here to Dalton and Whitfield County and elsewhere they stay and spend money in restaurants and hotels and stores and help economically.”
Poplar Springs Baptist Church Pastor Ray Cochran said church members were proud to donate space for the marker and to host the dedication ceremony Wednesday.
“We want to help the community recognize and remember its history. Our church played a role in that history by offering a shelter to the wounded,” he said. “And after the battle, and after the troops left this area, our church members reached out to those affected by the Civil War. We as a church hope that by recognizing our history it will help us reach out and make a difference in people’s lives today.”
Two more Civil War markers will be dedicated this spring. The Dalton-Whitfield Civil War 150th Commemoration Committee will install a marker at the junction of Willowdale Road and Crow Valley Road concerning action around Mill Creek Gap that took place May 8-12, 1864, on April 25 at 1 p.m. The marker describes a portion of the opening of Union Gen. William Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. The marker will be dedicated with a speech by historian Richard McMurry.
The Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails Association will dedicate a marker on Fort Hill on May 3 at 1:30 p.m. with a speech by former Georgia labor commissioner Michael Thurmond. The marker describes the confrontation between Confederate forces and the 44th U.S. Colored Troops in October 1864. The Georgia Historical Society placed a bronze marker commemorating that event, one of the few battles in Georgia involving black troops, two years ago.