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Sherman’s Neckties: Where the March to the Sea Began

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA–A new and very original Civil War monument has been unveiled in this incredibly beautiful village just outside Atlanta. The story is captivating. The monument, “Sherman’s Neckties,” its location in the city of Stone Mountain marks the approximate place where General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” actually started, giving it added importance to historians and tourists now and in the future. From here, this part of the Civil War became a military campaign of total destruction and more than one observer said it was also the beginning of modern warfare.

Sherman's Neckties, Stone Mountain, Georgia
“Sherman’s Neckties” is the new monument to Civil War events during the Battle of Atlanta, and marks the place where the tumultuous “March to the Sea began.” Stone Mountain, draws more than five million visitors annually and was prominently mentioned during Dr, King’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington.

Around midnight on July 20, 1864, two days before the Battle of Atlanta, Sherman published an order mandating the melting and twisting of rails along designated railroad tracks, preventing rail transportation during the remainder of war. The red-hot rails were bent around trees and telegraph poles, and coined by soldiers and journalists as “Sherman’s Neckties.”

The impressive monument was an effort from the City of Stone Mountain’s Civil War Committee chaired by noted author and prominent civic leader, Dr. George D. N. Coletti. Dr. Coletti’s acclaimed historic novel, Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel tells a compelling story about life, death, suffering and survival during the tumultuous war years in Georgia and adds greatly to an understanding of the impact of this war on women, children, refugees and soldiers caught in the tragedy.

The stories told during the dedication ceremony which we attended were often dramatic. The honor guard, composed of uniformed Union and Confederate re-enactors, lowered the ceremonial Confederate flag and then raised Old Glory as the crowd sang “God Bless America.” Dignitaries present represented a cross-section of this town and nearby Atlanta, including clergy, business leaders, historians, university professors and even the popular local sheriff, Thomas Brown, an African-American and local lifelong resident. Descendants of the Civil War still residing in one of America’s most historic communities joined in the ceremonies, which at times brought tears to those moved by the irony and the spiritually uplifting meaning of the morning.

Hovering over the “Sherman’s Neckties” monument and the dedication ceremonies was Georgia’s inland Gibraltar, Stone Mountain. Drawing over five million visitors each year, the mountain and vast park features the enormous Civil War carving, plus museums, Indian trails, outdoor recreation and of course, a stunning view of Atlanta from the mountain top that will steal your breath.

Stone Mountain is prominently mentioned in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On this spectacularly beautiful North Georgia morning, Dr. King’s vision manifested. One minister said it almost like he was here saying, “I told you someday this would happen.”

Shermantown, a community within Stone Mountain, was part of the dedication ceremonies. The community was named to honor the liberator, and the African-American population there today is largely descended from those who were here in 1864. Shermantown has few counterparts in the South, and on this day, its people were recognized and honored.

We took time to walk along the historic streets, view beautiful homes, the granite railroad depot, and the hauntingly beautiful Confederate cemetery and meet some mighty friendly people.

A reception held in the old Confederate hospital had Shermantown leaders sharing pound cake and hot coffee with business leaders, local ministers and Georgia tourism officials. Professor Hermina Glass-Avery, a Kennesaw Stae University official who spoke during the ceremonies, said that rail twisted into an “S” on the monument meant to her, “slavery no more.”

With Atlanta’s arts, culinary and sports offerings a short drive away, this community demonstrated the profound tourism potential of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

The events reaffirmed why Americans are such special people. There is common ground where truth is the centerpiece. We share a majestic heritage and we move forward. We know there is always a way.


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