Friday, April 13, 2018

The Tail End of the Antebellum Trail

Jarrell Plantation

No doubt, you've heard of General William T. Sherman's March to the Sea.  But what about the towns he didn't burn at the close of the Civil War?  Georgia's Antebellum Trail is a 100-mile trek through seven historic towns spread east of Atlanta from Athens to Macon.  The trail is best seen over a series of three or four days, but Tim and I didn't have that much time.  However, we were able to spend a Saturday tracing the tail end of the trail from Milledgeville to Macon.

Governor's Mansion

Upon our arrival in Milledgeville, we caught the Historic Trolley Tour for a guided tour of the town that once served as the capital of Georgia.  It was here that state legislators voted to secede from the Union on January 19, 1861, as Georgia followed the lead of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama into the Confederacy of the United States.

In 1868, the state's government was moved to Atlanta, but prior to that Milledgeville was considered a prize by Sherman who rode into town on Nov. 23, 1864.

Cadets from the Georgia Military College joined the ragged Confederate forces to try to defend the town but their resistance was unsuccessful.  Sherman's officers tipsy with victory took over the legislature and mockingly passed a law placing Georgia back in the Union.

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church

Because of the cold late-November temperatures, Union soldiers burned the pews for firewood and stabled their horses inside St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

Interior of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church

They even poured molasses down the pipes of the church organ before marching on to Savannah.  Despite this, the church survived and still stands today.

Our tour guide on the trolley was a retired professor of organic chemistry at Georgia College in Milledgeville.  He told us about these leading citizens of the town.

Oliver Hardy
Photo courtesy of Hal Roach Studio

Oliver Hardy, the comic partner in the acting duo Laurel & Hardy, attended the Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.

Flannery O'Connor
Photo courtesy of CMacauley at English Wikipedia

Southern author Flannery O'Connor attended Georgia College and returned to Milledgeville to spend the last 13 years of her life at Andalusia Farm now a museum.

Charles Holmes Herty
Photo is in the Public Domain

Charles Holmes Herty was an internationally recognized chemist who used his position to mobilize his profession for participation in World War I, urging American business, government and universities to develop a full-scale chemical industry so that America would not be dependent upon foreign sources for vital materials in the manufacture of munitions, textiles, pharmaceuticals and photographic products.

Congressman Carl Vinson
Photo is in the Public Domain

The Georgia Representative to the U. S. House of Representatives for more than 50 years, Congressman Carl Vinson served on the House Naval Affairs Committee and was called the Father of the Two-Ocean Navy for his pre-World War II warning that the United States needed a strong naval presence in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Saw mill, cotton gin and syrup distillation buildings at Jarrell Plantation

Heading back to Macon, we stopped at the Jarrell Plantation in Jones County, a former cotton plantation owned by a single family for more than 140 years.

Cotton Gin

Over the course of that time, savy descendants diversified their farming interests from growing and ginning cotton to sawmilling wood to pressing sugar cane into syrup.  The plantation was donated to the state of Georgia in 1974 by descendants of the family.

Touring the tail end of the Trail only whetted our appetite to return and follow its route from start to finish.  Perhaps one day we'll do so.


  1. Did the church organ survive or did they have to put in a new one? It looks as though you had some interesting stops on your "speed version" of the Antebellum Trail!

    1. No doubt it was a messy job to clean the pipes up but I believe the tour guide said that the organ was used by the church up until the 1900s. Must have been some sweet old hymns played on it!