Rome, Ga. is a treasure trove of Civil War history. Visitors can see several historic sites around Rome and Northwest Georgia, and learn about the part the region played in the Civil War.
In May of 1863, Union Colonel Abel Streight, operating out of Federal occupied northwestern Alabama, was ordered to conduct a raid with the intent of damaging the Western & Atlantic Railroad, thus isolating the Army of Tennessee in Chattanooga from its main supply base in Atlanta. The Union forces were to “do as much damage to property useful to the enemy as practicable.” Included in these secondary targets were the stores (supplies), warehouses, bridges, and other facilities in Rome.
The raid was not successful due to the “Paul Revere” of the Confederacy, John Wisdom. He rode on horseback for 67 miles from Gadsden, Ala. to Rome to warn the citizens of the impending attack. Arriving at midnight, the journey required five horses and one mule to make the 8 1/2 hour journey.
Although the raid was a spectacular failure, it did reveal the vulnerability of Rome to invaders from the west. Slaves, under the supervision of Confederate military engineers, began construction on three strategically located forts: Fort Attaway, Fort Norton and Fort Stovall. Contrary to modern perception, most Civil War forts were primarily earthen fortifications and Rome’s forts were of typical construction. A line of earthworks (trenches) would be dug on the military crest of the hill, slightly down slope from the actual crest. These trenches usually connected a series of artillery emplacements known as redoubts, allowing movement of men and material between these points. Trenches are still visible today on the sites of Fort Attaway and Fort Norton.
On November 10th, 1864, General Sherman issued orders from a home in downtown Rome to General John Corse, “tonight destroy all public property not needed by your command, all foundries, mills, workshops, warehouses, railroad depots, or other storehouses convenient to the railroad, together with all wagon shops, tanneries or other factories useful to the enemy. Destroy all bridges immediately, then move your command to Kingston.” Many contemporary reports agree that Fort Norton was among the first destroyed.
Rome was burned on November 10, 1864, thus marking the beginning of Sherman’s March to the Sea.