Civil War history tourism
by Marie Nesmith
Apr 03, 2011 | 5946 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Diann Connor, left, reads historical material that is being distributed by Queen Chapel Independent Methodist Church’s First Lady Carolyn Printup, wife of the Kingston church’s pastor, Homer Printup. Connor is a board member of the Historical Society of Berks County from Reading, Pa.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Firmly rooted at 105 Johnson St., Queen Chapel Independent Methodist Church's building has been a fixture in Kingston since 1852. One of the few structures to withstand the Civil War, the former Primitive Baptist church was untouched by Gen. William T. Sherman's orders to burn Kingston and used as a hospital for Union and Confederate troops.

For Pennsylvania resident Diann Connor, who visited the church during her recent five-day trip to Kingston with the Historical Society of Berks County, learning about the church, its congregation and the history of Kingston was an experience she always will "treasure."

"The purpose of the trip was really to commemorate, not to celebrate but to commemorate, the fact that so many people made such sacrifices during the time of the Civil War, and they did," Connor said. "People in the North, our perspective was different because we weren't fighting. We weren't defending our homes. Our friend, who has been my friend for over 30 years, she moved to Georgia and so she wanted to be able to share with us the wonders and the joys of the South and to share with us the wonderful museums.

"She has a dear friend who has done some grant writing for the Queen church and that's how she met [Kingston resident] Nellie [Applin], and she was just so impressed. She said, 'You just have to come here to see all that's here, and to find the warmth and the joy and the love of all the people, and how they have such respect for the people that made all these sacrifices."

While in Bartow County, the 12-member group from Reading, Pa., also toured the Kingston Woman's History Club Inc.'s Museums and the Booth Western Art Museum, which helped provide Connor a broader vision of a Southerner's experience during the Civil War.

"I gained tremendous empathy for the people, for everyone -- the people that lived there as well as the soldiers," Connor said. "The war [was] a terrible thing, and it must be terrible when it's in your own backyard. And for us, especially for me, it just touched me so much, because I felt the pain that these people must have suffered."

With the impending 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War -- marking the Confederates' attack on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861 -- Regina Wheeler said the Pennsylvania group's visit is a prime example of the interest that this commemoration could garner. As the deputy director for the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau, she expects Bartow's rich Civil War history to draw an increase of heritage tourists from Georgia and across the nation to attend existing events and special programs related to the Civil War.

According to the Bartow History Museum's The War Reaches Bartow display, "By May 1864, more than 90,000 Federal troops had passed through Bartow County. While many local refugees fled, others remained to witness the occupation of Kingston by Gen. William T. Sherman and his men. It was from here in November 1864 that Sherman made preparations for his 'March to the Sea.' That same month, orders were given to destroy Cassville."

From the trenches at the Allatoona Pass Battlefield to Confederate gravesites and inscriptions left in residences from a once-occupying Union force, reminders of the Civil War are throughout Bartow County. Along with artifacts and structures that date back to the 1800s, the war's aftereffects still can be seen in the area's landscape and the birth of Cartersville's prominence after becoming the county's seat.

"As there are anniversaries of various key events that occurred during the Civil War, there will be groups that will be coming down," Wheeler said. "So many Northern residents, of course, like to trace their heritage. It's their heritage as well. They like to come see where their ancestors' fought, [to] kind of experience that.

"So we do expect a large influx of people to come for a specific event, such as those that are being planned at the Booth Western Art Museum and other locations, and those will continue for five years. [This is only] the very beginning. There will be new commemorative events occurring each year."

To assist in this effort, local events will be continuously posted on the CVB's website, www.notatlanta.org, such as the 147th Kingston Confederate Memorial Day Service April 17. Bartow's Civil War-related attractions also currently are highlighted on www.gacivilwar.org. Launched by the Georgia Department of Economic Development's Tourism Division, the online tourism campaign features a wide array of items, like an interactive map with landmarks and other significant sites, and a timeline of events from 1861 to 1865.

"I do believe that the special exhibitions and programming we are offering at both Bartow History Museum and Booth museum will draw a large crowd, including those who have perhaps never been to either museum," said Seth Hopkins, executive director for Georgia Museums Inc., which operates the Booth, Bartow History Museum and Tellus Science Museum. "There are a lot of local ties to the war in Bartow County and northwest Georgia, and so we hope people will want to reflect back on this historic tragedy by touring one of our special exhibitions or attending a special lecture or event.

"There really is going to be something for everyone -- be it narrative artwork, hands-on activities, in-depth discussions on various aspects of the war, or even soldiers telling their stories in their own words. We hope that the wide offering will appeal to a large number of visitors."

Starting with a special exhibit of Mort Kunstler's artwork, which will be on display at the Booth through Sept. 4, the museum will wrap up its April programming with The Civil War Comes Alive! April 30.

"In addition to our permanent Civil War Gallery, War is Hell, this weekend at the Booth, we'll be opening Mort Kunstler's Civil War Art: For Us the Living," Hopkins said. "Regarded as one of the leading historical artists of all time, Kunstler is able to capture the true tragedy of the war in his paintings, which are hung in chronological order just as our War is Hell Gallery. Bartow History Museum will also have a special Civil War exhibition titled, In Their Own Words: Letters & Stories from the Civil War. This exhibit will feature a variety of letters and personal documentations from soldiers in the war, many of whom are from the local area.

"Additionally, both Booth museum and Bartow History Museum will have special Art for Lunch, Lunch and Learn, and Evening Entertainment events that are related to the Civil War over the next several months. Information about those are available on each museum's website [www.boothmuseum.org and www.bartowhistorymuseum.org]. ... A new event we are planning for this year, Civil War Comes Alive!, will take place on Saturday, April 30, on the Booth Museum Festival Grounds. Presented by Bartow History Museum and Booth Western Art Museum, this day-long event will reflect back on the Civil War and offer demonstrations of what life was like during the war. There will be demonstrations of weapons, including cannon firings every hour, the home front, uniforms, signaling, music and much more. Our hope is to continue to grow and expand this event over the next five years, to coincide with the sesquicentennial."

With an anticipated rise in tourism, Wheeler looks forward to helping the CVB assist tour groups in their excursions. The influx of visitors also means a boost to Bartow's economy through sales tax and revenue. Based on the Georgia Department of Economic Development's 2009 Travel Economic Impact, a day visitor in Georgia spends an average of $46, while an overnight traveler spends $112.

"The point of heritage tourism, of course, is providing the history, which we are so rich in," Wheeler said. "But it's not tourism unless we do pair it with these great and memorable experiences, such as dining, a wonderful place to stay, ease of getting to these attractions and locations, and then creating that memorable experience for them -- something that they would want to repeat beyond the sesquicentennial. ... So whether it's a few hours or a few days, we really relish these visitors and hope that they have wonderful experiences here."