Decades after American Indians left the banks of the Ocmulgee River, their ancient land absorbed the blood of U.S. soldiers fighting their own countrymen.
The Depression-era creation of the Ocmulgee National Monument not only preserved American Indian culture but also saved the 1864 Civil War battlefields of Dunlap Farm and Walnut Creek.
This weekend, that bloody chapter of Macons history will be the focus of interpretive walks and the dedication of Civil War markers recently installed by the National Parks Service.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, the Macon Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee is co-hosting the ceremony in front of the antebellum Dunlap farm house at the park entrance off Emery Highway.
After the dedication, Ocmulgee Ranger Jim Branan will guide visitors through the parks Civil War history on the eve of the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Dunlap Farm on July 30, 1864.
Branan will repeat the presentation at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The Dunlap family built the country home in 1857 and spent much of the planting and harvesting season there, Ocmulgee National Monument Superintendent Jim David said during a recent tour of the house that has served as superintendent quarters until recently.
Its Civil War heritage almost went up in flames two years ago when an arsonist broke the front window, entered the house and set a bedroom on fire.
Macon-Bibb County firefighters saved the building just before the fire got into the attic.
Dwight Donald Davis, who was standing in a nearby field when crews arrived, negotiated a guilty plea on a burglary charge and is serving a suspended five-year sentence on the condition he completes a mental health court program.
An architectural and engineering study is complete, but the planned restoration awaits funding from the regional office of the National Parks Service.
During the Battle of Dunlap Farm, Gen. Stoneman, who was the leader of the Northern forces, actually occupied this house during the battle, David said.
During the siege of Atlanta, Union Calvary Gen. George Stoneman came to Macon to cut the Confederate supply line and free Union officers held prisoner at Camp Oglethorpe near the modern day Brosnan Yard near downtown Macon, said historian Conie Mac Darnell, a member of the local Sesquicentennial Committee.
Stoneman had planned to keep going and free the tens of thousands of Union soldiers in Andersonville, but he didnt make it.
In Darnells guide to Macons Civil War and Emancipation history, Walking on Cotton, he tells how convalescing Confederates left hospitals and took up their arms in the east Macon battle.
Even a Telegraph reporter grabbed his musket and fell into the ranks of soldiers marching in from the west.
During next years Sesquicentennial, a re-enactment of the Battle of Dunlap Farm is planned at the monument with representatives of both armies.
Although Union soldiers tore up some railroad tracks to disrupt supplies headed to Atlanta, Stoneman failed to meet his objective of freeing Union prisoners.
His troops retreated but not before firing into downtown.
They were shooting into the city, literally to cause havoc, Darnell said. One of them shot into the Cannonball House, a popular Civil War-era home in downtown Macon.
Stoneman then headed to the Battle of Sunshine Church, where he surrendered near Clinton.
By November 1964, Confederates had built a U-shaped dirt formation to hide artillery units to protect the railroad trestle from future attacks.
The restored earthwork behind the Dunlap House includes a second Civil War marker at the monument.
Confederate troops held off the Union there before the bloody battle at Griswoldville.
Macon really is a virtual library of our history, Darnell said. You can see it. You can feel it.
To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.