Residents walk Civil War battle grounds at Ocmulgee National Monument

chwright@macon.comJuly 28, 2013 

Ben Barfield, of Macon, has a long family history connected to the Civil War. He learned recently his great-great-uncle died July 31, 1864.

That was the day after the Stoneman Raid, also known as the Battle for Macon.

“He was wounded,” Barfield said, though he’s not certain if his relative was wounded in battle. “He died from those wounds.”

Barfield was one of about 90 people who walked the fields Sunday where the South won that battle and won another nearly a century and a half ago. Ranger Jim Branan led the group through three spots at the Ocmulgee National Monument, describing the two battles fought there.

“We don’t want to celebrate this,” Branan told the group. “People were killed out here where we’re standing, but we do want to commemorate it.”

The tour is part of a nationwide commemoration at national parks. Next year, Branan said, re-enactments at the parks will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the combat.

Branan began the tour at the visitor’s center, setting the stage as he told of a town of 10,000 that suddenly found itself thrown into the war.

As Union forces neared, the townspeople of Macon gathered in the town square to hear a proclamation that announced the Yankees were coming. Not the baseball team, Branan pointed out.

“It struck fear at that time,” he said. “The emotion we have to remember.”

Still, called to defend their homes, bakers, factory workers, newspapermen and others grabbed their weapons and marched off.

Sunday’s group experienced just a part of that long, hot walk. Branan led them from the visitor’s center less than a mile up the road near the Dunlap farm, where Stoneman’s Raid was fought.

Branan reminded his troop that nearly 149 years ago, these untrained soldiers were scared.

“Am I going to throw down my gun and run, or am I going to stand up and do what I’m supposed to and fight?” he said.

So the tour went, with Branan recapping that battle. With the help of some trained men whose regiments happened to be headed to Atlanta, the South ultimately won at the Dunlap farm.

“Macon was lucky in a lot of ways,” he said.

Branan then walked the tour to one of few remaining fortifications Macon built after its first fight. The town meant to be ready for battle if ever was hit again.

And the town was. In November, the Confederates fought and won another battle on the same ground.

After the tour, the group spread out. While some sought air conditioning, others milled around the U-shaped mound or visited the Dunlap residence. Barfield told some of his family, as others recounted their own family’s involvement in the war.

The Landon family, of Macon, has ancestors -- five brothers -- who fought in the war. Most returned home after hard fighting in the North.

Julie Landon said the family went on the walking tour to give the children a visual for the lessons they’ve been learning in home school.

“I knew there was a battle here (in Macon), but I didn’t know it was a battle right here,” said Eddy Landon, 9.

Asked what the best part of the tour was, Eddy didn’t miss a beat.

“The musket,” he said of the Civil War weapon he’d just held.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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