The streets of historic Clinton will come alive again this weekend as a bustling Civil War-era town.
Old Clinton War Days returns for its 34th year with re-enactments of two local battles, demonstrations of 19th century crafts and tours of the historic district.
“It is a living history program. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to just step through time,” said Earline Hamilton, president of the Old Clinton Historical Society. “The people who do this step into character and step into period and they don’t come out of it pretty much for the entire weekend. So while the paying public of the 21st century is there, these people are living in the 19th century and they do everything they can do to re-create and create the story of history the way it happened.”
The gates will open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with soldier encampments open at 10:05 a.m. for tours. The 16th Georgia is co-hosting the event and will have authentic dress and soldier competitions.
“This year, they are adding back skirmishes throughout the town,” Hamilton said. “They will actually start at the north end of Clinton and battle through town on both days just like they would have done when the (Union) Army was occupying Clinton.”
The main events will be a re-enactment of the Battle of Sunshine Church and the Battle of Griswoldville.
“The narration of the battles wil begin at 1:35 p.m. both days and the battles occur at 2:05 p.m. both days,” Hamilton said.
Sunshine Church took place in July 1864 in Round Oak as Gen. George Stoneman and his men were retreating to Atlanta after a failed mission to disrupt railroad service and free Union prisoners in Macon and Andersonville. During this battle, Stoneman and more than 500 of his men were captured by the Confederate Army.
The Battle of Griswoldville was the first in Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s destructive “March to the Sea” from Atlanta to Savannah. It took place Nov. 22, 1864, near a neighboring Confederate pistol factory.
Sherman’s Army passed through Clinton on its way to Griswoldville, Hamilton said.
“They do everything they can do to re-create and create the story of history the way it happened -- the good, the bad, all of it,” Hamilton said. “I mean we have Yankee soldiers, we have Confederate soldiers and they do an authentic interpretation as best they’ve been able to document it from letters, journals, history books.”
Visitors to Clinton can also take in the historic buildings and sites that remain today. This includes the oldest existing home in Clinton -- the McCarthy-Pope House -- and Miss Annie’s Store, which will be set up like an 1800s mercantile. There also is an 1800s barn typical of rural counties and a 1800s one-room schoolhouse that is not original to Clinton.
“So we have (the schoolhouse) done as a museum and then we have several natural areas, including the tanyard site that is the original Clinton tanyard that was burned when Sherman’s right wing marched through Clinton on the way to Griswoldville,” Hamilton said.
The event also features vendors selling a range of items from fried chicken and black-eyed peas to frybread.
On Saturday, the event will stretch into the evening with a Memorial Service at 8:05 p.m. at the Old Clinton Cemetery.
“(The event) is the story of what Jones County was going through in 1864,” Hamilton said. “The town of Clinton has been there since 1808 and so one of the things, to me, that makes this event unusual is it actually occurs in a historic district that is of the period that the event is.”
Old Clinton War Days
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 2, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 3
Where: Old Clinton Historic District, U.S. 129 at Randolph Street, near Gray
Cost: $5 for adults; $3 for ages 6-18; free for ages 5 and younger