Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hiking on historic Allatoona Pass Trail

Going on trips is very nice but it delays my writing posts and visiting my friends' blogs, so I am behind again on both counts.  We returned to New York City last week, and I'll write about it in the future, but now I am going back to the first week of November when we hiked around Lake Allatoona.  My last post covered our visit to the lake on Wednesday, November 6.  The following day, on Thursday, we drove about 13 miles (20 km) from our house to the Allatoona Pass Civil War Battlefield Interpretation Trail.  We had never been there before - it was a nice sunny day and a good one for walking.  We drove along the old fortification below the former railroad bed and arrived at the trail-head.

Allatoona Pass (also called "Deep Cut") is located on the western shores of Lake Allatoona.  A bloody Civil War battle took place there, in October 1864, after the fall of Atlanta.  The Confederate Army had retreated from Atlanta and planned to attack the Federal garrison of 976 troops defending the railroad cut at Allatoona.  At sunrise on October 5th, 1864, after an all night march, Major General Samuel G. French's Confederate division of 3,276 men attacked this federal garrison in an attempt to sever the Union supply lines by taking control of the rail line.  But French did not know that a few hours earlier a Federal force of 2,025 men under the command of Major General John M. Corse had arrived on a train from Rome, Georgia, as reinforcement for the Union troops there.

After an intense attack of several hours the Union troops held the pass and the Confederate forces withdrew as they were also running out of ammunition.  The Battle of Allatoona Pass had been a vicious and bloody one.  The casualty rate had been high with 1,603 men from the two sides killed or injured - the Confederate suffered 27% casualties and the Union 35% for a combined percentage of casualties equaled only by the Battle of Gettysburg.  Brigadier General French later said, about this almost forgotten battle, that it had been "a needless effusion of blood." As a result it would take almost three weeks to bury the dead from both sides.

Battle of Allatoona Pass by Thure de Thulstrup, Swedish born American, 1848-1930

At the time there was no lake.  Lake Allatoona was to fill this valley in late 1940s.  In the 1860s Allatoona was a small village with just a few houses, a railroad depot and crossroads.  The Western and Atlantic Railroad had a pass cut through the Allatoona Mountains in the 1840s.  Solid rock was hit after 60 ft of dirt was cleared.  Slaves brought in from east Georgia completed the 180 foot deep pass.  Before the battle all the trees had been removed to provide fields of fire.  Below is a photo taken in 1864 and a drawing from 1888, after the tracks had been widened in 1886 to the new standard for Pullman cars.

In 1928 the railroad was relocated a few hundred feet west of the pass and the battlefield was developed.  The Allatoona Pass is now a beautiful walking trail where the tracks used to run.  It is a moderate hike of about 3 miles round-trip.

There are many interpretive markers giving detailed information about the history of the area and the fierce battle fought there in 1864.  Not much has changed and it is said that few Civil War battlefields have remained as untouched as the Allatoona Pass Battlefield - it is not a well known place (I had not heard of it and have been living here for decades) and in a remote area - even with our GPS we got lost twice before finding the trail.  The Clayton/Mooney house shown in the top 1864 photo above is still there.  Before the battle it was used as headquarters then after the battle it became a hospital to treat some of the 1,600 casualties.  There are bullet holes in the gables.  Below is a picture I took of this ancient house.

I understand that little has changed since the time of the battle.  There are preserved earthen forts and extensive undisturbed trenches and outworks.  We started our hike by first going down to a Memorial Field with monuments to both the Confederate and Union soldiers who fought there (no Georgia plaque though as there were no troops from Georgia in the battle.)  Please click on collage twice to enlarge and to read the plaques.


We walked toward the mountain cut and stopped to read another marker.

As we proceeded down the trail we started to see the two massive rocks on each side of the path.  But first we turned right onto an ancient trail which was part of the old "Tennessee Road" or "Sandtown Road."  It had been an Indian trail, then a dirt road for wagons going toward Alabama or Tennessee.  The wheels of the wagons made deep grooves which are still visible.  It was a lovely trail.

After a while we returned to the main dirt road, where the railroad tracks used to be.  There was no one walking but us.  It was sunny but the trail ahead was in the shade.

We stopped to read more interpretive markers.

It was a bit dark entering the gorge and it seemed to me much colder than at the beginning of the trail.  Both my husband and I felt the chill in the air and buttoned our jackets.  I don't think I'd like to hike there alone in the evening ... too much violent history and dark shadows.  I placed a picture showing my husband to give some perspective for the size of the steep walls of the man-made "deep cut."
My husband had walked ahead while I was taking pictures of the rocky walls and I hurried up the trail to join him as it was sunnier ahead - and warmer.  The ground was covered with dead leaves and I did not make a sound walking.

I found him in front of a marker.  It was the grave of the "Unknown Hero."  It seems that the grave used to be across the railroad tracks and protected by a wrought iron fence.  But when the tracks were reworked the body was exhumed and reburied in this lonely spot of the trail.  I hope the Unknown Hero did not mind the move.  Click on collage to read the marker.

We kept walking on the trail which was running along side of Lake Allatoona.  It was mid-week in November so there were no other visitors on the trail or on the lake.

There were some old steps, covered with moss, going down to the lake.  We sat on the bottom step for some time, admiring the scenic view.

As I had read that the trail eventually dead ends, we climbed back the steps to the trail and walked back.  On the opposite side of the lake I saw a small cove at the bottom of a little hill.  The reflections in the water were so soft, just like a watercolor palette.  I stopped for a while and took pictures.  My husband went ahead.  Further on I stopped again at the grave of the soldier, took a photo, then met my husband at the entrance of the gorge.

There is a little road at the trail-head where the antebellum house is located.  A few steps away is a Bed and Breakfast - the "Lake Allatoona Inn" which was built in 1893 as a Victorian mansion for a family who had been living there for decades before the Civil War.  Then we drove home.


-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

I finished this post yesterday evening but wished to read it one more time this morning before publishing it.  I did ask my husband how he had enjoyed the hike and he said "it felt a bit eerie walking there when I was alone .... like something was not right."  I had felt the same way so I looked on the Web to find out if others had had the same feelings.  There were many references to the site being haunted for years.  Here is a site mentioning one of the sightings, click here to read it.  Another site said "I firmly believe Allatoona Pass Battlefield to be one of the most haunted Civil War sites of North Georgia ... it was a short but extremely violent battle ... evidence suggests that at least the majority of the dead were buried in or very near the battlefield, many in mass graves ..."  It is one of the favorite places for groups researching paranormal activities.  Reports of gunshots, voices, ghost trains, temperature drops of about 10 degrees in the old train bed, gunpowder smells have been reported.

Then I read several reports of people seeing a "light" at the base of the grave of the Unknown Soldier.  I am skeptical but I still took a second look  at my pictures.  I went back to check my last picture of the grave which I had not published ... and I saw something bizarre I had not noticed before.  I showed it to my husband, and we could not figure out what it is.  So I am showing it below.  The picture on the left is the first photo I took of the grave and on the right the second one I took when I was alone.

I did not touch the second picture in any way.  This is the whole original picture below.  There is a white something behind the base of the marker.

I am going to crop it now to enlarge it.

There is no body of water behind the grave.  It is on a flat area with a ditch behind it, with no rocks just trees.  What is the little white light?  I thought it must be something on the lens.  So I checked the next photo, taken 8 seconds later.  There is not white on the bottom left of that picture, so it is not a smudge on my lens.

Do you see what I see under the grave marker?  I am going to make a circle around it.

Here is the picture below again.  I don't know what this white fog-like thing is.  There is part of a tree behind the pole of the marker.  If it were a shadow it should be dark and not light, no?  plus the marker is in the shade so how could it reflect light behind it?  I just don't understand it.  There were no rocks there, just a hill behind the marker with all the trees.  There must be some technical explanation - can someone explain it to me?


28 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you so much for taking us on this walk with you. History that I was unfamiliar with - in a very, very beautiful location.
Long may it retain its current peaceful aura...

Cloudia said...

Such a comprehensive post! I hope buffs and students find this excellent resource



ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
=^..^=

Nadezda said...

Vagabond, your trip is interesting and a bit spooky. It's a mystic place, where many solders are buried. It scares me to visit such place!

Kay said...

This is such an incredibly beautiful place but definitely full of horrors. Your photo really sent shivers up my spine. That is so eerie. I definitely wouldn't want to walk there alone... day or night.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Hmmmmm. Very Very spooky. To me, there is no technical explanation...Perhaps someone else will know if there is some way to explain that apparition...

It's strange. When I was reading your post and seeing all the pictures, I thought there is something very eerie about this place. Knowing that so many people are buried there in mass graves, and knowing what a bloody battle it was, it would seem to me the place would feel haunted. So, I guess nothing would surprise me about the kind of strange things that have been reported there.
I think, quite frankly, that almost any Battlefield of this magnitude would feel haunted---I think of the Battles on June 6th, 1944---that whole area must feel haunted, too. But I have always felt that all the Battlefields of the Civil War have this eerie haunted feeling. So much blood spilled---so much carnage---on this land. It cannot just go away as if it never happened.

Very thought provoking post, my dear Vagabonde.

AND, Beautiful pictures of a very interesting and kind of sacred place.

Jenny Woolf said...

Looks quite an enticing route to tramp down. I would love a holiday home in a place like that, the old house you showed in one of the pictures really appealed to me.

biebkriebels said...

An interesting piece of history, all those battles and lost lives of young man feels always so sad. Especially when you see the beautiful surroundings. People should have enjoyed the beauty, instead of killing each other....

DJan said...

What a fantastic journey you two had to this beautiful place. I have no idea what that marking is, but I do think the place must be haunted, so perhaps you are looking at the soul of the unknown hero. I knew nothing about this battle or this place, VB, so I appreciate having spent some time with you as you explored it. As usual, your post is filled with beautiful pictures; I read all the plaques to learn more about the battle. Thank you. :-)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Although much of history is about horrible wars, I love to read about and visit these these places from the past.

I am looking forward to your posts on NY.

Frances said...

Vagabonde, this is a remarkable post, with its mixture of history, excellent photographs of autumn beauty in a historic setting, and ... that certain other feeling as you describe the walk that you and your husband took along the quiet pathway.

I admit that I do not think I could have taken that walk. I definitely saw the image in your photo of the Unknown Soldier plaque.

So many lives were lost in the Civil War. I have very mixed feelings about visits to the old battle sites. This response has been true for me every since my dad used to drive the family around to these places on Sunday afternoons...way back in the 1950'a.

It was so good to see you all last week. I am hoping that you got my email...when I sent it, I wasn't totally sure that the message actually went through.

xo

David said...

Vagabonde, Great blog as usual with terrific and beautiful photos! The intimate nature of the battlefield and the trail certainly added to the atmosphere encountered on your walk. My wife is a believer in ghosts and spirits and this little hike would have been right up her alley but it would have also 'spooked' her out! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

rosaria williams said...

As usual, you are a great reporter, and spare no detail in telling the story. I enjoyed it immensely, especially since this battlefield is new to me.

Things and Thoughts said...

Bien riche et dense cette publication dans laquelle je me suis plongee pour plus d'une demie heure...Je suis passionnee d'histoires mysterieuses et la votre m'a vraiment choquee mais je ne pourrais pas y apporter de reponse. De toute facon, merci de l'avoir si joliment partagee avec nous.

Down by the sea said...

That trail looks incredible and Autumn looks a fantastic time to visit it. Enjoyed reading about the history too.
Sarah x

Magic Love Crow said...

What a beautiful and meaningful trip! So sad, all the people that died! You did probably feel their spirits! Very interesting image in your photo! Big Hugs ;o)

Jeanie said...

First of all, before I forget, I don't think that anyone minds if your posts synch up with your trips -- not when they are as engaging, beautifully photographed and well researched as yours are.

The photos at the end are fascinating. I sure can't explain it but it does make one wonder. And isn't a little wonder a very good thing? I think so.

Margaret said...

I know that when my camera was going bad "light spots" would appear on my photos - like I had a crack in my camera and light was coming inside… but I think your other photos prove this isn't the case. I don't live too far from GA and will had to keep this on my list - I adore old battlefields and have felt the past in a non-spooky way - but I do like traversing them during the day! Thanks for this post - wonderful photos and history, as usual.

Al said...

Such a beautiful trail, and some fascinating (if bloody) history behind it. Great post.

Arti said...

I love the colorful fallen leaves... esp. that one photo in the middle section. I miss Autumn, and I won't get to see it until a year later. Sigh... It's -10C for us and snow. :( Glad you've gone on such a wonderful trip. Look forward to more posts.

Thérèse said...

Quel partage! Si bien documenté avec tous ces collages. Une tellement belle façon de nous/faire connaître l'Histoire.
I only wish Heaven “makes brothers of those who were foes” then and now… all over the world… like Governor Brown says in his poem.

Perpetua said...

I really love the mixture of landscape and history in this fascinating post. as always your photos are superb. You have such a wonderful eye for composition and colour.

Vicki Lane said...

What a fascinating tale! Beautiful pictures and a mystery too!

Gail Dixon said...

Such an interesting part of American history. My dad is a huge Civil War collector. He has swords, rifles, smoking pipes, rings, cannon artillary...anything he can get his hands on. Love this era. Very interesting post!

Ruth said...

I wonder why this is a little known battle and place. I had not heard of it either. My husband probably has; he took a Civil War history class. I"ll ask when he wakes up.

I know that you are not sensationalistic, but a very rational person, and this makes your experience and the photograph more mysterious and eerie. I read an author who called ghosts "psychological residue"—an interesting way to think of them. I also know people who have seen the dead walking around, rational people, and I believe them.

Ginnie said...

In all my 25 years in Atlanta, Vagabonde, I never heard of this trail, so I'm with you in utter amazement. Now I wonder if I would want to go visit it, after reading your post. Well, maybe we'll call you up one year and have you go with us? :)

Linda said...

Fascinating and beautiful photos!

Retired English Teacher said...

This was a very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading all of this. You photos are amazing, and you do such a great job of showcasing them.

I see the strange shadow, but have no explanation. The place does have a haunting way about it. I noticed it before you said anything about it in the post.

Christine Kreul said...

Thank you so much for the fabulous journey through the battlefield. The entire story and the layout of your pictures made me feel as though I was hiking trail myself. Looking at the two pictures what I find odd is the difference in angles. In order for the one on the left to show the same area as the mysterious light shadow you would have to move it more to its right in order to get the tree lines to match up. So it seems the mystery will never be solved.

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