Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Civil War brochure bringing visitors to Decatur

By Deangelo McDaniel

A place slaves called home in Lawrence County, a Civil War walking tour in Decatur and a Limestone County city union soldiers looted in 1862 are part of a new state tourism brochure.

In preparation for the 150th anniversary of the start of the War Between the States, the Alabama Tourism Department has released a colorful brochure called “Alabama Civil War Trail.”

The guide features 47 historical sites linked to the Civil War and is

expected to generate thousands of tourism dollars for local communities.

“I think the brochure is wonderful and will bring some people here,” said Pond Spring Site Director Melissa Beasley.

Pond Spring is the home of Gen. Joseph Wheeler.

A slave cabin on the 50-acre site is depicted in the brochure.

Tami Reist is president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She said the River City is already benefiting from the brochure.

Reist said a New Orleans couple recently visited the bureau’s headquarters on Sixth Avenue.

“They had one of the state brochures and wanted to get more information about Decatur and the Joe Wheeler home,” she said.

Reist said the couple got information about Decatur’s September Civil War skirmish re-enactment at Point Mallard and promised to come back for it.

“This is a great thing, not only for the state, but especially for the towns where these events happened,” she said.

The brochure encourages tourists to experience Decatur’s self-guided walking tour, which starts at the Old State Bank building.

The bank, which served as a hospital when Union forces fortified Decatur in 1864, is one of four buildings in the city that survived the war.

The tour concludes at Rhodes Ferry Park, where the 14th U.S. Colored Infantry repulsed a charge from troops in Confederate General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee.

Athens, like many cities in North Alabama, changed hands multiple times between Union and Confederate forces.

The horrors of war, however, visited Limestone’s county seat in 1862 when federal forces under Union Col. Basil Turchin committed acts that led to Turchin’s court martial.

During a two-hour period, he stood silent as his men raped a slave, scared a pregnant white woman who miscarried and died, and took or destroyed more than $54,000 in property, including 200 Bibles that were trampled.

Tourism officials also included Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Athens heroics in September 1864.

Although outnumbered four to one, he used a ruse to convince Union leaders to surrender at Fort Henderson.

In Lawrence County, the brochure includes Pond Spring, the home of Confederate Gen. Wheeler. The site has 13 historic buildings, including the general’s home, which freedmen constructed after the war.

The plantation also has a building U.S. forces used as a paroling office after the Civil War and a dogtrot slave cabin built in the 1820s.

The brochures are available in the eight welcome centers across the state.

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