Saving the Resaca Battlefield: Preserving Fort Wayne for Posterity

The Resaca battlefield, whose integrity was badly undermined during the 1960s when I-75 was constructed through a portion of the field, pushed a call to arms for Civil War preservationists to save what remained.   Following the Battle of Resaca in May, 1864, only 2.5 acres of land on the battlefield had been acquired and preserved as the site of the Confederate Cemetery by the Green sisters. In May 2000, and additional 571 acres of the western segment of the field were acquired by the State of Georgia, but the site where the battle began, Fort Wayne, remained in private hands.

The Great Locomotive Chase of on April 12, 1862 sent a massive scare through Georgia’s Governor Joseph E. Brown. The Chase, a Federal espionage mission to destroy railroad bridges and telegraph lines between Atlanta and Chattanooga, was almost successful in burning the important Oostanaula Rail Bridge at Resaca. The incident caused Governor Brown to form the Georgia State Line Troops to protect the railroads and State within its borders. The State Line troops were charged with fortifying the hills along the vital Western and Atlantic Railroad where bridges could be vulnerable to assault and destruction.

During the early months of 1863, the state line troops fortified a high ridge line northeast of the Oostanaula River digging out a massive section, fortifying the walls and adding an artillery redoubt at each end. In front of this large fortification, entrenchments and rifle pits were dug along the hillside paralleling the fort as a first line of resistance against an attack. The hilltop fort was named Fort Wayne in honor of Georgia Adjutant and Inspector General Henry C. Wayne.

On May 9, 1864, approximately 4000 Confederates of Cantey’s Division posted in and around Fort Wayne  were all that stood between Federal General McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee and Atlanta. McPherson could have easily taken Resaca and the bridge over the Oostanaula River before Confederate reserves could have arrived from Johnston in Dalton, but was dissuaded by the guns of Fort Wayne firing on his vantage point of Bald Hill. “The first shots of the battle of Resaca were fired from Fort Wayne,” stated Ken Padgett, Friends of Resaca President. “It has great historical value because it is the only surviving entrenchments to be built by troops of the Georgia Militia. All other such sites throughout the state have been lost to development.”

Following the Confederate retreat from Resaca on May 15, 1864, a Federal garrison manned Fort Wayne, protecting the Oostanaula River Bridge from Confederate raiding parties. Though Genera John B. Hoods Confederate Army made a half-hearted attempt to retake it in October 1864, Fort Wayne remained in Federal hands until after the war in 1868.

In 2003 the  Gordon County Board of Commissioners, with the urging of the Friends of Resaca group purchased 65 acres including Fort Wayne. A master plan was designed and since put into use that includes walking trails and boardwalks over the earthworks.  There is also interpretative signage and bathrooms. The Fort Wayne Civil War Historic Site is on Taylor Ridge Road in Resaca. http://www.resacabattlefield.org/news130622.html

For More information on Civil War sites in Georgia check out the State of Georgia web sites Gacivilwar.org or Explorega.org.

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