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A Changing Wind

A Changing Wind: Commerce and Conflict in Civil War Atlanta

Wendy Hamand Venet
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    A Changing Wind
    Book Description:

    In 1845, Atlanta was the last stop at the end of a railroad line, the home of just twelve families and three general stores. By the 1860s, it was a thriving Confederate city, second only to Richmond in importance.A Changing Windis the first history to explore the experiences of Atlanta's civilians during the young city's rapid growth, the devastation of the Civil War, and the Reconstruction era when Atlanta emerged as a "New South" city.A Changing Windvividly brings to life the stories of Atlanta's diverse citizens-white and black, free and enslaved, well-to-do and everyday people. A rich and compelling account of residents' changing loyalties to the Union and the Confederacy, the book highlights the unequal economic and social impacts of the war, General Sherman's siege, and the stunning rebirth of the city in postwar years. The final chapter of the book focuses on Atlanta's historical memory of the Civil War and how racial divisions have led to separate commemorations of the war's meaning.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-20658-6
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Map of Atlanta, 1864
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  5. Prologue: City of the Dead
    (pp. 1-4)

    Oakland Cemetery is the resting place for sixty-nine hundred Confederate soldiers, thousands of Atlanta’s nineteenth-century citizens, andGone with the Windauthor Margaret Mitchell, whose novel has dominated our historical memory of Civil War Atlanta. Nineteenth-century Americans often used the term “cities of the dead” to describe cemeteries, and Oakland Cemetery is Atlanta’s city of the dead. Founded in 1850 and originally called City Cemetery, Oakland is located a short distance east of downtown. Today, mounds of pink and red azaleas add splashes of color under a canopy of oaks and magnolias. The cemetery’s gardens, together with tombstones, mausoleums, and...

  6. 1. Gate City to the South
    (pp. 5-14)

    Nothing in Atlanta’s early history suggested that it would amount to much. Founded in the late 1830s as the terminus for the Western and Atlantic Railroad, Atlanta showed so little promise as an urban center that one railroad engineer predicted that it would make “a good location for one tavern, a blacksmith-shop, a grocery-store, and nothing else.” During its early years, this prediction appeared prophetic. In 1845, Atlanta contained only twelve to fourteen families and three general stores. However, the town grew in fits and starts during the late 1840s as the Georgia Railroad and the Macon and Western added...

  7. 2. Unionism and Secessionism in the Gate City
    (pp. 15-35)

    In the years leading up to the Civil War, Americans debated the meaning of liberty, the future of slavery, and the role of the national government in curtailing slavery’s spread into the western territories. By 1860, southern radicals, known as fire-eaters, convinced that slavery could not be protected in the American Union, advocated secession from the United States and the formation of a new nation of slave states. “No one knew what the world outside the United States would be like,” one scholar has written, “though the fire-eaters promised a political and economic Garden of Eden.”¹ In Atlanta, they would...

  8. 3. The Rise of a Confederate City
    (pp. 36-55)

    During the winter and spring of 1861, public sentiment favoring Confederate nationalism solidified in Atlanta. Diehard Unionists remained a small though important presence, but many Atlantans, caught up in a wave of patriotic sentiment that swept the city, cast their lot with the new Confederacy. Political speeches, departure ceremonies for military units, newspaper editorials, and public theatricals all played roles in this process, which played out in communities across the South. “Most Southern whites seemed willing, if not eager, to turn their back on the Union in favor of the new nation,” one historian has written, “and to do so...

  9. 4. A City of Considerable Importance
    (pp. 56-82)

    When Savannah’s former mayor Charles C. Jones, Jr., visited Atlanta in July 1862, he estimated its population to be seventeen thousand, nearly double what it had been before the war. In just over one year, Atlanta had become an important Confederate city, one that attracted thousands of new residents eager to find employment. The year 1862 marked a turning point in Atlanta’s history, for the city soon garnered attention from leaders in Richmond and throughout the South because of its growing importance as a center for transportation, industry, and medical care. Locally, the war confronted Atlanta civilians at every turn....

  10. 5. Second City of the Confederacy
    (pp. 83-106)

    By 1863, Atlanta’s Confederate civilians enjoyed bragging rights about their city, for Atlanta was now the Confederacy’s second-most-important urban center, after the capital, Richmond. Not only was Atlanta the central transportation hub for the lower South, but it was also a major industrial, commercial, and medical center. Annie Sehon, who had moved to Atlanta from Nashville the previous year, wrote to her sister, “Next to Richmond this is the most important place in the South.” TheAtlanta Daily Intelligenceralso crowned the Gate City as the Confederacy’s number two metropolis, citing Atlanta’s thriving businesses and factories and boasting that not...

  11. 6. Difficult Questions and the Search for Answers
    (pp. 107-130)

    On Thursday, July 9, 1863, Atlantans opened their evening editions of theSouthern Confederacyto learn that the Confederate garrison at Vicksburg had surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. For Confederate Atlantans, their worst fears had been realized. In the second half of 1863, Atlantans confronted a shifting military situation, a declining economy, and an increasingly intrusive central government in Richmond. Efforts by the government to enforce conscription, collect taxes, requisition crops, and impress slaves for military use led civilians in Atlanta and elsewhere in the Confederacy to debate the meaning of their experiment in nation building. Should the states...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 7. Civilian Loyalty in a Time of “Intense Anxiety”
    (pp. 131-155)

    “We are passing through times of intense anxiety,” Mary Mallard wrote to her mother on May 27, 1864. Mallard referred to the unending stream of refugees descending on Atlanta, the ceaseless rail cars of wounded soldiers delivered to Atlanta’s hospitals, and the fears expressed by civilians who heard frightening reports about the encroaching army of General William T. Sherman. Mallard closed her letter with expressions of hope that “we will enjoy a portion of our summer in peace and quiet.” There would be no peace and little quiet in Atlanta during 1864. The city’s ability to cope with wartime pressures...

  14. 8. The Barbarous War
    (pp. 156-179)

    On a hot, humid night in July 1864, Sam Richards pulled out his small clothbound diary and penned an entry. Richards worried about the military situation, which did not look promising. The Confederate Army had failed to stop the onward march of General William T. Sherman and his army, and Sherman now aimed enormous artillery guns that rained a “great many shells” into neighborhoods throughout Atlanta, including Richards’s own. Levelheaded and rational, Richards avoided panic but did express frustration that General Sherman engaged in warfare against civilians, including women and children. Richards called it “a very barbarous mode of carrying...

  15. 9. Rebuilding, Reconstruction, and the New City
    (pp. 180-210)

    On July 6, 1865, theAtlanta Daily Intelligencercarried a brief report about Independence Day festivities in Atlanta that included federal soldiers marching through the Gate City’s streets before being reviewed by General E. F. Winslow. The newspaper provided few details about the event and no discussion about who attended. However, theIntelligenceralso carried an account from General Winslow about the repair and reopening of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which had been damaged in the war. The railroad that helped to launch Atlanta as a city in the 1830s, then provided a gateway for Sherman’s army to capture...

  16. 10. Remembering and Forgetting
    (pp. 211-224)

    July 4, 1867: “The celebration of this day in Atlanta was surrendered almost entirely—if notwhollyso—by our citizens to the negro population, who appeared upon our streets in a high state of enthusiasm in immense throngs from early morn to a late hour in the evening.” So wrote a reporter for theAtlanta Daily Intelligencer,who also noted that white people “looked from their windows” but did not participate in the festivities, excepting a few white Republicans. Two months earlier, the same newspaper reported that a “large number” of white women gathered at City Cemetery to decorate...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 225-271)
  18. Index
    (pp. 272-280)