The expansion to the west of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park incorporates 42 acres north of Dallas Highway around Nodine’s Hill, where Confederate soldiers tried to stop Union forces from reaching Atlanta in a bloody battle fought at the height of the Civil War.
The $1.76 million purchase from a private landowner was funded by the U.S. Land and Water Conservation Fund, which does not use tax money. Instead, it collects fees paid by oil companies as part of federal off-shore drilling leases.
Every year, Congress has the option to appropriate money to acquire more public land. This year, the National Park Service was awarded about $30 million for park projects, with $5 million allotted for Civil War battlefields, said Curt Soper, Georgia state director for The Trust for Public Land.
Soper said the 42 acres outside the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park stood out for its historic significance.
Public vs. private land
The Trust for Public Land has been trying to protect this location from future development for six or seven years, and this acquisition is possibly the last chance to add a significant portion of property to the park, Soper said.
“This has been a labor of love,” Soper said. “It was kind of a last bite of the apple.”
The land was purchased from HHH Farms LLLP, which Soper said is owned by a retired doctor, who has a shared vision of
Most of the properties adjacent to the park are light commercial, light industrial and residential, as urban development has encroached on the open fields and wooded area.
Nancy Walther, superintendent of the park, said with next year’s 150th commemoration of the Civil War, there is a commitment to preserve Cobb County’s legacy for generations to come.
The last time the park purchased land was in 2007, when more than $4.8 million was spent on 35 acres off Gilbert Road, Walther said.
However, Walther said when other private property was up for sale, it took too long for government funds to be raised, and the land was sold to developers.
These previous attempts include an area next to Nodine’s Hill, which was developed into the 75-home subdivision called Hays Farm in 2005, as well as 16 acres off Burnt Hickory Road that was lost in 2008, Walther said.
A fierce fight
The 42 acres, now part of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, was once a small community of farms, country homes, a school house, a church, and a mill on the diverted creek.
Residents of this homestead, which formed in the 1830s, fled in the summer of 1864 as the land was torn up for a battlefield.
Both sides in the Civil War fought in areas around the park from June 19, 1864, until July 2, 1864, as part of the Atlanta Campaign, which temporarily stalled Gen. William T. Sherman’s advance on the state capital.
Nodine’s Hill was an intense battle where Union and Confederate troops dug entrenchments, known as rifle pits and cannon placements, which were built with wet clay and baked in the Georgia sun.
Although many of the manmade trenches still stand today, Walther said she feared without the recent purchase more mounds would be destroyed by bulldozers.
Called the Kennesaw line, the interconnected ditches run for 8 miles, mostly on the top of ridges of small hills, said park historian Willie Ray Johnson.
Soldiers used the ditches to hide while reloading their rifles, Johnson said.
Johnson said the “earthworks” exchanged occupying armies several times over that summer, as each side fought to hold the position.
A living history
Walther said the history made 150 years ago has to be protected so future generations of children can see the trenches built by the hands of Civil War soldiers.
The National Park Trust will bring nearly 300 fifth-grade students from Hollydale Elementary and Fair Oaks Elementary to the park in November.
The lessons on the Civil War can be learned while sitting in a classroom and reading from a book, but Walther said the best teaching tool is witnessing history.
“It actually sends tingles up your spine when you walk the same path soldiers took … and see how they were trying to protect what they believed in,” Walther said.
The recent federal government shutdown, which closed the gates to most national parks, underscored how many travelers frequent these parks and absorb the history they contain, Soper said.
For instance, Walther said in 2012, 1.9 million people visited the nearly 3,000 acres of the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, making it the most visited national battlefield park in the nation. And the numbers keep increasing by about 200,000 every year.
Walther said although the land acquired this year will add to the expansive park that is often used for recreation, the greater mission is to preserve the land to commemorate the area’s role in history.