The other was former Kennesaw State University professor and author Dr. Phil Secrist of west Cobb, who died last September at age 80.
Not only did Scaife research and pen eight books on the war, he was instrumental in recognizing the historical significance of the unique style of earthworks known as "Shoupades" in south Cobb; and in the preservation of the Allatoona Pass Battlefield in Emerson just north of the Cobb-Bartow county line.
His first book was "Confederate Surgeon: Civil War Record of Dr. William R. Scaife" (1981), which was about his grandfather. It was followed by "The Campaign for Atlanta" (1985), for which he received the Richard B. Harwell Award; "March to the Sea," "Hood's Tennessee Campaign," "The Georgia Brigade," "Allatoona Pass: A Needless Effusion of Blood," "Civil War Atlas and Order of Battle" and "War in Georgia: A Study of Military Command and Strategy." They continue to be among the best-selling books at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park bookstore.
His books' forte is their maps.
Scaife was a native of Thomasville who served in Berlin as an officer with the 82nd Airborne Division just after World War II. He later graduated from Georgia Tech with degrees not in history, but in architecture and structural engineering, and he put those skills to use in drawing his maps, which unlike typical books on the Atlanta Campaign, detail the sweep of the armies all the way down to the small-unit level.
His other stroke of vision was to superimpose those maps on modern road maps, according to retired Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Superintendent John Cissell.
"That allowed people to locate where these earthworks and battlegrounds were in a way that they could find them without having to reinvent the wheel, without having to spend weeks or months wandering through the woods searching for them," Cissell said. "He did a lot to take the myths out of where the armies were and what they were doing."
"Outside of the Kennesaw Mountain and Pickett's Mill parks, there's not much left of the major battlefields, but Scaife documented the trench lines and tried to save them by bringing them up to date with modern road maps. He probably did more than anyone else to highlight those places and make them relevant to today, Cissell said.
"Too often people are overwhelmed by the earthworks they come across. They don't know if they're Yankee or Confederate. Now, thanks to Bill, there is one source you can go to find out about them if you have earthworks in your yard, or if you want to know where your great-grandfather's unit was during the battle."
Scaife was the first historian to realize the uniqueness of the line of fortifications built along the Chattahoochee River by retreating Confederate Gen. Joe Johnston, now known as "Johnston's River Line." Those earthworks (built with slave labor) were anchored by a series of two-story, arrowhead-shaped earthen forts interspersed at regular intervals with canon batteries, and were designed by Johnston's chief engineer, Brig. Gen. Francis Asbury Shoup.
The forts were later christened "Shoupades" and were so menacing that Union Gen. William T. Sherman wrote that they were the most formidable earthworks he had ever seen. So impregnable looking, in fact, that he went around them rather than try and ram through them.
"(Johnston's River Line) was years ahead of its time," Scaife told me in an early 1990s interview, which took place as he stood on the overgrown traces of one of the Shoupades. "There was nothing else built like it until the French built the Maginot Line after World War I."
His research, and that of Secrist, was instrumental in the successful effort by the county during Secrist's late 1980s term as Cobb Commission chairman to purchase 100 acres of the line and preserve a couple of the Shoupades.
Scaife never lived in Cobb but spent his final years in a house at the mouth of Allatoona Pass, scene of a bloody battle in late 1864. He was the key figure in reawakening interest in that nearly unchanged battle site, and worked tirelessly to enhance and preserve it. There will never be a better tour guide for that jewel of a battlefield, no one better at making its stories come alive - although he was known to self-censor some of the stories from that battle if there were women among his listeners.
His mind remained incisive to the end, despite a long decline in his health. He is survived by his wife, Ollie Mae Scaife, and four children.
Scaife and Secrist were middle links in a long chain of exemplary students of the Civil War's impact on Cobb. The first in that chain in the 1920s and '30s was author Sarah Temple ("The First Hundred Years"). Next were Kennesaw battle park inaugural Superintendent B.C. Yates and "Great Locomotive Chase" expert and artist Wilbur Kurtz. Modern day links include the likes of Russell Bonds ("Stealing the General"), Cissell, Kennesaw battle park historians Willie Ray Johnson, Retha Stephens and park guide Brad Quinlan.
"Bill was a student of history, but also a teacher," Cissell said. "He was always ready to share his information. All you had to do was ask. We've lost a great student of American and Cobb County history. Hopefully, others can come along and pick up that mantle."
Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and author of "The Bell Bomber Plant."