Stone Mountain, Georgia   Leave a comment

Day 9-12

We awoke to start our trip to Stone Mountain with news that tornadoes hit Alabama hard once again. The town of Tuscaloosa, where we camped out the night before beginning this Civil War trip, was hit hard. We were very lucky that we only had hard rain in the middle of the night while tornadoes hit all around us killing 150+ people. Our drive showed us just how close some of the high winds hit as we saw fallen trees and debris along the roads.

Friday morning was the day of William and Kate’s “Royal Wedding.” It made sense that we prepare a “Royal Breakfast” for our guests before sending them off to explore Stone Mountain on their own. While we dined, we were also watching the royal wedding on a big screen TV.

Our menu consisted of Belgium waffles, mini scones, sausage rolls, quiche, fruit salad, chocolate cake, and mimosa.

While the world was celebrating the wedding of William and Kate, we were also celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of one of our guests (below left) and the best dressed couple (below right).

After seeing Mt. Rushmore last year, we decided to check out the Confederate Memorial Carving on Stone Mountain which depicts three Southern heroes of the Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The figures measure 90 by 190 feet, surrounded by a carved surface that is larger than a football field – the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world.

The mountain is 786 feet above the surrounding ground, stretches for approximately 2 miles in length and is ½ mile wide. Stone Mountain granite continues underground from Stone Mountain village on the west side, nine miles to the east and is approximately 2 ½ miles wide.

How was this mountain formed? The energy and force from the Earth’s interior slowly put the pre-continents of Africa and North America on a collision course. As they continued to come together, ocean islands smashed into the North American continent. The continents converged and eventually collided about 300 million years ago. The steady force of the two colliding masses buckled and fractured the Earth, creating the Appalachian Mountain chain to the west. The extreme pressure and heat unleashed from the collision created melted rock or pooling magma below the Earth’s surface. Among the hundreds of magma pools along the Appalachians, one magma pool had the distinction of becoming the future Stone Mountain. After cooling for a few million years, Stone Mountain solidified eight to ten miles below the Earth’s surface. Stone Mountain granite is more resistant to erosion than the surrounding countryside. For 285 million years, the eight to ten miles of land above the mountain wore away, leaving Stone Mountain standing almost 800 feet high.

Gutzon Borglum’s 1915 vision of the carving featured seven central figures – the three men of the completed carving and four others accompanied by an “army of thousands.” Work was delayed until 1923 by funding issues and World War I. General Lee’s head was unveiled on January 19, 1924, his birthday. A funding dispute in 1925 caused Borglum to abandon the project.

Augustus Lukeman was hired in 1925 to complete the carving. When Borglum left, he destroyed his design model. Lukeman produced a new design which required that Borglum’s face of Lee be blasted from the mountain, hence Borglum’s contribution to the mountain is no longer. In 1928 the owner of the mountain, Sam Venable, refused to renew the lease and the project was abandoned until 1958 when the state of Georgia purchased it.

Walter Hancock was announced as the new sculptor in 1963. He completed the carving according to Lukeman’s design with modifications suggested by Eugene Cox Wyatt. He eliminated the extra soldiers and part of the horses’ legs. With the help of a new technique using thermo-jet torches, Hancock’s chief carver, Roy Faulkner, was able to remove tons of granite each day.

Vice President Spiro Agnew dedicated the carving on May 9, 1970, and finishing touches were completed in 1972.

It is interesting to note that the granite steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. came from Stone Mountain.

Right next to the Atlanta Zoo is the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum. What an experience! As the Cyclorama Theater rotates through history, we were treated to surround sound with music and 3D effects. This painting, which weights 9,334 pounds and is 358 feet wide by 42 feet tall, is considered the largest in the world. It is longer than a football stadium and taller than a five-story building. It was created by European artists that painted the panorama with incredible accuracy. The thirty-foot span between the painting and the observation platform is filled with a three-dimensional scene that adds an element of realism to the Cyclorama.

On April 12, 1862, this engine “TEXAS” and its crew was involved in one of history’s most well known Civil War exploits “The Great Locomotive Chase.” The TEXAS chased and recaptured the locomotive stolen by Andrews Raiders, the “GENERAL” in a daring race to the finish. It seemed only fitting to photograph a Texas couple, Pat and Doug, in front of the locomotive.

The Atlanta History Center has one of the largest exhibits of the Civil War. The North wanted to maintain the Union. They feared that if they allowed the South to leave the Union, democratic government would fail and America would fragment into small squabbling dictatorships. The South wanted to be independent. They feared that their constitutional rights, especially the right to own slaves, would be taken away by a government dominated by the North.

There were at least ninety private manufacturers of military equipment in Georgia as well as thirty-eight textile mills that helped to clothe the Confederate Army. Most importantly, all of this military-related production was linked by Atlanta’s railroad network. Capturing Atlanta, therefore, meant cutting the Confederacy’s most important supply lines and neutralizing the South’s vital war industries.

An army of 100,000 men consumed 600 tons of supplies every day. Supplying an army with everything it needed to fight was an extremely complicated task. Food, ammunition, clothing, and forage for animals had to be carried for hundreds of miles by boats, railroads, or wagons. This wagon was one of 5,000 that supplied Union armies advancing on Atlanta in 1864. It traveled approximately 4,160 miles in its nearly five years of wartime service. It is one of the last surviving Civil War wagons.

Camouflaged Cannons – Tennessee cannoneers positioned 2 12 pounder howitzers around “earthen mounds,” and to hold their fire unless attacked. On the morning of June 27, a Union barrage preceded close-packed Federal attackers. The gunners here waited silently as blue-clad columns pushed through the dense forest despite Confederate small arms fire. Finally, at pointblank range, the cannon crews opened fire. Flying canister stunned the Federal lines and, according to one Confederate officer, “did great execution.”

The Dead Angle, the bend in the Confederate line became the battle’s focal point. On June 27, 1864, thousands of yelling, blue-clad sounders charged across the field toward the Tennessee soldiers in these earthworks. There was a few minutes of brutal hand-to-hand fighting on top of the defenders’ earthworks, thus, the nickname, “Dead Angle.” The Northerners lost 3,000 men, the Confederates 800.

Illinois erected this memorial 50 years after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. It cost the Union army an estimated 3,000 killed, wounded or missing. The Confederates suffered fewer than 1,000 casualties.

Stone Mountain’s Laser Light Show is the best I’ve ever seen. It was a wonderful show complete with fireworks.

They even have commercials prior to the show! Imagine that….

The sample of the Laser Show can be seen at

Our travel meeting consisted of an ice cream social

topped off with bingo.

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