The town of Dalton, and the region of Northwest Georgia that surrounds it, maintains a rich Civil War heritage. However, several factors inhibit this community from attaining a more holistic memory and utility of its Civil War landmarks. The first inhibitor is the lack of a detailed and accessible narrative of the Battle of Dug Gap. Dug Gap has a compelling story to tell and could easily become a hallmark educational site if better understood and utilized. The mountainous geography of local battlefields provides the second hindering agent. Dalton’s combat zones sit along rugged mountainsides with few open areas. This poses a challenge both to tourism and adequately interpreting the war’s history to area residents. Dalton’s modern urban development also threatens to consume much of its experience as a Confederate winter encampment. Finally, Daltonians need to incorporate a better understanding of martial contingency into their public memory to convey fully the Civil War value of their town.
In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service conducted archaeological investigations at Dug Gap and two other locations that provide data useful in addressing the inhibitors to Dalton’s Civil War memory. The union of traditional historical research and the archaeological findings made by the field team offers scholars and posterity new vantage points from which to view the ever-expanding story of the American Civil War in Georgia. The evidence clearly provides better insights into what combat was like for smaller units and individual soldiers during the early phase of the Atlanta campaign. The material remains also facilitate the ability to track the flow of battle across a landscape through artifact distribution. This study likewise illustrates the threat posed to local Civil War cultural resources through decades of popular relic hunting and urban growth. The reality is that, as time passes, the collective pool of wartime artifacts left to study will only continue to shrink. Ultimately, the evidence portrays an enlightening and sobering visage of the benefits and perils of American military archaeology. They also illustrate the potential for such research to educate and enrich the knowledge of those who live and work around them.
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Eugene Van Sickle, Leo Downing
- Date submitted
18 July 2022