McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 22, 2013

Memorial to Sherman's march missing from Georgia city


CNHI News Service

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — A marker memorializing one of the most famous military maneuvers on U.S. soil appears, like Tara itself, to be gone with the wind.

A bronze marker - actually made of cast aluminum - that describes the start of U.S. Gen. William T. Sherman's "March to the Sea" in the waning days of the Civil War is conspicuously absent from its perch on North Clark Street in this former state capital.

Sara Brantley, a volunteer trolley tour guide, noticed the marker's absence and reported it to police last week.

“Nobody can take our history, but people can take those markers that highlight that history," said Brantley. "If we can’t protect those markers, then we will lose some of it.”

This isn't the "March to the Sea" marker's first disappearance. The plaque also vanished in June 1997. The state Department of Natural Resources replaced it in 2010.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s gone again,” said DNR park ranger Gary Thomas. “Our ability to interpret our history to ourselves is lost when this happens. It’s a shame.”

About 2,600 such signs are placed throughout the state. Most are maintained by the DNR, though the Georgia Historical Society has taken over management of markers placed since 1998.

The "March to the Sea" marker describes Sherman's tactics after the fall of Atlanta. Driving south, his troops cut through the heart of Georgia and destroyed buildings and infrastructure on their way to the coast.

The marker in Milledgeville - Georgia's capital during the Civil War - documents the arrival of the 14th corps of Sherman's army, accompanied by the general himself, on Nov. 23, 1864. Sherman's troops reached the Atlantic less than a month later, where the general famously sent a telegram to President Lincoln offering the city of Savannah as a Christmas gift.

Milledgeville's piece of this history was committed to a plaque weighing between 50 and 75 pounds, and bolted to the top of an octagon post. Though the marker itself costs about $3,000, Thomas said it has little monetary value.

“Some markers statewide have gone missing due to people thinking they can sell them," he said, "but they’re made out of cheap metal that has no value for scrap.”

The marker, of course, has value beyond its weight in melted aluminum. About 40 such monuments are scattered throughout Milledgeville and Baldwin County, preserving various chapters of local history.

“There are people that follow history of the town through these markers," said Brantley. "We have such a rich history, and it really disturbs me that someone would be disrespectful."

Details for this story were reported by the Milledgeville, Ga., Union-Recorder.