published Monday, November 15th, 2010

Whitfield preservationists want to save historic mountaintop


by Adam Crisp
  • photo
    Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Nov 9, 2010 Paul Belk, chairman of the Whitfield County Historic Preservation Commission, shows breastworks that were built around a Union Army signal post on Blue Mountain just north of Dalton, Ga.

DALTON, Ga. -- Nearly 150 years ago, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman stood atop Blue Mountain north of Dalton and plotted his Union Army's advance from Tunnel Hill to Atlanta.

Back then, Sherman had a perfect view of Dalton, a heavily fortified Confederate stronghold.

"That site has an impressive vista and, from that view, you can really tell the story of the action Dalton saw," said Jim Ogden, historian for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Today, the hilltop is surrounded by a peppering of homes and residential developments, but the view and some Civil War vestiges remain.

A group of locals, who see the land as threatened, is on a quest to preserve it and eventually re-establish the signal station atop the mountain that once served as a communication point for the Union Army. A rock wall from the Civil War era still stretches across the land.

"We want to establish this as a historic site, so people can get the same view of Dalton Sherman once had," said Paul Belk, a real estate developer and chairman of the Whitfield County Historic Preservation Commission.

His group already has raised about $50,000 and hopes to raise another $35,000 toward buying at least some of the 15-acre hilltop site. The county would make the purchase and hold the land.

Historians say Blue Mountain played an important role in the war, but like hundreds of other sites in Georgia, it's not protected from development by law or by any organization. Conserving the land through purchase is the only sure way to prevent it from being developed.

"There are more than 400 Civil War sites across the state," said Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association. "Most are in the hands of private landowners, who say they'd never do anything to hurt the historic value, but what happens when they die?"

Belk said the group hopes to raise $85,000 to buy a 40 percent undivided share of the land. For now, the commission is seeking donations. Belk hopes that by 2014, the 150th anniversary of Sherman's visit to the mountain, he can acquire the whole property, or at least establish it as a permanent historic site.

"We would love to bring back the signal tower," Belk said. "The site is perfect, because it already has a paved road leading to it and the signal tower would be visible from the road."



FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact the group looking to preserve Blue Mountain by calling 706-272-2300, ext. 116.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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