Easement doubles battlefield

Easement doubles battlefield

December 28th, 2010 by Andy Johns in News

Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press The entrance to the Resaca Confederate Cemetery is located next to a new parcel of 500 acres acquired recently from the Chitwood Farm in Gordon County. The area will be protected from development by a conservation easement.

Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press The...

RESACA, Ga. -- Standing at the top of a ridge near the Gordon-Whitfield county line, it's clear to see why Union commanders once sent 1,500 soldiers to their deaths trying to capture the high ground.

Protected by four Confederate cannons, the ridge presented a daunting obstacle to advancing Union troops.

Confederate guns "were slaughtering them when they came over the hill," said Ken Padgett, chairman of the Gordon County Historical Preservation Commission.

With the earthen artillery work and sunken mass graves still discernible, it's also clear why Padgett and other preservationists are happy to secure the ridge and nearly 500 acres around it in a conservation easement.

The easement means the 488 acres likely never will be developed because future owners would face a steep tax penalty for building. Owners could use the land for agriculture or passive recreation but are not allowed to build on the property.

"They can farm on it or something that is consistent with preservation," said Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association.

The land, historically known at Chitwood Farm and the site of an annual Civil War re-enactment, is owned by the Trust for Public Land, and the organization has been working on the easement since shortly after it purchased the property two years ago, Padgett said.

Attempts to reach a spokesman for the trust were unsuccessful Monday.

Padgett said the easement is good news for him and other area history lovers. Seven Medals of Honor were earned -- including one medal by future U.S. President Benjamin Harrison -- during the fighting on the property in May 1864.

Earlier in 1862, the Union's Andrew's Raiders stopped at the farm to get a load of wood for fuel during the Great Locomotive Chase from Atlanta to Ringgold, Ga.

"There are a lot of locals that don't realize what happened here," Padgett said.

The easement nearly doubles the size of the protected land on the Resaca Battlefield. Padgett and others have worked for 20 years to get a battlefield park established on the west side of Interstate 75. Between the two, Padgett estimated about one-fifth of the overall battlefield has been preserved.

The park had a groundbreaking in 2008, but when the economy slowed, progress stopped.

Though state and county officials had at one time discussed making the land a county park, the latest plan is for the preservation trust to retain control. Padgett developed a plan that cuts out the large interpretive center originally planned and focuses on trails, interpretive signs and smaller features.

"We're excited about it," he said of the new developments. "It's been a roller-coaster road."

Padgett hopes that one day the land can be linked to the park through trails.

Contact staff writer Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6324.