Marietta, 1864

On July 4, 1864, the town of Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia fell to union forces under the command of Gen. Sherman. My great-grandfather, James M Dobbs, Sr. turned five years old on that day. He and his family lived on a plantation outside of Marietta. His grandfather Col. David Dobbs lived in the town in a large fancy house with three orphaned grandchildren, and a few of the 60+ slaves that he owned. Sometime before the fall of Marietta, James, his parents, and siblings, with the war literally at their doorstep, left Cobb County and took refuge in Atlanta. His grandfather and cousins remained in Marietta.

According to notes from a fellow researcher, Col. Dobbs stayed in Marietta during the occupation by union forces because he hoped to persuade Sherman not to damage the town or harm its citizens who remain behind.

About two weeks after the town fell, the New York Times provided a description of Marietta for the benefit of northern readers who may not have been familiar with the spa-town that later writers called the Beverly Hills of antebellum Georgia. This appeared in the July 25, 1864, edition of the Times. Although not mentioned by name, the opinion expressed by the New York Times appears pointed directly at my great, great, great-grandfather, Col. Dobbs, age 68, an early settler of the town :

Marietta deserves more than a passing notice. Prior to the war it was noted throughout the South is one of the centers of Georgian wealth and refinement. Compared with a northern town its proportions would be diminutive; indeed, but in Georgia, with a population of 2000, it ranked as the sixth town in size in the state. The period of its settlement dates anterior to that of Atlanta, which owes its superiority in size to the fact that it being a center for several railroads.

[Note: Marietta was founded ten years prior to Atlanta, which was originally named Marthasville.]

Marietta, with no commercial aspirations and no manufacturing interests, had confessedly, a higher social grade than Atlanta, with all its teeming population, workshops and warehouses. It boasted a college of considerable importance-not widely known but well patronized by those of the South who preferred educating their sons in their own states to sending them to “Yankee” institutions to be “contaminated” by the enemies of “Southern principles.” These watchful guardians of the morality of southern stripling’s forgot that their own colleges were almost without exception officered by men of northern birth and education.

[Note: The college referred to here is Georgia Military Institute (GMI), and Col. Dobbs was one of the founders of the college. He sat on its board up until the end of the 1850s when he retired after many years of service in the Georgia Militia.]

As one might, expect the glory of Marietta College has departed. The buildings are standing gloomily enough upon the hill, from whence they overlook the town and beautiful gardens; but the pupils and teachers are gone; the former to the wars to destroy the union and their fathers – the latter to northern homes to escape the persecution of their former pupils. This picture will answer for all Southern colleges. The war has closed their churches and their schools, with here and there a solitary exception.

Marietta presents a sad spectacle of war’s devastating influences. It’s fine mansions and lovely gardens, with their shaded walks and arbored seats, still remain, but not as they once were-the abode of a happy people, innocent of war. All these have left, and throngs of soldiers are now roaming over the half-destroyed gardens are strolling through the mutilated mansions, thrumming on the ruined pianos and lolling on the sofas abandoned by their wealthy proprietors. A few matrons – widowed relics of the war-and their half-scared daughters, still remain in the town – these, with a few old men, striplings and decayed servants, are all that are left of the denizens of the place. At one end of the town half enclosed burial ground, with hundreds of newly made soldier’s graves, side-by-side with marble monuments and mausoleums of the past, revealed the fact that Marietta’s dead are more numerous than Marietta’s living.

[The town’s original cemetery is now a Confederate Memorial Cemetery.]

In November 1864, Marietta was no longer of use to Sherman’s Army as they moved out from Atlanta and began the infamous March to the Sea. Sherman ordered the destruction of all government buildings in the town, including the courthouse where records were stored, and the hallowed halls of GMI.

Col. Dobbs was forced to witness this destruction.

As for my great-grandfather, James, and family, they and all other civilians were forced, by Sherman’s order, to evacuate Atlanta. The family sought refuge in South Carolina at the home of James’ other grandfather, Evan Prothro, who died in December of that year. (see Dobbs v. Prothro).

See also Marietta, 1844.

One thought on “Marietta, 1864

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s