After years of planning and delays, Resaca Battlefield Historic Site is set to open soon.
The 483-acre property in the Gordon County town of Resaca contains 7 miles of trails, a pavilion, a picnic area and restrooms, said County Administrator John King. The historic site is located on Ga. Highway 136 West near the Interstate 75 interchange.
In 2008, the state announced a plan to build the site to serve as Georgia’s gateway to its numerous Civil War attractions in anticipation of the American Civil War’s sesquicentennial, which started in 2011 and ends this year. Georgia had planned to fund a $3 million project with bonds.
But progress on Resaca Battlefield Historic Site halted. Friends of Resaca Battlefield President Ken Padgett said $2 million of the funding promised by the state was reallocated to a Cobb County project.
King said $1.5 million was cut from state’s plan to improve the site, which included a visitor’s center with a gift shop.
“That got cut several years ago,” King said. “With the purchase of the real estate and the improvements they had to do, they weren’t able to do everything we had hoped for.”
Padgett said there are long-term plans to build an interpretive center, which would be adjacent to the entrance area. It would be funded with grants, donations and state and federal funds.
The battlefield was private property until the state purchased the land and has not accessible to the public. Gordon County approved an agreement to operate the historic site.
“The state has made some improvements to the site and we’re approaching completion of it,” King said. “It’s also contingent on the completion of the Resaca exit that Georgia Department of Transportation is working on, and we think they’re going to be completing the improvements to the historic site sometime early summer, maybe May or June.”
Once the necessary work is completed, the county will open the facility, King said.
“The Friends are extremely excited,” Padgett said, adding he has worked 25 years on placing a historic site at the battlefield. “We have a few more things to get accomplished and agreed up on the punch list and those are evolving very rapidly. We’re hoping to have the site as soon as sometime in May.”
In an announcement on the Friends’ website, Padgett referred to “many years of overcoming challenges,” and said, “Finally, most of the major road blocks have been agreed upon by Gordon County and the State of Georgia, Department of Natural Resources.”
Work on the entrance to the site, signage, a gate, lighted flag pole, trail markers and way-side pocket parks is being completed, according to the nonprofit’s website, www.resacabattlefield.org. King said a fall inspection resulted in additional work, including more gravel for the trails, markers along the trails and interpretive signs to give visitors had a historical understanding of the events that took place and the significance of those events. A grand opening is in the works for the site King said helps to identify Gordon County.
“It’s really a unique battlefield. It’s one of the very few, if not the only, untouched battlefields in the state of Georgia,” King said. “And it’s probably the second or third largest battlefield in the state of Georgia, so it’s really a unique part of our community and the Battle of Resaca really kind of brands Gordon County.”
King said county officials hope the battlefield draws tourists.
“Anytime we can have visitors that come here to be able to see that battlefield and we have Civil War reenactments, we’re talking about bringing people in that might not ordinarily come and pay hotel/motel tax and eat at our restaurants and spend money at our local shops,” he added.
The Friends group that has been instrumental in preserving area battlefields and historical sites is looking to do more at Resaca Battlefield. Padgett said it will need support through membership dues and donations to expand historical interpretive markers and start several other projects, the details of which are set to be announced.
The county will foot the bill for site’s operational costs, King said. Officials have not decided on staffing levels for the historic site, but any worker or workers hired likely would be maintaining the site.
A box would collect donations, but visitors won’t be charged to use the site, according to King. It likely will be open three days a week.
The Battle of Resaca occurred May 13-15, 1864, and represents the first major confrontation in Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. Resaca was the only battle during this campaign where the full might of both armies faced each other in open battle. Here, Sherman hoped to destroy the Confederate Army of Tennessee led by General Joseph E. Johnston — yet there was no clear winner. When it was over, more than 5,500 men lost their lives — and many believe this was a low estimate. The three days of fighting produced nearly 10 percent of the combined casualties sustained during the Atlanta campaign. Gordon County has also operates the 65-acre Fort Wayne Civil War Historic Site in Resaca.