More plantations were nearby for foraging, now that Harris’ Quarters had been reached. To the east troops trekked towards Mt. Pleasant, the property bordering Harris’ Quarters. This 6,000-acre estate started at the Alcovy River and ran to the north side of Alcovy Trestle Road, just beyond the busy lanes of today’s Interstate 20.
“Two thousand Union soldiers camped on the grounds here, and one hundred acres of the original estate is now the campus of Georgia Perimeter College. In fact, Mt. Pleasant was built by Solomon Graves, an early settler, merchant, and educational leader in the county,” explained Ann Brewer, who lives in the Federalist-style home.
“No one was hurt at Mt. Pleasant, and the house was saved,” added Brewer; fortunately, Solomon’s grandson, Henry Lea Graves was away in the Confederate Marines mourning his recently-deceased father, Iverson Lea Graves, so he missed the foraging.
There was much at Mt. Pleasant to interest the troops. A Statement of Significance for the National Register of Historic Places showed that in an 1860 inventory “the Graves owned 70 swine, 26 cattle, 18 milk cows, 11 horses, and 9 mules.” And there was food for the Union men to eat: “Mt. Pleasant produced 300 bushels of sweet potatoes, 120 bushels of wheat, 30 bushels of oats . . . 30 pounds of honey and 20 gallons of wine that year.”
In his Memoirs, Sherman tells us that “the skill and success of the men in collecting forage was one of the features of this march. Each brigade commander had authority to detail a company of foragers, usually about fifty men, with one or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and enterprise. This party would be dispatched before daylight with a knowledge of the intended day’s march and camp; would proceed on foot five or six miles from the route traveled by their brigade, and then visit every plantation and farm within range.”
The Georgia Historical Commission marker at Routes 278 and 142 indicates that the foraging was not limited to the Harris and Graves plantations because nearby farms also were divested of livestock and provisions. While the Burge Plantation at the southern end of Route 142 was part of this group, there were other places even closer to Mt. Pleasant which were harassed by the troops. These were the Bolton, Sigman, and Upshaw Plantations.
“Mr. Upshaw was a lawyer from Monroe,” recalled Josephine B. Brown, executive director of Newton County Senior Services and a descendant of long-time residents of the county. Her great-great grandfather was a child when Sherman marched through the Mt. Pleasant area.
“The Upshaw property was smaller than Mt. Pleasant,” explained Brown. It was next to fields over which cars on the interstate now travel. And, just north, was the Sigman Plantation on the outskirts of Social Circle.
Nearby all of the big farms was the Graves A.M.E. Church. It is located on the Alcovy Trestle Road, just off of Route 11. “Worshippers from Covington, Conyers, Lithonia, and Atlanta continue to pray at this church,” said Brown. The church has been a cherished part of their families’ religious heritage for generations.
Recently, in a presentation Ike and Betty Robertson made to my honors class, I learned that a plantation owned by the Glass Family was also in the area. One of Ike’s ancestors was from the Glass family, and a Glass child is mentioned by the diarist Dolly Lunt Burge, who witnessed the pillaging of her own property in her memoir.
The foraging at these large farms in the eastern part of the county moved as quickly as the rest of the army. As Sherman tells us in his Memoirs,” The time allowed each column for reaching Milledgeville (from Atlanta) was seven days.” So, the general continued, “the 14th Corps departed on the 19th and marched SE through Shady Dale and Sand Town (Newborn) en route to rendezvous with Hq. Left Wing and the 20th Corps at Milledgeville.”