COVINGTON- Taking its place on the square, near the obelisk memorializing Newton County residents who had given their lives for their country, and the Civil War monument with its soldier turned to face west, symbolizing the fading of the Confederacy, a sign marking the passage of Sherman’s Army through Covington was dedicated on Wednesday morning.
On hand for the dedication were local community leaders, members of the Newton County Historical Society, those interested in history and the executive director of the Civil War Heritage Trails.
“Thirteen thousand uninvited guests came down Floyd Avenue,” Stephen Longcrier told those gathered, referring to the troops of the 14th Corps of the Federal Army. “Flags were flying. Bands were playing ‘Hail Columbia’ and ‘The Star Spangled Banner, both unofficial national anthems.”
Part of Sherman’s Army, the 14th Corps entered Covington after scouts reported the town was unfortified. The interpretive marker on Covington Square tells the story of that day in November 1864 when Sherman’s troops marched through town, as well as the story of the two Federal cavalry raids that same summer.
Longcrier thanked past and present Newton County Board of Commissioners for helping fund the project through Newton County, and later, giving the okay to erect the sign. He also thanked Covington city officials for their support, the county’s current and previous tourism directors, and the Newton County Historical Society.
Covington and Newton County were the first to sign on when the trail markers were first proposed 15 years ago, he said.
“It’s been a long trip to getting a marker here,” said Betsy Morehouse, president of the Newton County Historical Society. “Covington has its marker; Oxford has there. Someone can get in their car and follow Sherman’s path [through Georgia].”
Jim Watterson, a former president of the historical society and currently a member of the Oxford Historical Shrine Society, said, “Time is an unusual thing. It’s a thread strong from one thing to another and the longer it goes on, the thinner it gets.”
He said that the events that happened in Newton County in 1864 are not well known. “So much of these events remain unwritten. If it wasn’t for these markers, we would forget.”
Interpretive markers have already been dedicated in Oxford and Social Circle. With the installation of the Covington marker, the Civil Wars Heritage Trail route through Newton County is now complete. In all, there will be 65 markers that follow the right and left wings of Sherman’s army from Atlanta to Savannah. The routes are accessible by car.
The March to the Sea is one of the routes that trace significant Civil War events and stories through Georgia. The routes cover six regions—the Atlanta Campaign, stretching between Chattanooga and Atlanta; Northeast Georgia; Wilson’s Raid covering an area from the middle of the Georgia/Alabama border to just east of I-75, including Macon; Jefferson Davis, which marks the Confederate President’s route south at the end of the war; and South Georgia.
Longcrier said the Heritage Trail project is an educational program as well as a tourist draw. It’s estimated that, when complete, the six routes could add $300 million a year in new tourism.