Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Krumenaker: "WALKING THE LINE: Rediscovering and Touring the Civil War Defenses on Modern Atlanta's Landscape With Photographs of All 36 Fort Sites, Plus Walking Trail Maps"

[Walking the Line: Rediscovering and Touring the Civil War Defenses on Modern Atlanta's Landscape With Photographs of All 36 Fort Sites, Plus Walking Trail Maps by Lawrence Krumenaker (Hermograph Press, 2014). Softcover, color maps, photographs, tables. 46 pp. ISBN:978-1-930876-07-1 $19.95]

Detailed examination of remnants of Civil War fortifications is frequently the domain of unpublished government-sponsored reports. Much of the published work available is of a recent nature and concentrated in the east, prominent examples being B.F. Cooling's book detailing Washington's fort system and Earl Hess's three-volume history of eastern theater field fortifications. Field works associated with the 1864 North Georgia Campaign have received some scrutiny (ex. the Chattahoochee River Line "Shoupades") but the inner defenses of Atlanta itself remain obscure objects of study, largely due to the thoroughness of urban sprawl. Similar to Richmond, modern development makes touring Atlanta fort sites a challenge, one that Lawrence Krumenaker's Walking the Line sets out to overcome.

The defenses under consideration in the guide are the Confederate defensive earthworks completely surrounding the city, with some sections having both inner and outer components [see the red lines on the cover art at left]. Given Atlanta's urban transformation, the historical trenches, ditches, batteries, and forts are very poorly preserved with only 2 out of 36 author-identified forts/batteries awarded his highest state of preservation ranking.

Walking the Line is divided into four separate tours, each containing detailed text directions, interpretations, and safety warnings both traffic and crime related. Tour maps show fort locations along with the modern road network and key site references necessary to find them. Some forts are in parks, others inferred from existing embankments and high ground, and many are completely obliterated. The author believes that all of this site locations are accurate to within a block or less. Color photographs of terrain, buildings, and sight lines tied to tour locations are abundant, as are historical sidebars.

In final estimation, it's difficult to know what to make of this booklet. There's no bibliography or source notes and it's impossible to determine whether or not Krumenaker is building upon the work of any prior published or unpublished research or is privy to any confirmatory documentary evidence and archaeological reports. In terms of methodology, all we know is that an attempt was made to overlay modern maps with the engineer drawings of Confederate Capt. Lemuel Grant and Union Capt. Orlando Poe (the Poe and Grant maps are reproduced inside the front and rear covers) with the results confirmed by walking the ground.  One can readily imagine the limitations of this approach. Trying to reconstruct historical landscapes subjected to thorough urban development is extremely difficult and it's easy for the eye to misinterpret clues.  At the very least, it's an interesting project. If I were an Atlanta resident, I would give Walking the Line's series of tours a try.

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