November 12, 2009

The Roswell Mills

I spent this past weekend in the Atlanta area visiting family and part of that time included a visit to the Roswell Mill ruins in Roswell, Ga. (pictured) Up until General Sherman’s visit to the area in 1864, those mills were producers of some of the finest cloth in the Confederacy that was known as “Roswell Grey.”

When Sherman arrived, the French owner of the mill raised the French flag in an attempt to play the neutrality card, however when Union troops realized that the “CSA” initials were stamped all over the packing crates, the mill’s fate was sealed and it was soon put to the torch. The Roswell mills actually included facilities built in 1839 and 1857. The 1839 mill was never rebuilt though the 1857 portion was rebuilt after the war in 1867.

More infamous was the fate of the women working in the mill. Sherman had them charged with treason and then sent packing to the north on trains, where they were released and left to fend for themselves. What happened to these poor women and their children has become the stuff of legend, including numerous written works. One of the more recent is “The Women Will Howl:” The Union Army Capture of Roswell and New Manchester, Georgia, and the Forced Relocation of Mill Workers by Mary Deborah Petite. My July 2008 review of this book for Civil War News is available here.

We didn’t have time to visit the New Manchester ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park, but as this picture shows, they seem a bit more impressive, if that’s the right word, than what we visited at Roswell. In any case, these mill ruins are some of the few existing reminders of Sherman’s 1864 visit to the Peach State.

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