Development threatens Civil War site

By Michael Davis

It's rolling, grassy and bisected by a creek. It sits on the border of Clayton and Henry counties near Lovejoy on the southside of Jonesboro Road.

A local Civil War historian says it's the site of the last battle of the Atlanta campaign, though many historians consider Jonesboro to be the last battle. But the site could be lost forever if plans for developing a subdivision on the 204 acres materialize.

Mark Pollard, a Clayton and Henry Civil War historian, says he and other relic-hunters have found buttons, buckles, bullets and evidence of artillery batteries on the site, south of Jonesboro Road at Babbs Mill Road in Henry. The rolling pasture there stretches into Clayton County.

"I'd hate to lose it to the blade of a bulldozer," he said. "This piece of property is pristine – it's just like it was when [the Union Army] left 140 years ago."

Thursday, the Henry County Zoning Advisory Board will consider a proposal by Georgia General Parcels, LLC for a planned development with a mix of lot sizes on the property. Pollard, and District II Henry Commissioner Elizabeth "BJ" Mathis who represents the area, are worried that if the site is developed, Henry will lose an important piece of its part of the Civil War.

"Somehow, you have to strike a balance between growth and preserving history," Mathis said. "I'm kind of panicking at the thought we could lose this piece of property," she said.

While Pollard said most historians consider the Battle of Jonesborough to be the last stop on Sherman's campaign to take Atlanta, Confederate troops were pushed back from Jonesboro to the Lovejoy site where they stood during two battles, one held Aug. 20, 1864 and again for five days Sept. 2-6 that year, before Union troops withdrew back to Atlanta.

"When Atlanta was abandoned, (Confederates) all had to march back via McDonough back to this site," Pollard said.

Mathis said she has approached developer, Maxie Price Jr., with a proposal for the county to buy the property for preservation and possible development as a historical site and tourist destination, but has had little success negotiating a price.

Lee Tucker, an attorney representing Price, said Monday that plans originally called for a cluster of townhomes that would have left a sizable portion, approximately half, undeveloped. But after comments from residents in the area, Price revised the plans to remove the town homes and develop almost all of the 204 acres with single-family homes.

"Economics what they are ... it's pretty tight on the yield," Tucker said. "It doesn't work if you set aside a lot of the property."

The Zoning Advisory Board is expected to make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners Thursday, on whether the property should be rezoned for the development.

Pollard and Mathis hope historical groups or land trusts will help purchase the property before it's developed. Mathis said some developmental impact fee money could likely be used to purchase it. "I think the challenge is going to be convincing my fellow board members," she said.

Pollard believes the site is possibly the last southside battle field left undeveloped. "We can get a lot of support to save this piece of property if people are just willing to do something," he said. "All of the Civil War history that took place on this property affected the other counties ... and this is the last part that can be preserved."