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County official and historian defend Nash Farm

By Jaya Franklin

jfranklin@henryherald.com

A whistle-blower report aired on WSB-TV, Channel 2 earlier this week has caused questions to surface regarding the history of Nash Farm Battlefield in Hampton.

The 204-acre field has been credited with being the location of a large Calvary raid, the setting of the 1864 Battle of Lovejoy Station and the Kilpatrick Raid.

Larry Stanley, a McDonough resident, a sales representative and former Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax oversight committee member, said he has proof that the battles did not take place at Nash Farm, and the county-owned land was acquired by abusing the eminent domain law. He also said he believes the historical marker informing the public about the Kilpatrick Raid on the property is false.

"The battle of Lovejoy and the Kilpatrick Raid were fictionalized," said Stanley. "I used 17 historical references, Mark Pollard's report, the LAMAR Institute report and historical association officials [to come up with my analysis,] and Pollard's and the LAMAR Institute report do not match."

The result of his findings is a 60-page comparison on the historical significance of the site.

Stanley said the county purchased the land by using eminent domain. He said the law was used incorrectly, because the county failed to prove how the land would be utilized for historical public use. Stanley said he began his research in November of 2007.

"I want the battlefield recognition to be reversed. It should say Nash Farm Park, not battlefield," he said.

Dr. David Evans, historian and author of "Sherman's Horsemen: Union Calvary Operations in the Atlanta Campaign," a book about all Calvary battles that took place in Georgia, said he was amazed that this situation was even a topic that made the 6 'o clock news.

"The idea of separating what happened at Nash Farm and Lovejoy makes no sense," said Evans. "A Calvary battle moves, you can't ignore one and understand the other."

Evans, said he doesn't believe that this topic merits controversy. The author has a master's degree and a doctorate in military history from the University of Georgia. Evans composed the Kilpatrick Raid sign that is currently in question.

"I wrote that marker. Myself and the county labored long and hard to make sure no lies or distortions were included on it," said Evans, who noted that the state had no problem with the marker and the state government provided the county with the state seal.

"This is not so much about history or preservation, there is some type of hidden agenda," he said.

District II Commissioner Elizabeth "BJ" Mathis said Stanley's allegations are absolutely false. Mathis said Channel 2 never contacted the county before airing the story, and Stanley refused to meet with Mark Pollard, a Civil War historian to go over the history of the battlefield.

"This is a society that likes to get caught up in government conspiracy theories," said Mathis. "This park provides good quality recreation, the historical value only adds to it."

Last year, the LAMAR Institute, a non-profit organization that has conducted archaeological research for universities, federal and state agencies and private organizations since 1982, performed an archaeological dig on the site and found over 1,300 artifacts. The artifacts found included horseshoes, bullets, buttons, coins, pottery pieces belonging to soldiers and livestock equipment. County officials say historical documentation and these artifacts put together prove the authenticity of the battle site.

"When you find infantry, artillery and Calvary pieces they all indicate a battle," said Pollard.

The Civil War historian researched the area and has written a report on its' history by using newspaper clippings, military records, relic hunters; books and artifacts to tell the story of Nash Farm.

Some people are questioning the legitimacy of Stanley's allegations following the television news report. "I've been accused that I got involved because of the upcoming local campaign for office," said Stanley. "This has nothing to do with the campaign. This is a personal challenge. If I'm wrong, I'll admit it."

He said he is not a member of anyone's campaign for chairman. However, he admits that he and Charles Mobley, a candidate for chairman are long-time friends. Stanley said he also told Mobley that he would help him with his campaign.

Nash Farm Battlefield was purchased by the county in 2005. The county saved the land from condemnation and purchased it for $8 million. The battlefield has been home to several Henry County events, including Movies in the Park, after-school programs, summer camps, Civil War re-enactments and more.

To date 25,000 people have visited the park. Revenue from events held at the site from Jan. 2007 to Feb. 2008 has totaled more than $100,000 for the county.