Jonesboro invaded by 'Yankees'
Stately Oaks tours retell city's evacuation

By Curt Yeomans


Betty Mundy, a volunteer for Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., chased a "Union soldier," Marvin Greer, out of a tenant house at Stately Oaks Plantation on Friday, after he "stole" her food.

"Come back here you dirty Yankee! Bring our food back," Mundy screamed, as she chased Greer behind the plantation's school house.

Guests at Stately Oaks this past weekend were taken back in time to Aug. 30, 1864. The town of Jonesborough (as the city's name was spelled at the time) had 10 merchant farms, a hotel, several businesses - including a tailor and a wagon maker - and one public school, named Jonesborough Academy, according to Historical Jonesboro docent, Jan Turner. But anxiety was running high in the city. The Civil War was approaching the city's doorstep, and the town's 1,600 residents were anticipating an invasion by the Union Army.

Stately Oaks was offering tours depicting the "Evacuation of Jonesborough."

"The North needed to cut the train line that ran between Atlanta and Macon," Turner said at the beginning of a Friday-night tour. "Atlanta had been under siege for a while, and yet the Confederates were showing no signs of giving up ... The North had already cut three of the four train lines that went into Atlanta, so it was vitally important that they cut that last line.

"Unfortunately for Jonesborough, that train line ran right through town," Turner added.

This past weekend marked the first time, since 2003, that Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., has performed the "Evacuation of Jonesborough."

The tour began outside the main plantation house with a docent recounting what the city was like before the Battle of Jonesborough, which was fought Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 1864. The tour then moved inside the main house, where Historical Jonesboro docent, Connie Perteet, who played "Mrs. Ruby," began leading the tour by candlelight.

Inside the house, Historical Jonesboro volunteers portrayed a wake for a young girl named "Sarah," who had died of typhoid, with evacuation organizer Kay Dreyer playing the grieving mother, "Rebecca."

"Rebecca, you must leave with us. The Yankees are coming," Perteet said.

"No, I won't leave my Sarah behind. I won't leave without giving her a proper burial," Dreyer protested, in character.

As guests moved out of parlor of the main house, and into its foyer, Historical Jonesboro volunteer, Bobbie Estes, who played Rebecca's and Ruby's aunt, started to come down the steps with a revolver in her hand.

"Yankees are in the house! Yankees are in the house!" Estes shouted. "Stop where you are. I have a gun, and I don't know how to use it."

As the tour moved out of the back of the main house, visitors witnessed Mundy chasing Greer, while Historical Jonesboro volunteer, Elizabeth Whitley, clutched a baby in disbelief with her three "daughters" at her side, wondering what was going on.

The tour then moved to a side road, beside the plantation, where Historical Jonesboro volunteer Mike Grover and Cynthia Garcia, an intern for the organization, recreated the tale of Anne Haynes, who fled Jonesborough while going into labor.

As the tour moved on, the visitors encountered Historical Jonesboro volunteer, John Gilbert, lying on a blue tarp, playing a wounded Confederate soldier who had been shot through the eye and was pleading for help.

Continuing down a trail, and past an old barn house, Greer jumped out - with Mundy no where in sight - and took the tour group "prisoner" by pointing his rifle at everyone.

"Who are you? Where are you going?" Greer asked the group.

"We live here. We're residents of Jonesborough," Perteet proudly proclaimed.

"Oh, so you're a bunch of filthy rebels then," Greer said. "You're coming with me."

He then took the group to the plantation's school house, where Southeast Coalition of Authentic Reenactors member, David Furukawa, was portraying a Union Army doctor who was performing surgery on Union soldier, Richie Williams.

When the group arrived, Furukawa announced that he needed someone with a lantern to stand next to him to provide some light. Greer grabbed Perteet by the arm and dragged her over to Furukawa's side. She recoiled as Furukawa "operated" on Williams.

Exasperated by her squeamishness, Furukawa asked for someone else to hold the light.

Greer then brought a lantern over to Furukawa, and while the pair "worked" on their "patient," the tour group escaped from the school house. Perteet then took the tour group to local historian Ted Key, who concluded the tour by recounting the fall of Atlanta, and then the end of the Civil War, the following year.

The visitors then turned their tickets over to a Historical Jonesboro volunteer who rubbed a felt-tip pen over the back of each ticket to reveal the name of someone who was actually in Jonesborough at the time of the evacuation. Each name corresponded to a person in Jonesborough, whose story was told on a display at the end of the tour.

"I liked it a lot. It's a neat way to learn history," said Claire Perry, a resident of Pittsburgh, Pa., who went through the tour on Friday with her husband, Frank, and relatives from Fayetteville. "I liked going into the house, and seeing what effect typhoid had on families at that time ... I also liked the end, where we had to find people's names on a board, just to know there were names to these people."

Fayetteville resident, Susan Kress, Perry's sister-in-law, said she enjoyed the entire tour. "You didn't know what to expect," Kress said.