The War Comes Home
—Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails —
Military earthworks, also variously called redoubts, lunettes, entrenchments and breastworks, have been used for centuries as points of lookout and defense. Early in the Civil War, soldiers learned to dig a simple trench behind an earthen parapet from which they could fire upon the enemy. When the lunette earthwork before you was built in 1864, logs, planks, brush, sandbags or stones were added to build up the parapet.
In April 1864, Confederate Major General Howell Cobb set up his headquarters at Macon and organized a reserve force of about 2,500 men. Most were too young or too old to fight on the front or worked in Macon's numerous armament factories. By summer, the Georgia Reserves and slave labor began constructing a system of defenses around the city. It was to include a dozen dirt forts, with rifle pits and artillery positions where cannon could be placed. Yet by the fall Cobb expressed frustration with the lack of available wagons and mule teams to aid in the construction. He also complained about his inability to obtain and to pay a sufficient number of laborers. Cobb wrote, "At present we have large numbers of Negroes employed and as far as I know, not the first (step) taken to provide for the payment of the hands."
In the spring of 1865, Union Major General James Wilson beginning with approximately
14,000 cavalrymen rode through Alabama captured Columbus, Georgia, then quickly continued east toward Macon. The Federals were concerned about the "very substantial character" of Macon's defensive fortifications. On April 20, 1865, under a white flag of truce and with news of a general armistice agreement to end the war, representatives of General Cobb met General Wilson's advance units west of the city on the Columbus Road. But the Federals, riding hard and out of direct communications with either Wilson or Major General William T. Sherman in North Carolina, did not yet know the main Confederate army there had agreed to a 48-hour truce for the purpose of arranging the final surrender of all Confederates in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. The Federals refused to accept Cobb's information, and swept forward through Macon's western fortifications. Cobb ordered his reserves to stand down, and Wilson's advance occupied Macon without a significant fight. Wilson noted, "When I reached there two hours and and a half later, [Macon] was as quiet as a country village that had never heard a harsher tone than a flute note."
Landscape architect Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park in New York City and of the White House grounds in Washington, DC, carefully preserved this earthwork, incorporating it into his master plan for Riverside Cemetery in 1887. Many Confederate veterans
are buried throughout the cemetery. Most of Macon's abandoned fortifications were leveled to make way for homes and businesses. Two other area earthworks remain besides the one here. One is behind the Dunlap Farm House, within Ocmulgee National Monument. The other is near Jackson Springs Park, almost directly across the Ocmulgee River.