"...pretty well ransacked and things torn up generally."
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
This 20-acre square as the center of Georgia's state government and location of its capitol building from 1807 until 1868. The "State House," imposing Gothic edifice that dominates the square contained the offices of the governor and the chambers of the Georgia legislature and the state supreme court. From late 1860 through the Civil War it was also the headquarters of Major General Henry C. Wayne, Georgia's Adjutant and Inspector General. A West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer, Wayne organized and occasionally commanded the state's military forces.
On Wednesday, January 16, 1861, Georgia's Secession Convention of 300 delegates assembled in the House of Representatives chamber whose arched windows are visible above the building's north portico. Those addressing the convention included Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens and James L. Orr, South Carolina's secession commissioner to Georgia. Attending the convention as observers were Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina and Edmund Ruffin of Virginia. After spirited debates, on January 19th the delegates voted 208 in favor to 89 opposed to remove Georgia from the Union.
Before the arrival of Union Major General William T. Sherman's army on their "March to the Sea" the State House Square was the tented campground of Milledgeville's garrison. These were
Georgia state troops, not Confederate, comprised of Pruden's artillery battery, Talbot's company of scouts and the two-company battalion of cadets from the Georgia Military Institute in Marietta. The superintendent of the Institute and commander of the cadet battalion, Major Francis W. Capers, was commandant of the garrison. Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown's eldest son, Julius, age 16, was a cadet in the battalion.
The square became a center of activity for the Federal 14th and 20th Corps when they occupied Milledgeville from November 22 to 24, 1864. Provost guard campsites of the 3rd Wisconsin and 107th New York Infantry Regiments were located on the square. Federal troops destroyed the State Magazine on the east side of the square and on the west side emptied the State Arsenal of six wagonloads of munitions, which were dumped into the Oconee River. The arsenal was then blown up, damaging nearby St. Stephens Episcopal Church. The church and State House were also extensively vandalized.
Inside the State House a raucous group of soldiers staged a mock session of the Georgia legislature and "repealed" the Ordinance of Secession. Troops also strewed the halls and grounds with state documents and papers and dumped the contents of the State House library out of its windows. A mock funeral for the "departed" Governor Brown was held with an empty "Joe Brown Pike"
crate substituting for a coffin. Damage to the capitol building caused the legislature to meet in Macon's city hall for the remainder of the war. One Federal soldier recalled, "...the city was pretty well ransacked and things torn up generally."
Georgia's capital moved to Atlanta in 1868. Since 1880 the State House Square has been the location of Georgia Military College.
Top left: Alexander H. Stephens and Robert Toombs
Despite being on opposite sides of the question of secession they were close and lifelong friends.
Middle: Raising the Colors of the 107th New York Over the Capitol. Milledgeville, Georgia, November 22, 1864
Top right: State House Square in downtown Milledgeville
Bottom right: State Arsenal at Milledgeville
(Special Collections, GCSU Library)
Background watermark: Capitol at Milledgeville, Georgia (Harper's Weekly)