History Underfoot

A painting of the Battle of Atlanta, fought during the Civil War, with the words, "History Underfoot."

History Underfoot

July 22 Marks 150 Years Since the Civil War Battle of Atlanta

Georgia Tech had not yet been founded when the Civil War was fought, but that doesn’t mean the Institute has no connections to the war. First of all, the then-Georgia School of Technology was chartered in 1885 in response to the South's need to transition from a largely agrarian economy to a more industrialized one, a development no doubt spurred by the end of slavery after the war.  

Another connection is geographic: In anticipation of advancing Union troops in the summer of 1864, several forts were built on what is now Georgia Tech land. Seen as strategically high ground, land along the southern edge of campus was cleared and fortified by the Confederacy to prevent direct frontal attacks on the city. Sherman's siege was overwhelming nevertheless, and the city surrendered 150 years ago on Sept. 2, just west of campus on Marietta Street. 


Take a Then-and-Now Tour of Civil War Sites Around Tech's Campus:

Two maps of downtown Atlanta, from 1864 and 2014.

Using geographic information systems technology and drawing on the work of Associate Professor William Drummond of Georgia Tech's School of City and Regional Planning,
Holden Spaht (MS ARCH 2014) superimposed locations of Confederate forts over an aerial view of modern-day Atlanta. Credit: Google Maps.

Two views of the Fort X site, from 1864 and 2014.

This view, believed to be facing west from Fort X, now looks toward the back of the Printing and Copying Building.
During the war, homes in the area were stripped to provide lumber for defensive fortifications as seen in the photo on the left.

Two views of the Ponder House site, from 1864 and 2014.

The view from Fort Y, which once took in the Ponder House, now looks toward the Student Center parking deck.
Confederate sharpshooters hunkered down in the Ponder House until it was destroyed by Union artillery.

Two views of Fort Z site, from 1864 and 2014.

Fort Z was located along the east-west Confederate line, which ran through what’s now the south end of Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. The 2014 photo shows a view from the corner of Fowler Street and Bobby Dodd Way.

Two views of Atlanta, one from 1864, the other from 2014 includes the historic marker of the surrender of Atlanta.

 Fighting in the area, both before and after the Battle of Atlanta, raged for months. Finally, on Sept. 2, Confederate General John Bell Hood called for an evacuation of the city.
Left: Shell-shocked Atlanta as it looked in a photograph by G.N. Bernard, who traveled with Union troops. Right: Today, a historical marker located just west of Georgia Tech on Marietta Street near Northside Drive details Atlanta’s surrender to Union forces.

Delve Deeper into the History of the Battle of Atlanta:

The Many Battles of Atlanta

The Many Battles of Atlanta
One man’s quest to retrace the 15-mile march by Confederate troops “through the dark of night, in the smothering July heat, down dusty paths and through a trackless wilderness.” Written by Georgia Tech’s own Fletcher Moore with photography by Brett Falcon.

The Battle of Atlanta Mobile Website

Battle of Atlanta Mobile Website
This Web-based app combines a narrative of 1864 events, maps, video clips, and images. Twelve tour stops highlight how the Battle of Atlanta figured into the Union’s conquest of the Confederacy in the final year of the Civil War. No download required.

Atlanta Cyclorama

The Atlanta Cyclorama
Said to be the world’s largest painting, this 42-foot-tall, 358-foot-long circular panorama depicts the Battle of Atlanta fought on July 22, 1864. The presentation also includes artifacts and sculptures and is accompanied by music and narration, available in five languages.


Writer: Margaret Tate
Photos: 1864, G.N. Bernard; 2014, Rob Felt
Graphics: Melanie Goux