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October 04, 2012
ROSWELL, Ga. – On Sloan Street just off the Roswell Square stands a memorial to one of the most tragic chapters of Roswell's history. On July 10, 1864, more than 400 mill workers of the Roswell Manufacturing Co. were rounded up by occupying Union soldiers.
These workers, mostly women, children and a few disabled Confederate veterans, had just lost their livelihood, and now they faced an uncertain future at the hands of these "Northern invaders."
When Union cavalry captured Roswell and burned its cotton mills, Union Gen. Kenner Garrad reported around 400 mill hands living in the city, mostly in the mill housing that still encircles Sloan Street today.
Union Gen. William T. Sherman summarily declared the workers guilty of treason and without trial gave orders to transport them out of the region. It was one of the few outrages of the war that brought down scorn from both North and South.
So it was under a hot July sun in 1864 that these 400 workers were marched off 13 miles to Marietta and boarded trains to be shipped away like so much cattle.
Fifteen-year-old Lucinda Elizabeth Wood Shelly, her mother and grandmother were among them. All of them worked at the mill and were sent by wagon to Marietta, by train to Tennessee and by boat to Louisville, Ky. Only Lucinda survived the trip.
After her eventual release, she made it back to relatives in Kentucky, where she met an ex-Confederate from Roswell who married her and took her back to Georgia.
The fate of many is unknown, but the sacrifice of the mill workers is remembered at the monument in Sloan Street Park in Roswell's Historic District.
These victims of war were remembered again Sept. 30 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Georgia Civil War Commission as part of Georgia's sesquicentennial celebration of the Civil War.
Indeed, the Roswell SCV Camp (chapter) takes its name from this historic event.
Rick Leake, commander of the SVC's Roswell Mills Camp 1547, said the Roswell camp and the Civil War Commission paid for a new interpretive marker for the Lost Mill Workers Memorial to explain mill workers' story.
"The state commission is here to oversee the observance of the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. Part of it is to encourage the erection of markers," said Leake. "The Roswell Mills Camp and the commission shared in the cost of the new marker."
The Civil War Commission's representative James Yancey spoke at the dedication of the marker.
"Our mission is to make the Civil War more prominent and available in Georgia," Yancey said.
The marker, the same interpretive markers used in national parks, describes the deportation of the mill workers and includes an original piece of artwork by Mary Jane Warren Stone to illustrate it.
"We wanted to produce an image to represent the deportation," said former SCV Commander Howard Bryant.
At the dedication service, performance actress Cathy Kaemmerlen gave a short but vivid one-act play as a 12-year-old mill worker who along with her little brother was one of those transported.
Mayor Jere Wood thanked the SCV for not only donating half the cost of the interpretive marker, but for commissioning the original $20,000 memorial column.
"We consider this park on Sloan Street our Civil War Park and we are grateful to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for keeping the memory of these workers alive," Wood said.
SCV member Barry Herrin gave the keynote address. He described the hardships and privations these women and their children shared.
"The Mills Camp is the only camp named in honor of civilians. It is our charge to commemorate their service and their suffering," Herrin said.
The members of the SVC cannot morally defend the enslavement of 40 percent of the South's residents, Herrin said. But the Roswell Mills Camp will serve as a memorial to the acts of cruelty visited upon the South in that cruel war.JC 100412
Managing Editor, Appen Newspapers Inc.