In order to protect the natural character of the Factory Shoals section of Sweetwater Creek and preserve the historic integrity of the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company and its associated mill town, the State of Georgia created the Sweetwater Creek State Conservation Park in 1976.
This 2,000-acre park is located a few miles West of Atlanta adjacent to I-20. The fact that the Park lies in the Brevard Fault zone gives it a beautiful, mountainous appearance unique in this part of the State. This land was inhabited by Native Americans during the Woodland Period (1,000 BC to 1,000 AD). When white settlers arrived it was part of the territory claimed by the Cherokee Indians, who had earlier driven the Creek Indians from the Northern-most of today's Georgia counties.
Provided visitors to the Park are 9 miles of hiking trails; boating (without motors) and fishing in lake George H. Sparks, and picnic facilities, including shelters. The Park is open from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM, but the trails are closed at sunset. For more information call: (770) 732-5871 or write: P.O. Box 816, Lithia Springs, GA 30057.
The Destruction of New Manchester by Sherman's Men
by Carole E. Scott
In 1861, U.S. General Henry W. Halleck wrote that, "as the perpetrators of such outrageous deeds (as pillage and destruction of towns and ravaging or setting fires to houses) may attempt to pallidate them, under the pretext of deservedly punishing the enemy, be it here observed that the natural and voluntary law of nations does not allow us to inflict such punishments."
By 1865, Halleck has changed his mind, as he wrote to General William T. Sherman, who had just completed his destructive march through Georgia, that "should you capture Charleston, I hope by some accident the place may be destroyed, and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession."
While marching through North Georgia, General Sherman issued orders to..."burn ten or twelve houses of known secessionists, kill a few at random and let them know it will be repeated every time a train is fired upon from Resaca to Kingston..."
General Sherman explained this policy in a letter to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: "Our armies traverse the land and waves of disaffection, sedition and crime close in behind and our track disappears. But one thing is certain, there is a class of people, men, women, and children who must be killed or banished before we can hope for peace and order even as far South as Tennessee."
Therefore, it is not surprising that on Saturday morning, July 2, 1864, Union troops under the command of General George Stoneman rode into the little village of New Manchester with orders to destroy it. The cotton mill, which provided cloth to the Confederate Army, was running when they arrived. All the manufacturing facilities, including the dam, and everything else in the village was destroyed. The "operatives," mostly women, and their supervisors were charged with treason , and along with their families and the operatives of a mill in Roswell and their families, were shipped to Louisville, Kentucky. Subsequently they were dumped across the Ohio River into Indiana to fend for themselves in enemy territory far from home. The mill at Roswell was rebuilt after the War, but New Manchester was abandoned.
At the time, a newspaper in Cincinnati commented that the "...capture was a novel one in the history of war." Although the people of New Manchester felt themselves to have been badly treated, it could have been worse, as General Sherman had sought permission to send people like them to Lower California, Honduras, British or French Guiana, or San Domingo.
For additional information about the destruction of the village of New Manchester, see: "Total War Comes to New Manchester" by Carole E. Scott, Blue & Gray(December 1994), pages 22-26. For more details about Sherman's policies, see: Sherman's March and Vietnam by James Reston, Jr. (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984).
The Sweetwater Mill
In 1845, two entrepreneurs incorporated the Sweetwater Manufacturing Company. By 1849, a textile mill had been built on the site. In 1857, it was reincorporated as the New Manchester Company. The Company provided housing for many of its workers. In 1861, the mill employed 36 males and 57 females. About 500 people lived in New Manchester, which boasted an inn for overnight guests, a flour mill, a grist mill, and a leather factory. The mill served as the village's meeting hall and place of worship.
The five-story mill was taller than any building in Atlanta at the time. Because of the risk of fire from the open flame lights of that day, the mill used no artificial light; so it only operated during the day. All the mill's machinery was powered by the water from Sweetwater Creek turning a water wheel weighing about 25 tons. The mill was built from bricks made on the site and rock quarried downstream. Cotton was brought to the mill from Atlanta, the nearest railhead, by wagon. (The fall line where mills could be located was North of where most of the State's cotton was grown. At that time mills had to be powered either by falling water or steam.) The only store in the village--a three-story building--was owned by the mill's owners. A dug-out place in the steep hillside by the mill today reveals where it stood.
The author published in "Blue and Gray" magazine much of the material that appears in this article.
If you would like to learn more about old mills, check out The Society for the Preservation of Old Mills.
This material is copyrighted, 1998, by Carole E. Scott. Do not publish without her permission.