The Battle for Atlanta
Nov 20, 2008
|Another Cyclorama - even bigger and better - Thursday, November 20
After a good breakfast Sky and Diana took us out again - this time to Atlanta and two of it’s major attractions. The first was the Atlanta History Museum which has an amazing collection of artifacts and exhibits on the Civil War, especially as it applied to the Battle for Atlanta. Sky and Diana were afraid we might be burned out on the Civil War, and we have seen enough of it that there are not a lot of Civil War sites we still want to visit, but this one is so unique and so well presented that it was fascinating and we poked along reading and listening to every word.
We rented audio guides and they are so interesting that it was nearly impossible to skip any of the numbered stops. We didn't want to miss any of the material. We spent several hours at the History Museum just going through the Civil War exhibits, which are only a part of all there is to see there. You would need a whole day to even begin to do it justice, and we might still be there if it wasn’t for our next stop which was Atlanta’s Cyclorama.
This was a real thrill because we had just seen our first Cyclorama at Gettysburg. The Cyclorama at Atlanta depicts the Battle for Atlanta which took place in 1864. This was a bitterly contested fight for control of a city that was indispensable to the south’s war effort. Atlanta was one of the largest and most important cities in the south, and it was one of the crucial rail centers that supplied the Confederate armies. The city was well defended, but when Sherman’s troops outflanked the Confederates and cut them off from the railroad the Confederate armies were forced to withdraw to keep from being trapped in the city. That withdrawal left the rest of Georgia vulnerable to Sherman’s army, and opened the way for Sherman’s ‘March to the Sea’.
The Cyclorama presentation begins with a movie on the battle, then visitors are directed to steeply tiered seats from which you view the Cyclorama as scenes from the battle light up in time with a narrative that retells the story of what happened here. The painting is incredible. The canvas would cover a football field, being some 380 feet long and 50 feet high. Like the one at Gettysburg it was painted after the war in the late decades of the 19th century, and it has recently been restored. The area between the viewers and the painting is filled with three dimensional soldiers, horses and equipment that lend a stunning sense of realism to the painting and bring the viewer right into the action.
Unlike Gettysburg where the viewer has to stand throughout the presentation, and then walk around a stationary platform to see the entire painting, the Atlanta Cyclorama viewing platform turns with the narrative and you just sit and watch as the battle progresses in front of you. The entire rotation takes nearly a quarter of an hour, and then the platform rotates again while a docent talks about the painting and the restoration process. After that you have time to take pictures and ask questions. The experience is moving and unforgettable. The Atlanta Cyclorama is slightly larger than the one at Gettysburg, and the viewing arrangement makes it much better. Both are painted in exquisite detail, and in both the realism is breathtaking. This one was painted in Milwaukee and many of the artists employed were from Europe and spoke little if any English.
After the Cyclorama Sky drove to the golf course where he is scheduled to play on Friday. Since the cold weather promised a wind chill at tee off time in the low twenties, he ended up postponing the golf date, but he drove us past the slightly downsized Executive Course and around a project that is one of the best and most heartwarming stories we’ve heard in a long time.
The land where a beautiful golf course now sits, was once the site of one of the worst and most dangerous housing projects in Atlanta. In a struggle that took much endurance and many years of dealing with a reluctant city hall, a private developer got permission to raze the project housing and build the golf course. He surrounded it with homes, condos and apartments that were beautifully designed and built, and he replaced a failing ghetto school with a fine modern charter school. The residents have to be approved, and then a sliding scale is applied to the cost of moving in and living there.
Kids that once lived in a hopeless ghetto now live in clean, safe and comfortable housing. They go to a school where excellence is both given and demanded, and one that prepares them for college instead of drug dealing homelessness. They get to learn the game of golf, and Tiger Woods even shows up to give them pointers and demonstrations. This was the developer’s dream and while it was done with some public money he made no profit on the project and considered it his gift to the city.
Back home we relaxed before dinner and the conversation turned to the world, and especially to our country and it’s problems. Sky is a retired stock broker and his knowledge of business is impressive. He is a man of many talents who is a political Libertarian, and who was as unhappy with the results of the recent elections as I was happy. Since I am a lifelong registered Democrat one might expect our conversation to turn heated - and sometimes it did, but never did it turn personal and if there was any anger it was reserved for situations and not directed at each other.
These were some of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time and I will always remember and treasure them. Many of my ideas and opinions were challenged, and some changed as a result of the exchange, and some did not. The important thing is that I got to sit down with a good and kind man of great personal integrity, and have a substantive discussion about things that matter. If we could do that more often the world would be a better place for it, and I believe each of us would be a better person.
Sky’s wife, Diana is a joy to be around. She is a Georgia native, and she is a warm woman with a background in art. She and Sky have created a beautiful home that is decorated with original paintings and engravings they have collected over the years, and with some of the exquisitely crafted furniture Sky has built himself. His shop is a woodworker’s dream, and out of it have come some of the most beautiful items in their home. There are a clock and chest to die for, and he is currently building a set of walnut chairs that are as fine as anything we have ever seen.
Last year we spent time with our friends Chris and Kristy Stille in Iowa, and with Torrey and Daryl Youngstrum in Wisconsin. This year we had the pleasure of visiting Rand and Marcia Herron in Rhode Island, and Sky and Diana Rector here in Georgia. How fortunate we are to have such wonderful friends, and to be able to see them in our travels. Our lives are infinitely richer for their friendship and company.