We are kicking off a collaboration with Bicycle Tours of Atlanta and are offering a new urban adventure: A Bicycle Tour of the Battle of Atlanta.
Our first tour for the general public will be held in collaboration with the B*ATL Event Festival in East Atlanta in July.
Last week, we rolled out a version of it with a group of families from Homeschool Excursions (HSE).
So, why is Sure Foot Adventures leading Civil War tours? We believe in helping people find creative ways to get outdoors, and a bicycle tour is a perfect intown adventure. We also wan to help people connect with the land around them, and learning history is a great way to do that. Are we Confederate sympathizers? No. We approach the story of the Civil War as a national tragedy (for the destruction and death it caused) and as a huge victory over the system of slavery. But most of all, we want participants to see the layers of history in the land around them and the neighborhoods we ride through.
At 11 a.m., our group of 10 cyclists departed the Zoo Atlanta parking lot in Grant Park for an 8-mile ride that approximated Civil War troop movements and visited important sites from the July 22, 1864 Battle of Atlanta.
Starting behind Confederate lines at Fort Walker, the only remaining visible earthworks left from the Civil War in Atlanta, we took a long uphill ride tracing Hardee’s night march and then criss-crossed Moreland Avenue (Leggett’s Hill) on side streets, learning the history of the battle and its significance.
General Hardee’s night march has always particularly intrigued me, probably because it involved hiking! General Hood ordered Hardee’s men to embark on an all-night, 12-15 mile march around the flank of the Federal armies in an attempt to attack from their rear. Many of these soldiers had just pulled back from fighting at Peachtree Creek, only to be sent on this extreme night march which culminated in a full day of vicious fighting. The most amazing thing to me is that these soldiers did not give up. It’s incredible, really, what humans can do when pushed.
In designing this bicycle tour, I originally wanted to bike the entire route of the night march. Many of the roads on Hardee’s route still exist (Key Road, Fayetteville Road, Flat Shoals Avenue, etc.), but this route would double the length of the ride. Instead, we ride directly to East Atlanta (one location where the battle began) via Ormewood Avenue. Ormewood has a long, slow hill which I hope helps participants simulate some of the fatigue that Hardee’s troops felt during the night march. Truthfully, though, nothing can simulate that!
Our tour visits the site of General McPherson’s death (for whom Fort McPherson was named), the remains of Leggett’s hill (which was mostly destroyed by the I-20 overpass at Moreland Avenue), the center point of the battle, and the Railroad Cut featured in the Cyclorama Painting. We use the height of the Inman Park MARTA Station overpass to look at the terrain surrounding the battle.
More than anything, I believe that bicycling the battle route allows participants to truly connect with history because the Civil War was so influenced by terrain – a fact which can’t be truly understood when driving. On bicycle, we can cover the whole battlefield (as opposed to the small area we can cover on foot), but we are forced to recognize the hills and valleys that so affected the fighting.
Plus, it’s great exercise and a wonderful way to see the intown neighborhoods of Grant Park, Ormewood Park, East Atlanta Village, Edgewood, Reynoldstown, Inman Park, and Cabbage Town.
This group of homeschool students were excellent cyclists, followed group-riding safety guidelines to a tee, and loved learning history while NOT sitting behind a desk. One young man raced me up a steep incline near Leggett’s Hill (and beat me, of course). Several participants chose to carry their bikes up the long staircase at the MARTA station, instead of taking the elevator (not that there is anything wrong with the elevator–those stairs are LONG). All in all, it was a great day of riding and history. Several participants even toured the Cyclorama in Grant Park after we completed the tour.