I see that today is the anniversary of the burning of Atlanta and the start of Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864.

I may have know I have mentioned here before that my great-great-grandfather was a Union artillery officer who fought in the Atlanta Campaign (including Kennesaw Mountain and Nickajack Creek in June and July 1864).  His unit didn’t make the Savannah Campaign, but instead was garrisoned at Marietta after the Nickajack fighting.  They were also in reserve at the Battle of Nashville in December.

The Savannah Campaign, of course, inspired the song “Marching Through Georgia”, written by Henry Clay Work.  Work was from Middletown, CT where I went to school – there’s a bust of him in a little downtown park which I used to run past on my way back and forth from campus to the boathouse every day.  I used to know a couple of the verses of MTG, and recall that it was really the first martial song that felt genuinely, well, concrete to me.  “Georgia” wasn’t some abstract concept shrouded in the mists of time – it was just over yonder, a living political geography.   (For what it’s worth, Sherman himself despised the song.)

Thinking of the date reminds me of a brunch Mrs. R and I went to in Atlanta years and years ago with a college classmate of hers and the classmate’s grandmother (or perhaps it was her great-grandmother) at the Piedmont Driving Club.  (Weren’t we just the nibs?)  The grandmother, who had known Margaret Mitchell in her younger days and remembered the Atlanta premiere of Gone With The Wind, was a formidable old gal, frail-looking but ramrod straight and with a gimlet eye.   When we were introduced, she looked us up and down and said, “Whey-ah ah you from?”

“Oh, we live just outside of Dee Cee,” I said.

“No, no,” she replied, “Whey-ah ah yo-ah people from?”

“Um,” I said, knowing exactly where this was going, “Well, Connecticut and New York.”

She fixed me with the eye and simply said, “Oh.”

But I could tell what she was thinking.  Dayum Yahnkees!