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For eight hours on the blazing day of July 22, 1864, 74,000 young men fought on the rolling terrain of southeast Atlanta. As the cannon smoke cleared and each side retreated, the four-mile-long field of combat held the bodies of more than 12,000 dead or wounded soldiers. The Battle of Atlanta was by no means the biggest or bloodiest of the Civil War, but it played a crucial role in bringing the conflict to an end.
On any given workday, the stretch of Georgia 9 that cuts north-south through Roswell is a four-lane wall of cars. Almost as old as the city itself, the thoroughfare was once little more than a dirt wagon path called the Atlanta Road, connecting this mill town to the burgeoning railroad hub some twenty miles south.
I’ve lived in the South for fourteen years—most of my adult life, it turns out—but because I wasn’t born here, or even raised here, I will never be considered of the South. My children will, however, and as they grow older I am curious to see how their consciousness and their identity are shaped by the legacy of this place. The joke (okay, the sad truth) about Atlanta is that there is no part of our history we won’t bulldoze over, but all the cranes and concrete and construction can never totally obscure the psychic fallout of what happened here 150 years ago, when the Battle of Atlanta presaged the end of the Confederacy.
Nineteen years have passed since Charles McNair published his first novel, Land O’ Goshen. While McNair climbed the corporate communications ladder and helped raise a daughter, the publishing world changed dramatically, but the art of storytelling did not.