Only Two Acres Around Confederate Shoupades & Redan Saved in Georgia
By Joe Kirby
MARIETTA, Ga. — Developers and preservationists reluctantly agreed to a deal to save a pair of ultra-rare Confederate earthworks known as “shoupades” and an adjoining artillery redan, but not their surroundings.
The shoupades are just outside present-day Interstate 285 (the Atlanta beltway) in southeast Cobb County and were a key part of Gen. Joseph Johnston’s “River Line” along the Chattahoochee River just northwest of Atlanta.
Walton Communities LLC was granted permission by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners on July 20 to proceed with its plans to build 103 homes and condos priced from $200,000 to $800,000 on a 25-acre site along the former trench line.
The development was opposed by preservationists, local historians and nearby residents who complained about its density and about the possible loss and/or degradation of the shoupades.
They asked the developer to set aside seven acres of the site that include the earthworks as greenspace, which would have been enough land for visitors to see the connectivity of how shoupades and redans related to each other and to the terrain. Instead, Walton was permitted to set aside just two acres immediately surrounding the little forts.
“We’re doing much more than most developers,” said John Moore, attorney for the developer. “We’ve been very sensitive to it.”
Rhonda Cook of Smyrna, coordinator of the River Line Historic Area (a local watchdog group), was disappointed.
“There is a spirit of cooperation, but we still haven’t achieved our objective,” she told the Marietta Daily Journal. “
And time is running out. The ranks of the shoupades are steadily dwindling. Thirty-six of the dirt-and-earth forts were constructed by slaves in June 1864 according to a design prepared by Col. Francis Asbury Shoup, chief engineer for Johnston’s army. Only a dozen remained as of 2001, and now there but nine, many in poor shape.
Two nearly pristine shoupades and their connecting trenches are owned by Cobb County, which has spent the past decade and a half trying to figure out what to do with them. All the remaining shoupades are in private hands.
Shoupades were arrowhead-shaped forts pointing toward the enemy that featured a raised parapet. They were large enough to hold a company of about 80 men each, with half firing from the parapets and the others reloading rifles and then passing them back up. The Shoupades were about 100 yards apart along the line, with two-gun artillery redans interspersed halfway between each pair, all designed to ensure interlocking fields of fire.
The line was constructed as a fallback position for Johnston after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Indeed, the River Line and the shoupades were so impressive that Sherman described them as the most impressive field fortifications he had yet seen — and then went around them rather than attacking them head-on.
Johnston’s failure to stop Sherman at the last natural barrier before Atlanta prompted Confederate President Jefferson Davis to fire him several days later and replace him with Gen. John Bell Hood.