HAMPTON — In July 2005, the Nash Farm Battlefield property was purchased by Henry County with the intent to serve as “a valuable cultural, historical and educational resource and protect and preserve greenspace,” according to the resolution authorizing condemnation of the property.
The 207-acre parcel was purchased for $8.2 million via eminent domain. The resolution notes the property was the site of battles and encampments during the Civil War “which has significant cultural and historical value and should be preserved for future generations.”
Since its purchase, the site has hosted numerous events including re-enactments, living history programs, weddings and holiday celebrations.
In February 2011, Friends of Nash Farm Battlefield, an all-volunteer group, opened the Nash Farm Battlefield Museum on the property. It housed a collection of artifacts unearthed on the property and numerous exhibits telling the story of the Nash family and the battle fought on Nash Farm and surrounding locations.
This week, the museum closed after District 2 Commissioner Dee Clemmons told museum volunteers that Confederate flags must be removed from inside the museum. The group posted on its official Facebook page that “to exclude any Confederate flag would mean the historical value has been taken from our exhibits, and a fair interpretation could not be presented to each guest. Confederate flags were on this hallowed ground, as were the Union flags. To remove either of them would be a dishonor.”
With the museum closed, the Friends group is now concerned with the protection of the land.
In a recently released email from the Henry County Communications Department, Clemmons stated the location was an “undocumented battlefield.”
Additionally, Cassie Barrow, co-founder of the volunteer group, said Clemmons told her “the word battlefield should not be associated with the property because there was no battle that was fought on the property.”
However, according to the Lamar Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts archaeological and historical research in the Southeastern United States, Nash Farm is the site of Kilpatrick’s Raid, a “massive cavalry action in Georgia and one of the most memorable in the entire Civil War.”
At least two archaeological digs were conducted on the property, including one by Lamar Institute. During those digs, some 3,000 artifacts, including bullets, coins, jewelry, clothing, personal weapons, kitchen items, horse equipment and musical instruments, were discovered.
The battle was fought on Aug. 20, 1864, starting at Lovejoy Station and moving to Nash Farm.
In 2011, a letter from the United States Department of Interior to Nash Farm Battlefield stated, “The Federal defeat at Lovejoy Station would greatly affect the rest of the Atlanta Campaign. Though Kilpatrick’s forces were able to escape the Confederate encirclement at Nash Farm, their inability to significantly damage the vital southern railroads forced U.S. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman to use his infantry to destroy the rail lines feeding the Confederate garrison at Atlanta. This maneuver would ultimately be successful and force Confederate Gen. John B. Hood to abandon Atlanta in order to save his army.”
The department said the action was an important part of the county’s history and “played a vital role during the Atlanta Campaign and the American Civil War” and that the American Battlefield Protection program believed Nash Farm Battlefield should be studied for possible placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
Barrow said the battlefield was approved to be on the National Register of Historic Places, but was unable to secure necessary paperwork from an abutting land owner.
Barrow said the primary source of evidence proving a battle took place on the Nash Farm property is the claim Thompson Nash, owner of the Nash farm, filed with the Southern Claims Commission on Sept. 25, 1871.
The SCC, created by the government in 1871, was an organization through which Southerners could file claims for reimbursement of personal property losses due to the Civil War, according to ancestry.com.
In his claim Nash writes that “supplies were taken for the use of the Army on or about the 20 to 21st of August 1864 by the soldiers of Kirkpatrick’s Cavalry while said Army was on a raid from near Atlanta, Georgia via McDonough through Henry County, Georgia.”
Nash goes on to state that “property and supplies were taken by the soldiers of said Armies and carried to the camps and other places where the soldiers were stationed and appropriated for the use and comfort of the Army of the United States.”
“That is the primary evidence and was key to documenting the battle,” Barrow said.
Currently, Henry County has the location listed as Nash Farm Park. Under the list of amenities, the history is cited as the “site of the largest Cavalry raid in Georgia’s history and a huge Confederate campsite. Today it is one of very few Civil War battlefields that remain intact, meticulously preserved, so that you can come and enjoy a day going back in time to the final days of the Atlanta Campaign.”
Barrow said Friends of the Nash Farm Battlefield is planning to attend the June 6 Henry County Board of Commissioners meeting to request the council recognize Nash Farm as a battlefield and not as a park.
“We are impartial,” Barrow said. “Our agenda is purely historical. All we want to do is preserve the history.”
Clemmons could not be reached Friday for comment.