“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Social Circle in Walton County, Georgia — The American South (South Atlantic)

Social Circle

Lightning Strikes Twice

— March to the Sea Heritage Trail —

Social Circle Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 30, 2017
1. Social Circle Marker
Inscription.  Originating in the 1820s, Social Circle became Walton County's rail center in 1845 as the Georgia Railroad advanced westward. Legend says the settlement received its name when a traveler, impressed by the hospitality of the little group of congenial pioneers, remarked enthusiastically, "This sure is a social circle!"

Second Lieutenant William L. Birney and the 17th Indiana Mounted Infantry Regiment, under the direction of Union Brigadier General Kenner Garrard, charged into town in a cloud of dust about mid-morning on Saturday, July 23, 1864. They took several prisoners, captured mail and were "very insolent to the ladies" according to one resident, going into houses and plundering them of "such things as they fancied." The Hoosiers were ordered to burn the town's only hotel, allowing owner H.L. Spencer only enough time to move some of his furniture out into the street. They also set fire to the railroad depot, the wood station, a water tank, several Confederate wagons and a store filled with commissary supplies. Flames reportedly destroyed five nearby houses. "The Circle" was veiled in smoke before the cavalrymen
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galloped out of town.

After the fall of Atlanta in early September and the subsequent occupation and partial destruction of that city, Major General William T. Sherman's army undertook its "March to the Sea." A wave of panic overtook the civilian population of Georgia. Hundreds of families who had no housing, many of them exiles from Atlanta, sought shelter in abandoned railway cars. Mrs. Margaret Ketcham Ward reported that she and her family took up residence in one such car. Her party consisted of two women, five children, one man and a slave named Caboose. Although accommodations were described as rough, most considered themselves fortunate to have boxcars for shelter. Social Circle was a temporary home for many of these victims of war.

On Friday, November 18, 1864, the Federal 20th Corps under Brigadier General Alpheus S. Williams and accompanied by Major General Henry W. Slocum commanding Sherman's "Left Wing," entered Social Circle on Hightower Trail. Many local residents were taken by surprise and had no time to hide their animals or stocks of foodstuffs. "All residents looked alarmed to see the Yankees march through." Some grabbed a few possessions and immediately took flight only to find they had to share the roads with the invaders. Federal soldiers captured a Confederate surgeon and $3,000 in gold. Sergeant Rice Bull of the 123rd New York
View of Social Circle marker near children's park. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 30, 2017
2. View of Social Circle marker near children's park.
Infantry Regiment resented the town's name because he could find no one who would be sociable. But a joyous reception was given to the soldiers by the slave population.

As elsewhere, the Northern troops found the area around Social Circle "overflowing with sweet potatoes, corn syrup, and hogs. At 2:00 p.m. one division halted in town for dinner then resumed its march to eastward to Rutledge. They followed the other two divisions of the 20th Corps, which had departed Social Circle that morning.

[Photo captions]
Bottom left: The March to the Sea (Library of Congress)
Middle: Civilian Refugees
Top right: Sergeant Rice Bull 123rd New York Infantry Regiment
Bottom right map: Federal March Routes, November 17 & 18, 1864
  (adopted from the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies)
Background watermark: The March to the Sea

Erected by Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc. (Marker Number L7.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & StreetcarsWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Sherman’s March to the Sea series list. A significant historical date for this entry is July 23, 1864.
Location. 33° 39.388′ N, 83° 43.17′ 
View from marker towards intersection of North Cherokee Road and Hightower Trail. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 30, 2017
3. View from marker towards intersection of North Cherokee Road and Hightower Trail.
W. Marker is in Social Circle, Georgia, in Walton County. Marker can be reached from West Hightower Trail west of North Cherokee Road (Georgia Route 11). Located behind the post office, next to the fence of a small children's park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: West Hightower Trail, Social Circle GA 30025, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. In Memory of Emma Sansom (within shouting distance of this marker); Hightower Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Dr. Brown's Townhouse (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Church Bell (approx. 0.2 miles away); The March to the Sea (approx. 0.2 miles away); Brick Store (approx. 4.1 miles away); Sherman at Harris’ Quarters (approx. 6.2 miles away); Centreville (approx. 6.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Social Circle.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 10, 2017. It was originally submitted on May 10, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 806 times since then and 185 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 10, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Sep. 27, 2023