Adairsville was the scene of the last leg of the "Great Locomotive Chase" on April 12, 1862. It was here that Captain William Fuller boarded the southbound Texas, dropped the freight cars and roared out in reverse in pursuit of James Andrews and the General. Both trains were exceeding 60 miles an hour on their way north to Calhoun. The original depot, next to the railroad tracks, is on the National Register of Historic Places. On May 17, 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign, Confederate forces under Johnston, looking for a place to fight, temporarily set up a defensive line north of the town, which resulted in skirmishing with Sherman's men. Finding the position untenable, Johnston sent Hood and Polk to Cassville and Hardee to Kingston to split Sherman's forces and set a trap. Divisions of the Union Army of the Cumberland and Army of the Tennessee marched through Adairsville on May 18 in pursuit of the Confederates. The Great Locomotive Chase Festival is held every year on the first weekend in October.
Barnsley Gardens, with its fascinating history and beautiful gardens, is a unique Civil War site. Its full story would make a great Gothic romance or television mini-series with fortunes won and lost, romances, ghosts, death and destruction, and renewal. In 1824, Godfrey Barnsley, at 18, came penniless to America from England. In ten years he became one of the wealthiest cotton merchants in the South and married Julia Scarborough, the daughter of a wealthy Savannah shipping merchant. Wanting to leave Savannah's unhealthy climate, Barnsley purchased 3,680 acres in northwest Georgia and developed Woodlands Manor, creating an English estate, complete with surrounding gardens, in the wilds of America. His 14-room Italianate Gothic mansion was made of the finest materials, with black marble from Italy and pink marble from France; doors and panelling from England; silver latches on the windows; and many fine art objects and furniture to decorate the house, such as a 40-person mahogany table from Emperor Don Pedro of Brazil. The mansion also featured many innovations of the day, such as hot and cold running water, flush toilets, and a hot-air powered rotisserie stove which could cook meals for 150 people. His garden was an eclectic mix of hundreds of plants collected from around the world, including many rare trees. It featured a sunken bog garden with aquatic plants, and many unusual roses.
During the Civil War, Barnsley did not condone the "secession fever" sweeping the south, but believed England would inevitably join the Southern side because of its dependence on cotton. He invested a large portion of his cash assets in Confederate bonds and donated his sailing ships to the Confederate Navy after the Union naval blockade stopped his shipping business. His two sons, George and Lucien, joined the Confederate Army. He sold metals in his buildings to the Noble foundry in Rome.
When Sherman's men, under Gen. James B. McPherson, moved south from Resaca to Kingston in mid-May 1864, Barnsley had his lead water pipes removed and melted into bullets. As McPherson's army advanced toward the Gardens on May 18, C.S. Col. Richard Earle rode into Woodlands to warn the Barnsleys that the "Yankees are coming." As he turned to go out the door, he was killed by a sharpshooter. (The family buried him close to where he fell and today you can visit his grave.) Earle's death enraged his men, who charged the forward forces of the Union, capturing more than a hundred prisoners. As more Union troops arrived, a battle raged near the manor until the Confederates gave way. McPherson, calling Barnsley Gardens "a little piece of heaven," forbid his troops to hurt the manor and grounds. It was only after the main army moved on that the stragglers and looters ransacked the Barnsley home. The Civil War ruined Barnsley's fortune, and he died in 1873 as penniless as he began.
Today, the manor is in ruins not from Union forces but from a tornado which blew the roof off the structure in 1906, leading to rapid deterioration. Today, the gardens and structures have been undergoing extensive and expensive restoration work by the Prince Fugger family. A restaurant is established in a recently relocated historic home, which is scarred by bullets from a cavalry battle. A Civil War encampment is sponsored on the first or second week in July each year.
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