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Sweetwater Creek

Sweetwater Creek State Conservation Park

Mt. Vernon Rd., Lithia Springs 770-732-5871


The 1,986-acre park features a wide mix of activities, including fishing, boating, picnicking, and hiking. The park was established to protect the ruins of New Manchester Manufacturing Company, a Civil War-era textile mill which Sherman's forces burned, and sent its women workers north on trains to Indiana. A hiking trail leads to the old raceway and impressive mill ruins next to the rocky Sweetwater Creek. A living history event, including an encampment, called New Man-chester Days is held each September.

Georgia was one of the south's largest textile producing states, and the New Manchester Mill on Sweetwater Creek was one of the South's largest mills. The five-story factory building, with a 50,000-pound water wheel, was reputed to be the tallest building in the Atlanta area. The mill, built in 1849, converted raw cotton into thread and the thread into cloth. Approximately 17 structures made up New Manchester and an estimated 500 people resided in the town, with approximately 100 working at the mill. On July 2, 1864, portions of Union Maj. Gen. George Stoneman's cavalry rode into New Manchester without opposition. They ordered the mill shut down and the cloth distributed to the millworkers. Meanwhile, in Roswell on July 5, other textile mills were seized and shut down, and Sherman ordered the mills burned and the workers deported to the North. (At one time, Sherman sought permission to send "treasoners" to Honduras, San Domingo, or British or French Guiana) His orders also applied to New Manchester.

On July 9, Major Thompkins and eight men burned the New Manchester factory. According to unconfirmed reports, they destroyed the 300-foot long dam, and let the swift waters of Sweetwater Creek do the rest, destroying several hundred thousand dollars worth of property in the flood. The operatives and their managers were charged with treason and ordered to Marietta. A shortage of transport wagons resulted in cavalrymen taking a second rider — mostly women — on their horses and carrying them 16 miles on July 10 to the Georgia Military Institute. One Illinois soldier wrote home saying it "was a very fine sight" and "one we do not often see in the army." "The employees were all women and they were really good looking." Accounts of sexual activity between the men and women were reported but its unclear whether it was consensual or rape.

In Marietta they joined the Roswell workers and totalling approximately 500, the women were loaded on trains with their families and shipped first to Nashville, Tennessee on July 15, then Louisville, Kentucky on July 20, and later across the Ohio River in nearby Indiana. They came to be collectively known as the "Roswell Women," and their ultimate fate remains unknown. Reportedly not one of the women ever returned.

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