Civil War sites in Augusta are focus of college driving tour

Augusta has lots of Civil War history - the problem is knowing where to find it.

On April 20, Georgia Regents University will offer a free driving tour of local Civil War sites, with interpretive comments along the way from University of South Carolina author and historian Thomas H. Brown and GRU professor Debra Van Tuyll.

The tour will begin at 2 p.m. at GRU’s Summerville campus, which was the site of a 72-acre U.S. arsenal from 1829 to 1955, and will also include Magnolia Cemetery, where more than 900 Confederate soldiers and veterans, including seven generals, are buried.

The group will also see the Confederate Monument on Broad Street, erected in 1878 by the Ladies Memorial Association; the Old Richmond Academy building; the Emily Tubman memorial; and Sibley Mill, which includes the Confederate Powderworks Chimney.

The obelisk-like chimney is the sole remnant of the powderworks built by Col. George Washington Rains on the banks of the Augusta Canal, where 3 million pounds of gunpowder were made from 1862 until April 1865.

The city later acquired the site and razed the abandoned buildings, leaving the ornate chimney as a monument to the Confederate dead. It is surrounded by the Sibley Mill, built atop the powderworks after the war with bricks salvaged from its process buildings.

The driving tour is one of the features of a lecture series titled “Augusta Viewpoints: Understanding the Civil War,” which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, said Carol Waggoner-Angleton, special collections librarian at GRU’s Reese Library.

Although reservations are not required for the driving tour, calling ahead will help ensure that enough interpretive booklets are printed, she said.

In addition to participating in the tour, Brown, a recognized Civil War historian and author, will present a lecture entitled “Steampunk Civil War” at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 21, in Washington Hall.

That lecture is the final event in the series, which has included monthly book discussions since September, Waggoner-Angleton said.

The series was funded with a grant from the Georgia Humanities Council and sets of the books discussed throughout the series will be on reserve at the Augusta-Richmond County Library, Paine College Library, Columbia County Library and the Reese Library.