Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Communities face shortage of funds to commemorate Civil War

During much of the Civil War, Confederate troops were short on manpower, funding and equipment.

Nearly 150 years later, as local officials make plans to commemorate the war's sesquicentennial anniversary, they face the same challenges.

Local governments, historic groups and tourism leaders hope to capitalize on tourists they hope will flock to local sites during re-enactments and other anniversary events. But trying to raise money for marketing campaigns during a recession and a major state budget shortfall has proven to be difficult.

Every time Chickamauga City Manager John Culpepper has gone to Atlanta seeking money for various campaigns, he has found only empty pockets.

Mr. Culpepper, who also is the Georgia Civil War Commission president, said the state initially budgeted $500,000 toward publicizing state sites and events for the 150th anniversary. That funding was stripped out with the first round of budget cuts, he explained.

For comparison's sake, Virginia included $2 million in its budget to prepare for the anniversary, Mr. Culpepper said. "The state of Georgia hasn't budgeted anything," he said.

Established re-enactments are faring better than new ones, according to Ken Sumner, founder of the Battle of Tunnel Hill re-enactment. "It is a difficult time," he said.

Tunnel Hill, which takes place in September, gets all of its funding from private sources and is run by volunteers. Manpower and funding, however, remain a problem for similar events across the South, said Mr. Sumner, who works with other re-enactments Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Because the financial situation is so tough, Mr. Culpepper recently started the Tri-State Civil War Association to combine resources and promote related sites and events in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. "By pooling our resources together, we can get the job done," he said.

In 2013, the Battle of Chickamauga re-enactment will be the largest in the Deep South with as many as 12,000 re-enactors expected, Mr. Culpepper said. The key, he said, will be getting those visitors to stay an extra day or two to visit Resaca, Ringgold or other nearby towns with historic sites."Ringgold, Trenton, Dalton, modern Chickamauga -- you had all these communities that were touched during the (Civil War) campaign," he said.

Catoosa County Commissioner Ken Marks said tourists coming to the Chickamauga National Military Park present an opportunity for businesses in Catoosa and Walker counties as well as the counties themselves. "Our county lives off sales tax," Mr. Marks said. "We have to promote tourism."

Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell called the potential tourism boost from the Civil War anniversary "very important." She said she hoped to have another hotel in the county by then and said she would hoped to add a lodging tax for the unincorporated areas of the county in anticipation of the anniversary.

Luring tourists is all about marketing the county's historic sites and activities, she said. "I've always said, if a Pet Rock and a Hula Hoop would sell, you can sell anything," she said.