A refreshed Cyclorama: This time, Yankees win the Battle of Atlanta

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The Battle of Atlanta cyclorama. Atlanta History Center.

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The fatal melee in Charlottesville over the weekend, which grew from a Saturday gathering of white supremacists around a threatened statue of Robert E. Lee, has prompted another round of scrutiny of Confederate symbolism in Georgia.

This morning, Stacey Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor, called for the removal of the giant carving that depicts three Confederate war leaders on the face of state-owned Stone Mountain, saying it “remains a blight on our state and should be removed.”

Part of a series of Twitter messages posted this morning:

“The removal of the bas relief of Confederates from Stone Mountain has been a constant debate since the state bought the property in 1958.”

Abram’s history is more than slightly off. In another Twitter message, she writes that the carving on the mountain dates to 1915. It was completed in 1972. But it’s the first time the issue of the carvings has been raised in a statewide political contest.

Elsewhere, as reported by the AJC’s Christian Boone, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will soon make a decision on petitions seeking to re-brand streets such as Confederate Avenue. A change.org petition seeking to change the name of the road in the Grant Park neighborhood had attracted more than 4,000 signatures as of Monday evening.

Then there’s the matter of the “peace monument” in Piedmont Park, which was defaced by “antifa” protesters. The statue celebrates post-Civil War reunification – but its origins in 1911, at the height of the Jim Crow era, are a reminder that African-Americans weren’t a party to that celebration.

And yet it would be wrong to suggest that this re-examination is solely a response to a violent clash at the University of Virginia.

A repaired and restored Cyclorama, the in-the-round mural depicting the Battle of Atlanta, is on the verge of making its debut at the Atlanta History Center – having been moved from its site near Zoo Atlanta.

The mural has unusual history. It was originally commissioned as to mark an important Yankee victory in the war – and might have been used in a U.S. presidential campaign, had the retired Union general who ordered it up not died before the work was finished.

The diorama shifted from hand to hand, drifting southward. The city of Atlanta acquired it in 1898, and the heroic paean to one of Billy Sherman’s generals quickly became something of a shrine to a Confederate victory.

That was “fake news,” Sheffield Hale, CEO of the Atlanta History Center, told the Buckhead Business Association last week – before Charlottesville.

According to BuckheadView, Hale told the business leaders that in the newest iteration of the Cyclorama, “the North will win the battle each and every time.”

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