Chattahoochee River past, present: Two speakers part of Paddle Georgia

By David Pendered

Two local authorities are on deck to talk about the past and present roles of the Chattahoochee River as part of the annual Paddle Georgia festival.

Union forces seized a pontoon bridge to cross the Chattahoochee River during the Atlanta Campaign.

Union forces seized a pontoon bridge to cross the Chattahoochee River during the Atlanta Campaign.

The speakers are Tom Baxter, a political correspondent with SaportaReport, and Clarke Otten, a Civil War historian who focuses on Sandy Springs and overlooked aspects of the war – such as how the Union army crossed the river.

The free events are scheduled June 23 and 24 along the banks of the river at Riverview Landing, a former industrial tract in Mableton that’s to be retooled into a mixed-use community by the company redeveloping Ponce City Market in Atlanta.

Incidentally, Paddle Georgia 2014 is slated to cover 110 miles from Buford Dam to Franklin, a village in Heard County. Registration is closed for this year’s event, from June 21-27. Paddle Georgia provides additional information about the upcoming trip and registration for next year’s event.

A short distance north of the Civil War pontoon bridge at Paces Ferry, this modern bridge transports vehicles on I-285 across the Chatthoochee River. Credit: David Pendered

A short distance north of the Civil War pontoon bridge at Paces Ferry, this modern bridge transports vehicles on I-285 across the Chatthoochee River. Credit: David Pendered

Otten is to present, June 23 at 7:45 p.m., a multi-media presentation titled, “The Atlanta Campaign and the Chattahoochee: Soldiers battle one another and nature in one of the Civil War’s epic struggles.”

Otten is a self-taught Civil War historian who has made it a personal mission to document events of the Civil War that unfolded in and near Sandy Springs. Otten’s awards include the 2013 Spirit of Sandy Springs Award, from the Sandy Springs Society, and the first-ever Historic Preservation Award from Historic Sandy Springs.

Otten’s remarks promise to fill a niche in a summer of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battle for Atlanta. According to the flyer released by Paddle Georgia:

  • “While most Civil War enthusiasts are familiar with the battles at Kennesaw Mountain and at Peachtree Creek, few know the story of what happened in between. Sherman’s long-term objective was to take Atlanta, but until he crossed the Chattahoochee River it was only that, an objective.
  • “Learn how Sherman got his armies and their equipment across the last, yet formidable natural barrier, the Chattahoochee River when there were only three bridged crossings on the entire river – and other fascinating stories about the Chattahoochee’s role in the civil war.”
Journalist Tom Baxter is slated to discuss how the political landscape has shaped the natural landscape of the Chattahoochee River. Credit: David Pendered

Journalist Tom Baxter is slated to discuss how the political landscape has shaped the natural landscape of the Chattahoochee River. Credit: David Pendered

Baxter is scheduled to speak June 24 at an event that’s to begin at 7 p.m. with a recognition ceremony at which the Georgia Water Coalition is to commend state lawmakers who are viewed as champions of Georgia’s water resources. The segment’s title is, “The Politics of Water: Epic battles and endeavors to protect Georgia’s water.”

Paddle Georgia did not indicate which lawmakers will win the award for a legislative session that wasn’t viewed as a high-water mark among some environmentalists.

Baxter has served as a journalist for 40 years and is a frequent guest on CNN, in addition to his work with SaportaReport. Baxter is a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, at the University of Kansas, and served as the national editor and chief political correspondent at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Baxter’s remarks appear intended to pick up where Otten leaves off. According to the Paddle Georgia flyer:

  • “Baxter … will share stories and tell how Georgia’s political landscape has shaped its natural landscape – from tri-state water battles over the Chattahoochee to efforts to protect it and Georgia’s other natural treasures.

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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