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Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women: About Rome & Georgia

Berry's Got Louisa!

BOOKS @ MEMORIAL LIBRARY

ROME IN THE 19TH CENTURY

Rome is the county seat of Floyd County, Georgia, and was founded in 1834. It developed as a trade center at the confluence of three rivers, the Oostanaula, the Coosa, and the Etowah. As suggested by the rivers' names, the community has a strong Native American heritage predating the forcible removal of native people from the area in the 1830s.

The Chieftans Museum in Rome was the home of Cherokee leader Major Ridge, who was among the group which signed the Treaty of New Echota, selling the Cherokee land to the United States in exchange for land in modern-day Oklahoma. In May 1838 the U.S. government began placing the Cherokee in stockades; by fall they began the forced march to Oklahoma that became known as the Trail of Tears.

Many prominent Rome business owners and officeholders advocated an 1860 "non-intercourse" campaign to boycott Northern-made products. In February of that year the Rome Courier gave much space to these views, opposing the pacifistic stand taken by its rival newspaper Southern & Advertiser. A mass meeting of citizens at the Rome city hall on December 3, 1860 resulted in a resolution demanding that all "personal liberty bills" affecting slaves be repealed and that fugutives be surrendered by abolitionist groups that provided sanctuary for escapees. Included was a stipulation that slave owners be granted the right to settle anywhere in the nation without freeing their bondsmen, and that laws giving free Blacks the right to vote in congressoinal and presidential elections be abrogated. On January 16, 1861, delegates to the Georgia Convention of Secession, including those from Floyd County, voted to secede from the Union.

In June 1864, U.S. Gen. William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 16 forbidding recruiting officers to enlist blacks who were employed by the army in any capacity. Despite Sherman's opposition, the enrollment of black soldiers began in occupied areas of northwestern Georgia under authority of Col. Reuben D. Mussey, the commissioner for the Organization of U.S. Colored Troops in the Department of the Cumberland. Most activity took place between July and September 1864, when the 44th U.S. Colored Infantry was stationed in Rome. By late summer, the 44th contained some 800 black enlisted men commanded by Col. Lewis Johnson, who was white.

Oil painting by Peter Blume, "The Two Rivers," 1943, at Federal Building, Post Office & U.S. Courthouse, Rome, Georgia