January 31, 2010
Flagging down tourists and history
During the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies would place towers along high points, including the ridges around Dalton, and use flags to communicate with soldiers spread out over large areas.
“They called them wig wag towers. They put these towers on ridges — say from Chattanooga to Dalton — and using those flags they could tell if something was happening in Chattanooga all the way back to Dalton,” said local Civil War enthusiast Marvin Sowder.
Now, some history buffs are talking to local officials about recreating some of those towers to draw attention to the area’s rich Civil War history.
“The idea is to have three towers on three of the highest points around Dalton, preferably where they were during the Civil War. And these towers will display the history of how they used the flags,” said Dalton architect Kenneth Harless, who is helping to design some of the towers.
Harless said he is just beginning to research the towers. The idea calls for making them look as historically accurate as possible.
“Obviously, given modern building codes, we aren’t going to make them out of logs and have wooden stepladders going to the top,” he said.
Harless said the original towers were between 100 and 150 feet tall.
“From what I’ve been told, the ones around Dalton were probably closer to 100 feet,” he said.
Harless said his idea is that when people climb to the top of the towers there will be maps and arrows pointing towards sites that were important during the Civil War. There will be brief explanations of what happened at those places.
Dalton city administrator Ty Ross said having one or more of the towers along Rocky Face Ridge could help catch the attention of drivers along I-75 and perhaps get them to come to Dalton and learn more about the area, especially if the towers are lighted at night.
Sowder said the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, which starts in 2011, could increase Civil War tourism.
“Anything that could help preserve and draw attention to our Civil War heritage might help bring people in,” he said.
Dalton City Council member Charlie Bethel says the idea is still in the early stages of discussion, few details have been decided on and there’s no commitment to it yet. There’s no consensus on how many towers would be built or where they would be located, for instance.
“I’d say it’s more of a concept at this point than a project,” he said.
One big question that no one can answer yet is how much it would cost to build the towers.
Dalton Mayor David Pennington said that would be a major consideration.
Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb said he’s concerned about the costs as well. He said he’s also concerned the towers could be magnets for vagrants and vandals.
“When things are remote like that, my concern is about how do you protect them,” he said. “I want to know that.”