The military history associated with the Chattahoochee Valley is a subject I’ve mentioned previously. Thanks to a generous donation from the Hallock Foundation, Columbus State University now boasts a military history program of study. Dr. Dan Crosswell holds the chair and is working hard to establish the program as a major offering at CSU.
I think that’s great. Because of the obvious connection to Fort Benning, a lot of people with more than just a passing interest in military history will pass through our area. An example of Dr. Crosswell’s efforts will be two speakers who give presentations open to the public in December.
A critical element in analyzing the actions of leaders and soldiers on any battlefield is understanding how the terrain looked to them. Over time, trees grow, roads move and buildings are constructed or torn down. Without an appreciation of the way the ground looked to the combatants, their decisions and actions can sometimes make little sense.
Dr. Anne Knowles, who teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont, has become an authority on “spatial humanities.” By using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Knowles can reconstruct the characteristics of the terrain when a battle was fought. Her work at the Gettysburg battlefield has been especially important to provide new lessons regarding the opposing commanders’ actions there. Seeing the terrain as the soldiers saw it is a fascinating idea, and a means of clarifying a battle outcome.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Our own Battle for Columbus is one example. The accounts available that indicate an ability to see parts of the city from certain vantage points do not always seem clear given the way the ground looks today. However, taking into account the changes in the terrain makes the actions and outcome much easier to comprehend. Knowles will speak at the auditorium in the Center for Commerce and Technology on the CSU main campus at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1.
George Patton is a well-known World War II figure who commanded the 2nd Armored Division while stationed at Fort Benning. You can see the division headquarters building and a small building he used for sleeping quarters as part of the World War II Street display at the National Infantry Museum. Captain John Nelson Rickard has become an authority on operations during World War II. His recently published book “Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge” provides an analysis of Patton during the Battle of the Bulge. Patton’s ability to reorient part of the Third Army virtually 90 degrees while in combat in order to attack the southern flank of the Germans resulted in the relief of the forces encircled at Bastogne, Belgium. Rickard will speak at the National Infantry Museum Grand Hall on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.
These speakers are among the initial highlights of a growing military history program at CSU. With the National Infantry Museum, the Civil War Naval Museum and the Fort Mitchell Historic Site, we are blessed with a remarkable set of museum facilities that can enlighten all of us.
The addition of the Armor and Cavalry Museum (when funded -- write your legislative representatives) will do more to enhance the attraction of the local area for anyone with an interest in military history.
Reaching out a few more miles brings in the prisoner of war museum at Andersonville. The museum at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins also is worth a visit.
The CSU military history program holds the promise of bringing world-renowned expertise in the field to the Valley as well. Whether considering the combination of these opportunities from an academic or tourism angle, the potential impact on the area, economically and even culturally, is profound.
Whether you have any direct connection to this military heritage or no formal connection, these museums and the scheduled and future speaking programs are worth your patronage.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence is not going anyplace anytime soon. Recognizing and paying tribute to this military connection to the Valley will help us all understand a major part of our history that continues to influence the present.
John M. House, an independent correspondent and retired Army colonel living in Midland, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.