McDowell votes for Secession
During the period just prior to the War Between the States, Barnesville gained notoriety when their beloved Dr. George Montgomery McDowell, M. D., represented Pike County at the secession convention in Milledgeville in January 1861. Being an ardent supporter of secession, he voted in favor of Georgia casting her lot with South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida in leaving the Union. Upon his return to Barnesville, he was elected the first captain of the newly formed militia unit known as the Barnesville Blues. This unit was active in the War Between the States, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. The local unit of the National Guard was named for Brigadier General Homer Sappington, the last commanding officer of the unit when it was de-activated after World War II. General Sappington was a native son of the area.
The War Between the States brought colorful action to the area. In 1864 a supply "up train" from Macon collided with a troop "down train" from Atlanta about four miles out from Barnesville at Lavender's Crossing. About thirty people lost their lives and many more were seriously injured when these two trains, the "Governor" and the "Dispatcher" collided.
War Hits Home
The town also saw action between the 41 Indiana Cavalry, a unit of Wilson's Raiders and the Dixie Rangers in a skirmish on the outskirts of town on April 19, 1865. In addition, one of Sherman's flanks 10,000 strong came to town and camped on the edge of town on May 15, 1865 while pursuing President Jefferson Davis.
Field hospitals were set up at the depot, in the Methodist and Baptist Churches, in the schoolhouses, and in tents along Zebulon and Forsyth Streets. The sick and wounded troops which were evacuated from Atlanta were sent by rail to field hospitals. These field hospitals were set up along the railroad in each little community where the train stopped. Most of the troops sent to Barnesville were casualties from the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Jonesboro and Love Joy Station. Those who died in the field hospitals here in Barnesville were buried in the Confederate section of Greenwood cemetery.
Slow Economic Times
As many of the grown men left for "the fight" to defend their economic and social life, the village of Barnesville came into slow economic times. Manufacturing turned toward support industries and little growth took place. By the end of the War, Barnesville's population was about 800 people.