Camp McDonald’s significance to Kennesaw and Cobb County was as a Confederate
training camp during the Civil War. It was one of four large training camps
in Georgia where several thousand soldiers musterd and trained during the first three years of the war. More than 3,000
men from the famed Phillips Legion commanded by Colonel William Phillips
trained there in the summer of 1861.
The location of the camp was at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw) and was important because of
the abundance of water and railroad activity (lodging, freight) that provided
a location for training, means and point to move troops to the war. Camp McDonald was comprised
of about 60 acres, but had no permanent structures, mostly tents. The center of the camp
was generally that of the current park, where many of the springs and streams were located.
Around this area was the arrangement of tents, training areas and parade
Big Shanty was also significant as the beginning point of Andrews Raid on April 12, 1862
that was made famous by Walt Disney’s film, “The Great Locomotive Chase”.
Union raiders led by James Andrews captured a train pulled by the “The General”
that lead to the dramatic 88 mile chase from Big Shanty to just north of
Ringgold, Georgia. The raiders were pursued by Confederates in a second locomotive
“The Texas” and eventually were captured and executed. Six of the seven raiders
were the first soldiers to receive the Congressional Metal of Honor. Andrews
was not eligible because he was a civilian.
Camp McDonald was named after the 29th governor of Georgia, Charles J. McDonald, by
then Gov. Joseph E. Brown in June 1861. Gov. McDonald was born in Charleston,
SC on July 9, 1793. In the early 1800’s he moved to Bibb County, Georgia
and practiced law and politics. After serving several terms in the Georgia
House and Senate, he was elected to two terms as governor in 1839 and 1841.
He later served on the Georgia Supreme Court from 1855-1859. McDonald’s business
interests included textile mills near Sweetwater Creek in present day Douglas
County (the mills were destroyed in 1864 by William T. Sherman). The area
and ruins are now Sweetwater Creek State Park. In 1859, due to poor health,
McDonald retired to his home in Marietta, known as Kennesaw Hall. Gov. McDonald
was a supporter of state’s rights and a southern confederacy, he was an elector-at-large
on the Breckenrige presidential ticket in 1860. McDonald died on December
16, 1860 and is buried in the Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta. The Kennesaw
Hall was burned during the war and the site was later occupied by Governor
Dr. Philip Secrist submitted an application for Camp McDonald's historical significance
in 1980 and the remaining undeveloped land was listed on the National Register
of Historical Places. The low laying area around the springs and streams
made the area difficult to develop while Kennesaw’s downtown grew around this portion
of the original camp. The property dodged many attempts to be developed in
recent years and in 2009 Cobb County purchased 3.85 acres and another 3.65
acres was donated for greenspace and use as a passive park.
Today, the City of Kennesaw, Cobb County and Friends of Camp McDonald Park are committed
to preserving the site and it’s history for the benefit of its citizens and future generations.