A panoramic photo from atop the city’s Female Institute in 1864, and the same view from the present-day Sheraton Hotel on Courtland Street.

Part 5: Today

Not dwelling on the past

Did Atlanta ever consider preserving its battlefields?

Atlantans rebuilt their homes and businesses with a mythical zeal. While other Southern cities, such as Richmond and Charleston, seemed trapped by their tragic past, Atlanta wasted little time trying to forget the war and embrace the future.

That civic philosophy, however, helped Atlanta become something of a Civil War anomaly. Of all the major engagements that determined the war's outcome, Atlanta is the only one without a portion of its battlefields preserved.

In the century that followed, Atlantans were willing to trade historical significance for greater economic growth.

The phoenix city

The destruction wrought on Atlanta in 1864 was worse than virtually any other Southern city. But that didn't stop Atlanta's post-war growth. This line chart compares Atlanta's rapid growth with other cities of the Deep South that had populations under 50,000 at the start of the Civil War.

Sacred ground

Because the fight for Atlanta took place in several locations over six weeks, the cost in human life is often overlooked. If you total the casualty figures for the five major battles, Atlanta would rank among the war's 10 deadliest struggles. The other nine are among the 30-plus Civil War battlefields that are at least partially preserved by either the National Park Service or state governments.

10 Bloodiest battles of the civil war

= 100 acres

Where to go

Only a few direct glimmers remain of what took place here 150 years ago. If you look closely, you can find them. In addition, there are several related historic sites and museums for you to explore in the metro area.

1864 vs. 2014

Even the most active imagination would have trouble matching the scarred Atlanta of 1864 with today's international city of asphalt and steel. But by using 19th-century records and 21st-century technology, it is possible. Place your cursor (or finger) over the image, click and drag the slider back and forth.