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Georgia's historic sites bring the past to life

Though Georgia's past can be explored at the library and on the Internet, there's nothing quite like a visit to one of the state's many historic sites. From historic homes to Civil War battlefields, these places help show what life was like for people long ago.

For families, a trip to one - or more - of Georgia's many historic sites would make an ideal weekend getaway that is both fun and educational.

America Indians in Georgia

When embarking on a tour of historic sites, the Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville are a good place to start. American Indians began building these earthen mounds in about 950. The 54-acre site on the Etowah River, which now includes seven mounds and a museum, was once home to a thriving village of Mound Builder Indians.

In Blakely, the Kolomoki Mounds site features seven earthen mounds built between 250 and 950 by the Swift Creek and Weeden Island Indians. Outdoor activities at the site include camping, boating, fishing and swimming.

American Indian history can also be explored at New Echota site in Calhoun. New Echota became the capital of the Cherokee Nation in 1825, before the Cherokees were forced to move west on the Trail of Tears.

In Chatsworth, the Chief Vann House offers another look at Cherokee History. The house was built in 1804 by James Vann and was the first brick house in the Cherokee Nation. The house is filled with antiques and hand carvings.

Civil War history

Georgia has many Civil War historic sites. The A.H. Stephens State Historic Park in Crawfordville is home to a Confederate museum which houses a collection of war artifacts. The park was named for Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who was the vice president of the Confederacy and a governor of Georgia. The home of Stephens, restored to the style of 1875, is open for tours.

Pickett's Mill Battlefield in Dallas is considered one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields in the United States. At the site, visitors can walk along roads once used by Confederate and Union troops and see earthworks constructed by soldiers.

Another Civil War site is the Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site in Fitzgerald. Davis was the president of the Confederacy. In May 1865, Davis was in Georgia making an attempt to unite rebel forces. While camping in a pine forest, he was surrounded by two groups of Union cavalry and taken prisoner. The site where Davis was captured is now home to a Civil War museum and a monument commemorating the capture of Davis.

Plantation life

The Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick shows what life was like on Georgia's rice coast in the early 1800s. This plantation was created by William Brailsford of Charleston who settled in Georgia on the marshes of the Altamaha River. Rice was cultivated on the land until 1913.

The plantation home includes 18th-century and 19th-century furniture, Cantonese china and fine silver. The plantation's one-mile trail winds through a maze of live oak trees and marshes.

Cotton farming is also part of Georgia's agricultural history. The Jarrell Plantation in Juliette offers a look at cotton farming. Built in 1847 by John Fitz Jarrell, this plantation grew to 600 acres and was farmed by 39 slaves.

After the Civil War, the Jarrell Plantation expanded to 1,000 acres. In the late 1800s, the farm included a gristmill, sugar cane press and syrup evaporator. In 1974, the site was donated to the state.

Did you know?

•Only 9 percent of the Etowah Indian Mounds site has been excavated.

•James Vann, whose home is now a historic site, killed his brother-in-law in a duel, fired a pistol at dinner guests through the floor of an upstairs bedroom, and once even shot at his own mother.

•In 1864, a Confederate victory at the Pickett's Mill Battlefield resulted in a one-week delay of the Union troops' advance on Atlanta.

•Confederate President Jefferson Davis was taken prisoner in Georgia and was held for two years in Virginia.

For more info:

•Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites

http://www.gastateparks.org

•Georgia Department of Natural Resources

http://www.gadnr.org/