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Civil War raid on Conyers focus of historian's program

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Special Photo ---- On July 22 at 10 a.m., Civil War expert and author Robert C. Jones presents a program on Union Brig. Gen. Kenner Garrard's raid on Conyers Station in July 1864. During the event, which takes place at the Conyers Depot, Jones will also sign his several books on the Civil War.

While the Civil War brought about paramount changes in the U.S. such as the abolishment of slavery and the expansion of the federal government, perhaps an even more crucial result of the war proved to be that the fledgling democracy didn't crumble, said Civil War author Robert C. Jones.

"The Union was saved and that, probably even more than the Revolution, defined America, that it would last, that it would survive," Jones said.

Jones is an expert on the Civil War, specializing in Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's invasion of Georgia, and while he doesn't hold a degree in history, his independent research on the subject at the Library of Congress and subsequent publication of 15 books on aspects of the Civil War has kept him busy as a sought-after speaker.

At 10 a.m. on July 22, Jones will visit the Conyers Depot, located at the corner of Railroad and Center streets in Conyers' historic district, to discuss a raid that took place at that location during the Civil War. The presentation is sponsored by the Rockdale County Historical Society and is free and open to the public.

During the raid, Union Brig. Gen. Kenner Garrard led about 3,600 men into the area on July 22, 1864. About 50 men invaded the small town of Conyers, burned the railroad station -- known as Conyers Station -- to the ground, and destroyed a train and locomotive. The rest of the men dispersed nearby destroying bridges and tearing up railroads in Conyers and Covington. They also took 16 Confederate soldiers prisoner.

Before leaving, they stole some liquor and got drunk, said Jones.

"This is known as foraging liberally," he said.

The raid is considered part of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign to destroy the city, and is separate from his March to the Sea, which took place in November, explained Jones. Still, for a town as small as Conyers was at the time, Garrard's raid must have left a big impression.

"If you are a citizen of Conyers, you're probably going to remember that a long time and you'll tell your children and they'll tell theirs. This is the first time the war comes to Conyers and Covington," said Jones.

President of the Kennesaw Historical Society since 1993 and director of programs and education for the Kennesaw Museum Foundation, Jones said his interest in the Civil War began at age 7 when his father took him to a monument in Gettysburg. He saw his family name, Jones, inscribed on the memorial.

"I think I was very impressed that a relative of ours' name was on this big monument," said Jones, whose family members fought for the Union.

When Jones moved to the Kennesaw area in the 1980s he realized he lived in the area where the Great Train Locomotive Chase took place, an April 1862 incident in which Union raiders hijacked a train and were pursued by members of the Confederacy. His interest in the subject led him to join the historical society.

Since retiring in 2009 as a technical writer for Hewlett Packard, a company for whom he worked for 25 years, Jones has devoted himself full time to writing and speaking. Some of his books include, "The Fifteen Most Critical Moments of the Civil War," "Retracing the Route of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and March to the Sea," "The Battle of Chickamauga: A Brief History," and "The W&A, The General, and the Andrews Raid: A Brief History."

Jones said he is fascinated by the war, which cost the country 700,000 lives, and left an imprint that forever altered the country.

"I think the Civil War has so much to do with who we are today as Americans. Past is prelude," Jones said.