Comments by Doc Lawrence

As a son of the South, my early and profound influences were formed largely through oral history and some very good books. I knew who fought with what army where in the War Between the States. I take pride in sharing DNA with some who did their duty and served these great armies and cavalries until all was lost. I supplemented my knowledge with even more books, notably "Life in Dixie During the War," by Decatur, Georgia heroine Mary Gay and, of course, Gone With The Wind." These could have satisfied my curiosity about life back then, but reading George Coletti's monumental new work "Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel," was an eye-opener, awakening me to how little I actually knew.

Prompted by Coletti's brilliantly told stories, I began visiting many of the places near my home. The Andrew Johnson cemetery, holding the remains of a Stone Mountain founding family, the Stone Mountain Cemetery with the mass graves in the Confederate section, an uncomfortable experience as you think of the wartime tragedy leading to such impersonal burial, knowing how their surviving families likely never knew what happened to them.

Grown men make war and everyone somehow loses something, a life, a few years of youth, a healthy body or hope. There are magnificent heroes in The Granite Sentinel to be sure, but the overriding sentiment is that war is senseless, attacking the core of our collective humanity. That's not to take anything away from the brave soldiers who gave their lives-my own family shares a similar heritage-but more a personal lament that any of God's children had to die unnaturally.

It takes a mighty effort to bring a reader's interest back to the events of long ago, but Coletti is equal to the Herculean task. The characters seem to leap from the pages grasping for a heartstring. There is a message: "Never forget us."

The United States approaches the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States and The Granite Sentinel is perfectly positioned to make these tumultuous events and brave, good people live once again through the power of good storytelling, something Southern writers have nailed down from time immemorial.

All the elements of greatness are drawn together in The Granite Sentinel: romance and love, loyalty and duty, chivalry and generosity, and most of all, honor. Reading the debate between two of the South's finest statesmen-orators, Alexander Stephens and Robert Toombs during Georgia's Secession Convention in 1861, is a stunning example of the remarkable power of language, history, law and love of place. Two men destined to lead the Confederacy, one as Vice President, the other as Secretary of State. One opposed to Secession, the other in favor. Both were close friends and shared a love for the South that transcended differences.

That's just one of the powerful lessons Coletti leaves us. The Granite Sentinel is profoundly important and belongs in the home library of all who love both the South and America.

Because of George Coletti's epic saga so skillfully produced in Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel, those who read this book may feel moved to answer the calls from those gray spirits that seem to still cry out.

"Rest now. We will not forget you."

Atlanta native Doc Lawrence is a veteran journalist whose columns on travel, Southern history and heritage, wine and food appear in many publications throughout the country. He resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

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