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Great balls of fire! Two Southern Belles on new Civil War tour

Two of the South’s most famous belles—each of whom are connected to one of the world’s most beloved writers—are being feted this year in a special program. Margaret Mitchell, herself something of a Southern Belle, brought the inimitable Scarlett O’Hara to life in 1936 in Gone With the Wind and, in 1923, recorded a bridesmaid’s memories of the 1853 grand wedding affair of Mittie Bulloch to Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (They would become the parents of Teddy who would become the 26th president of the United States). This year, both belles are the talk of the town (and wouldn’t Scarlett just love that!) in “Southern Belles to Rebel Yells,” a new downloadable self-guided tour of the Civil War attractions in Roswell and Marietta, two historic burgs in Atlanta’s metro area.

The cutest little trick in shoe leather
Of course Scarlett needs no introduction. Her fictional escapades are as well known to popular culture as her affinity for bonnets and brandy. And as the most famous belle in fiction history, it’s only fitting that this diva holds court in digs of historic proportions: The Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square is tucked with flourish into a former cotton warehouse—the circa 1880s Thomas Warehouse building.

Inside are costumes and jewelry, signed first editions of the novel and contracts belonging to the actors, movie props and scripts, scene drawings, posters, photographs and dolls—a fitting tribute to Mitchell, her famous novel and the filming of one of the most popular movies ever made. Of special note is the Bengaline Gown worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett in the honeymoon scene wherein the Dixie diva recalls no-nonsense Mammy calling her and Captain Butler “mules in horse harness.”

This being the 70th anniversary of the filming of the movie “Gone With the Wind” makes it an especially significant time to visit the museum. You can watch scenes from the film classic during your visit—it runs continuously—and read about the heady days of the movie’s 1939 premiere in Atlanta.

Ice cream? In 1850s Georgia?
Roswell’s southern belle never appeared on the silver screen, but she was remembered by the future Gone With the Wind author in an article entitled, “Bridesmaid of 87 Recalls Mittie Roosevelt’s Wedding,” that appeared in the June 10, 1923, issue of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Magazine. In the story, written under the byline of Peggy Mitchell, she puts to paper the memories of Mrs. William Baker, Mittie Bulloch’s best friend and, at the time of the interview, the only surviving bridesmaid at “one of the prettiest” weddings ever.

Real-life Southern belle Mittie Bulloch grew up in the gracious white columned Bulloch Hall. The circa 1839 home, described as one of the most significant houses in Georgia and one of the South's finest examples of true temple-form architecture with full pedimented portico, was built in 1839 by Major James Stephens Bulloch, grandson of Georgia’s Revolutionary Governor. It was here, in a dining room festooned with flowers and vines and filled with family and childhood friends, that Mittie took Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.’s hand in marriage. After the ceremony, guests were treated to ice cream—a rare delicacy then and a first for this part of Georgia—with ice brought all the way from Savannah for the occasion.

Today, visitors may explore the house with its gleaming period furnishings and hear about President Roosevelt’s visit to his mother’s childhood home on docent-led tours. One of Mittie’s little silver hand fans is on display in the Museum Room and, on its grounds are reconstructed slave quarters.

Following the belles and rebel yells
Both Bulloch Hall and the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square are part of the “Southern Belles to Rebel Yells” self-guided tour that wends through Roswell and its 640-plus acres of vintage homes and historic sites (122 acres of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and through Marietta, a town laying claim to no less than five National Register Historic Districts, as well as an old-fashioned town square known as Antebellum Square.

Both towns have made-to-order backdrops for the Civil War attractions on the tour which include battlefield tours and a re-enactment. The latter is held at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park each year on the weekend nearest June 27 and feature infantry, artillery and Calvary demonstrations. There are history, special interest and antebellum house museums—including the home where Mrs. William Baker lived. That is Barrington Hall, built in 1842 by town founder Roswell King and his son Barrington and today recognized as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival Temple architecture in the country.

Also on the tour: ghost tours on foot and by trolley; off-Broadway theatre in an old cotton warehouse; a new giant mill wheel stationed in Roswell’s Heritage Center that recalls the women mill workers General Sherman arrested and banished North to an uncertain fate; appropriately atmospheric cemeteries chockfull of both Union and Confederate departed; and a Teaching Museum that is all about being hands-on and includes its own tribute to at least one of the belles in its Decades Room.

FOR INFORMATION about accommodations, shopping and dining, contact the Historic Roswell Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1-800-776-7935, www.visitroswellga.com and the Marietta Welcome Center and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-835-0445 or www.mariettasquare.com.
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