According to Margaret Mitchell, the “shooting of the Yankee” at Tara stirred lots of conversation and brought many bags of letters commending and condemning the stories inclusion in 1936. I grew up near the Fitzgerald property and heard many an “old timer” say that the shooting occurred in that house during the Late Unpleasantness (the name the little old ladies of the area called the Civil War in the later days) but I was never shown any proof. Many years later I was contacted by Histories Mysteries Television Series regarding a story they wanted to do on the Fitzgerald Property and they asked, “for a story that needed proof”. I of course asked for their help from their forensics team regarding the shooting and was told they really only “proved things that were provable” in other words they would not do the work if we did not already know the answer….which seemed like a good time for me to end the phone conversation and get back to reality.
But do we really need a forensics team to answer the question of the truth of the tale? Well according to local history their “may” have been a shooting of one of Sherman’s Bummers at the Fitzgerald Plantation during the time they were operating in the area during the 1864 Battle of Jonesboro. In fact when the house was moved to the Talmadge property there was found in a wall a U.S. belt buckle as worn by Sherman’s men along with a day book which told of the farms activity. Also, the late Betty Talmadge would tell a tale of the “dead Yankee buried in the brush arbor” on her Lovejoy Plantation grounds. According to Ms. Betty, one of the Crawford women (original owners of the Talmadge Plantation) took offense to the prying northern visitor and gave him a southern welcome, (this was just south of the Fitzgerald Property so maybe this is the same Yankee shot and buried twice?). And in Jonesboro I have an affidavit saying a couple of Kilpatrick’s Yankees were killed and buried in a local family’s cemetery (maybe the same Yankees killed and buried a third time?). And then there was Margaret’s answer to one who asked of the stories origin. Margaret stated that, “I am certain the incident happened on numerous occasions in the area but I believe the story I used was from General Wilson’s raid into Alabama”.
Today when I walk into the old dairy barn that houses the Tara façade I can look at the remnant of that cathedral window that stood at the landing just behind Scarlett as she answered the Yankee’s request for more goods with, “you Yankees have been here before” before showing him what she had hidden behind her skirt. And even though I cannot absolutely say that the shooting of the Yankee at Tara was a tale from Margaret’s own Fitzgerald family history or that of a number of other places in the area, it adds another layer of truth to the lovely old piece of cinematic history there in that barn.
According to those I have interviewed that worked on the back lot during Hollywood’s Golden Age, the window in the barn is most likely the only one ever made and was simply removed from the Tara façade to be used on the sound stage and on a scaffold as the scene was being filmed so today there is but one place to stand and remember Scarlett in that scene, and it is with the cathedral window of Tara in the old dairy barn south of Atlanta. I look forward to seeing you there very soon.