While researching another project, I came across a couple of interesting notes concerning the burning of Atlanta during the American Civil War, or rather, the parts of the city that didn\'t burn. The Union army captured the city of Atlanta in 1864, and General Sherman decided to make a statement of warning to the rest of the confederacy by burning the city down. However two men, a doctor and a priest, conspired to make sure that at least some parts of the city were saved.

The first of these was Father Thomas O\'Reilly, a catholic priest who had been serving in the city since the beginning of the war. During the final battle around the city, O\'Reilly had spent his days helping the ambulance teams that brought Confederate soldiers back from the battlefield. When Atlanta fell O\'Reilly decided to stay. He quickly became popular among the Union troops, especially the large contingent of Irish Catholics. When O\'Reilly learned that Sherman had ordered the city burned, he went to see General Henry Slocum a member of Sherman\'s staff. He told Slocum that burning churches was a sin against heaven, and more to the point, he would order the excommunication of any soldier who carried out the act. When Slocum reported this to Sherman, the Union Commander decided to spare the churches and the city hall, going so far as to post guards around these buildings and not burning any of the other buildings in the vicinity less the fire spread. Because of this 400 buildings were spared the torch.

Meanwhile, Father O\'Reilly\'s friend, Dr. Noel d\'alvigny was engaged in a little deception to save the Atlanta Hospital. Although all the wounded Confederate soldiers had been evacuated already, Dr d\'alvigny dressed up the remaining hospital staff as patients then got them drunk on whisky. When the Union soldiers arrived to burn the hospital, Dr d\'alvigny showed them the “patients” who hadn\'t yet been evacuated. The Union soldiers gave the doctor one more day to get the patients out. However, the next day the Union Army marched out of the city and the hospital was spared. Today this building stands as part of the medical college of Emory University. Dr. Noel d\'alvigny (who apparently won the Legion d\'honneur as a teenager in Napoleon\'s army) was used as the basis for the character of Dr. Meade in “Gone With the Wind.”