Established in 1777, Liberty County changed its seat twice in fifty years, first moving it from Sunbury to Riceboro in 1797. After a majority of voters supported moving the county seat from Riceboro in 1836, Liberty County's state senator Charlton Hines introduced legislation to establish a new seat within one mile of a place known as the General Parade Ground, which had been used by the county militia for drills and musters. This spot was more centrally located and was readily accessible to the Gulf and Western Railroad. In 1837 the new county seat was named Hinesville in honor of Hines.
Hinesville's history during the Civil War (1861-65) includes a series of skirmishes in and around the town. With nearby Midway and Flemington under the control of the Seventh Illinois Infantry, Hinesville was a target for scouting and raiding parties. During a raid on December 1, W. P. L. Girardeau, ordinary of the county, was shot and severely wounded as he stood on the courthouse steps.
On December 16, the Seventh Illinois rolled through Hinesville. There they met a detachment of cavalry from Confederate general Alfred Iverson's Army of Tennessee. After a skirmish through town, the Confederate detachment withdrew, and the march continued. Two days later, the Battle of the Altamaha Trestle, the bloodiest in coastal Georgia, took place, and the march was complete.
Liberty County was left devastated and in a state of chaos. Most plantations and farms in the county were destroyed, and citizens were hungry and destitute. Many people left in the wake of the march, afraid that displaced Confederate soldiers and freed slaves would loot and rob the area. The courthouse in Hinesville was deserted, and the naval stores industry ground to a halt.
After the war, the area had no schools for white children, but Dorchester Academy, an all-black school, opened. In 1870 Bradwell reopened both the Poor School, a public school located on the outskirts of town, and Hinesville Academy, renamed Bradwell Institute after his father. The institute quickly became famous throughout Georgia for its high quality. The curriculum was the "highest grade in the country," meant to "supersede the necessity of sending our boys and girls abroad to acquire finished educations." The school grew from 63 to 465 students by 1938. Today Bradwell Institute is a public comprehensive high school.
Hinesville's economy improved in the 1930s, so there was much to celebrate at the town's centennial in 1937. But nothing could prepare Hinesville, which had just hired its first policemen, for the events of 1940. That year a huge tract of land (280,000 acres) adjacent to Hinesville was selected to be an antiaircraft training site for the U.S. military. The new base was named Camp Stewart in honor of Liberty County's Daniel Stewart, the great-great-grandfather of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the wife of U.S president Franklin D. Roosevelt.
By 1944 Camp Stewart teemed with 55,000 soldiers in the buildup of troops before the D-Day invasion. The city rushed
Lasting Impact of Fort Stewart
Eugenia Barrs Cox, Low Country Cooking: A Collection of Recipes from Liberty County and the Georgia Low Country (Hinesville, Ga.: Liberty County Historical Society, 1988).
Virginia Fraser Evans, comp., Liberty County, Georgia: A Pictorial History (Hinesville, Ga.: Liberty County Board of Commissioners, 1979).
Thomas Layton Fraser, Back When: A Biography of Joseph Bacon Fraser and Maria Boulineau Fraser of Hinesville, Georgia, and Their Children (Clinton, S.C.: privately printed, 1976).
Robert Long Groover, Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of Liberty County, Georgia (Roswell, Ga.: W. H. Wolfe Associates, 1987).
James Barlament, University of Georgia
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.