2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
The month of April was a big month in the life of the book and movie, Gone With The Wind. It was on April 15, 1861 that the fictional O’Hara family attended the Wilkes’ Barbecue and Scarlett O’Hara heard the dreaded news that Ashley Wilkes was indeed going to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton. It was also at the Wilkes’ Barbecue that she first laid eyes on Rhett Butler. Remember that dramatic scene in the movie where Scarlett looks down and notices the dashing, handsome Rhett Butler looking up at her?
Gone With The Wind, the 1,037 page novel penned by Margaret Mitchell was a fictitious story, but as my new book, The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story Of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind (www.GWTWbook.com) points out, much of it was based on real happenings in either Mitchell’s life or the lives of people she knew. Mitchell, who was a brilliantly talented writer, worked hard to write a novel based on real historic events surrounding the Civil War, which started in April and ended in April.
It was April 12, 1861 that the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War; and April 9, 1865 that it ended when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. What happened in between and shortly thereafter was the subject of Gone With The Wind, known worldwide simply by the initials, GWTW.
According to new information found in a Mitchell family scrapbook, uncovered for the first time in my book, many of the events that happened to the O’Hara family of Gone With The Wind, actually happened to the Fitzgerald family–ancestors of Margaret Mitchell. The scrapbook featured pictures from the 1800’s some of which are displayed in the book.
Union General William T. Sherman, who pulled off the famous “March To The Sea” led his army through Clayton County causing destruction in its path. As described in Gone With The Wind, many Southern families lost their homes and loved ones. The real-life Fitzgerald family had a mother whose name was Ellen, and was catholic. As it turns out, Sherman’s wife (who was also catholic) was named Ellen, and according to a Mitchell cousin when he saw a crucifix hanging on the wall inside the door to the Fitzgerald home, he ordered his men to spare the house–just as the O’Hara house had been spared in GWTW. The fictional Ellen O’Hara and her daughters were in bedrooms upstairs, sick–just as Ellen Fitzgerald and her daughters had been in real life.
Real Civil War events were important to the storylines in GWTW, including the Battle of Jonesboro, which was the area of Clayton County that Mitchell knew about. Her great-grandparents and great-aunts had lived through the Civil War and Mitchell had grown up hearing about it from her grandmother and great-aunts.
Jonesboro is a small town just 12 miles south of Atlanta. Margaret Mitchell’s relatives lived near there in “the newly formed County” as she described it in her book. Clayton County is so proud of its GWTW heritage that their tourism website is http://www.visitscarlett.com. In 1969 Margaret Mitchell’s brother, Stephens Mitchell gave the area the right to call itself “Home Of Gone With The Wind.” The old depot in Jonesboro has been turned into the Road To Tara Museum and houses GWTW memorabilia.
Tourists looking to find memories from Gone With The Wind, either the real Civil War history or the movie and book history, have a haven in the Atlanta area. There is the Margaret Mitchell House, a Mitchell exhibit at the Public Library, and her gravesite all in Atlanta. The Holliday-Dorsey-Fife Museum in Fayetteville provides great history involving the real people behind the book; and in Marietta, GA there is a GWTW museum on the town square called “Scarlett On The Square.” Sixty miles north of Atlanta, in Adairsville, GA is a lovely resort made from an old historic plantation called Barnsley Gardens. There is a museum there which tells a story and mentions that Margaret Mitchell used to visit the plantation and may have based some of her descriptions on it.
All of this is written about in detail in The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story Of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind which is available through the webstie http://www.GWTWbook.com.
I spent three years doing research and interviewed over 70 people for the book. I found it to be so interesting that I would like to share some of the things I learned in this blog about Gone With The Wind. I hope you will tell your friends about this blog and also the Facebook page with the same name, which I will update whenever I have a new blog entry.
If you like reading about history you might enjoy Tom Barnes’ Rock The Tower blog which you can find through Google. He wrote Doc Holliday’s Road To Tombstone in which he talks about Jonesboro and the connection to Gone With The Wind.
I encourage you to look at the website dedicated to my book: http://www.GWTWbook.com and feel free to e-mail me with any questions. Thanks for stopping by!