Wednesday, May 01, 2019

At cemetery in Resaca, Georgia, a detour into soul of South

Clad in Confederate gray, a drummer and fifer play Dixie. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
Melea Medders Tennant holds a copy of an image of  Daniel, John and Pleasant Chitwood 
of Company A of the 23rd Georgia. Daniel is her great-great grandfather.  Company A was known
 as the "Bartow County Yankee Killers."
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My Sunday road trip plan is simple: Hike a trail at the Resaca battlefield in northwestern Georgia, then briefly visit the Confederate Cemetery nearby. Drive to another battleground. Return to Nashville. Instead, I take a 90-minute detour into the soul of the South.

A program for Confederate Memorial Day Observance
 at the Confederate Cemetery at Resaca, Ga.

A man in white shirt greets me shortly after I park my car near the cemetery. “Hello, handsome,” he says, surely in jest. In the gravel lot, 28th Georgia reenactors await instructions from their commander.  At the stone cemetery gateway, their comrade stands at attention, a Civil War-era replica musket by his side.

Big day, another reenactor tells me, it's Confederate Memorial Day Observance. “Are you going to stay for the ceremony?” he asks. “Oh, no, I need to head down the road to Chickamauga.” I tell him.

And so I begin my slow walk through the cemetery.

Under a canopy of tall trees, visitors find gravestones for the Confederate dead of Resaca. More than 450 soldiers, mostly unknowns, rest in the 2 1/2-acre grounds. A miniature Confederate flag adorns each grave. A large, white stone cross memorial atop a mound of earth serves as the cemetery centerpiece. “To the unknown dead,” read the words inscribed on the crossbar.

On a gray, granite memorial stone a few yards from the entrance, an etching of a photo of an angelic-looking young lady mesmerizes. Mary Green is buried elsewhere, but the spirit of the Resaca woman surely lingers on the grounds.

A memorial stone for Mary J. Green, the driving force behind the Resaca (Ga.) Confederate Cemetery.
Confederate reenactor Darrel Wilson stands watch near the cemetery entrance.
28th Georgia reenactors fire a salute in honor of Confederate dead.
Local United Daughters of the Confederacy president Melea Medders Tennant puts her hand over her heart
while a wreath is placed at the foot of the cemetery memorial.
Shortly after the war, Union dead from the Battle of Resaca on May 13-15, 1864, were removed and re-buried elsewhere. Confederate fallen lay neglected in makeshift graves throughout the battlefield -- in fields, in woods, on hillsides and even on the Green family's farm near the Conasauga River. Determined to give them a decent burial, Green and other family members formed an association that led to the creation of the cemetery in 1866. Mary's father, a railroad superintendent, donated the land.

Adorned with a Confederate flag, the grave of a known soldier 
from the 17th Alabama. Most of those buried in the cemetery
are unknowns from the Battle of Resaca.
By 1:45 p.m, a few dozen people, mostly locals, are gathered. A 30ish man with long hair sits on a low, stone wall bordering the cemetery. Pinned to his tan sport jacket are two Sons of Confederate Veterans ribbons. Others sit on small, white folding chairs near the cross memorial. One of them tells of his Confederate ancestor. Captured in Mississippi, he says, he joined the Federal army.

Promptly at 2 p.m., the ceremony begins. Eyes turn to three flags, the staff of each embedded in the ground. The Pledge of Allegiance is followed by a pledge of allegiance to the Georgia flag. Then comes an acknowledgment of another symbol: "I salute the Confederate flag with affection, reverence, and undying devotion to the cause for which it stands ..."

I listen intently to a few opening remarks by the great-great-granddaughter of a private in Company A of the 23rd Georgia, the "Bartow County Yankee Killers." Lifelong Resaca resident Melea Medders Tennant remembers the cemetery as a place for picnics. "Awe-inspiring," she calls it. Then the president of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy glances at the stone archway at the front of the cemetery.

Sons of Confederate Veterans ribbons.
 "I always felt like I have stepped back in time," Tennant says, "when I go through that gate in the rock wall."

This sun-splashed Sunday is much like the long-ago cemetery dedication day. "What a beautiful day the Lord has made," says John Biddy, commander of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter.

Steps from markers for unknowns, 28th Georgia reenactors fire three "honor volleys in memory of our Confederate veterans."

As a large wreath is placed at the foot of the memorial cross, Tennant puts her hand over her heart. A fifer, drummer and banjo player play Dixie. "Oh I wish I were in the land of cotton. Old times there are not forgotten," attendees sing.

A Baptist preacher gives a benediction, invoking Robert E. Lee and Gettysburg. Eager now to see more of the Resaca battlefield, I say good-bye to new acquaintances.

What an experience. What questions I have.

At the center of the cemetery, a memorial cross honors unknown Confederate dead.

-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

3 comments:

  1. Love the way you hit the backroads for the backstories, John. Your reporter instincts are always showing, and they, along with what you write, set you apart when it comes to telling the Civil War today. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, this made my day. Thanks for the kind words...

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  2. I hope the south will always remember and revere their sons who fought and died in that struggle

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