Confederate wall of honor to be dedicated

By Ralph Ellis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Three thousand soldiers rest in the Marietta Confederate Cemetery, but nobody knows who lies in most of the graves.

Thanks to the foundation that helps maintain the cemetery, a thousand of those soldiers’ names have been rescued from the fog of war and the passage of time.

Their names have been carved into smooth granite blocks placed in Brown Park, a level space at the bottom of the hillside cemetery. The 32 tons of granite are part of a visitation area that includes a gazebo, a pair of bronzed boots representing the unknown dead and a semicircle of flags from the Confederate states.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, the “Wall of Honor” will be dedicated, said Betty Hunter,  chairwoman of the cemetery foundation. Groups of uniformed Civil War re-enactors are expected to attend.

“I feel almost at last that these soldiers’ ancestors can finally find their graves,” Hunter said. “I feel good about that.”

The Marietta Confederate Cemetery Foundation and the Friends of Brown Park raised about $100,000 to help purchase the granite and 10 marble benches. Attached to the benches are  small bronze sculptures of iconic objects such as  a woman’s  fan and a soldier’s hat. The state kicked in a $75,000 grant.

“A lot of the improvements are built on sweat and local effort,” said state Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta), who helped funnel state grant money to the cemetery.

The Confederate graveyard is one of the largest south of Richmond and has existed since 1863. After the war, a group of women worked to bring home Confederate dead from North Georgia battlefields, such as Chickamauga, Ringgold and Kolb Farm.

Numbered wooden markers were placed on the graves, but a grass fire apparently destroyed those markers and a house fire the corresponding list of names, Hunter said. That left only a partial list of names in the hands of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Hunter and others started with that list when they set out to determine the names of the dead. They confirmed names and spellings through regimental rosters.

Today, most of the graves are marked with small, rectangular marble blocks with no inscription. Marked gravestones have been placed on a handful of graves and a grouping of graves for men who lived into the 20th century, mostly residents of the Confederate Veterans Home in Atlanta.

The state government maintains the Confederate cemetery. Fallen Union soldiers were buried about a mile away in the Marietta National Cemetery. That site has more than 18,000 graves, many from after the Civil War, and is maintained by the federal government.

© 2009 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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