The Women of Kennesaw Mountain
By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.,
Happy Birthday, U. S. A.!
July 4th is a celebration of how we became a nation. It reminds us that there were events in the past which gave us that we now take for granted. It is easy to forget such things when we did not have to earn them ourselves.
Let me tell you a story about another struggle for independence. It is dedicated to the men and women who fought our wars and those who remembered their sacrifice.
Atop Kennesaw Mountain Georgia you can see for miles in all directions. The mountain is the centerpiece of the Kennesaw National Battlefield Park located near Marietta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists have came to Kennesaw to hear the story of the battlefields and walk the many paths of history. When the north wind blows, you can almost see the soldiers of blue and gray and the storms bring sounds much like the cannons of old. There are ghosts here with a story to tell. Do you have the time to listen?
People who visit Kennesaw come home with a deeper respect for the history of those who fought there for the Confederacy and the Union. Their armies clashed on and around the mountain in June 1864. The deaths were many with 3,000 Union and 1,000 Confederate killed in one day. It was Union General William T. Sherman’s worst defeat in his campaign to capture Atlanta and split Georgia in half.
Years later, veterans on both sides came together in reunions of friendship. Those soldiers, North and South, each had their reasons for the war. Though their different reasons led to our country’s worst war, all of them prayed that the future would not forget why they fought.
After the battle, the women of Kennesaw helped bury the dead as their sisters would later do around Atlanta. These women would form organizations to see that their loved ones were not forgotten. They made sure that the truth of the war was taught in the public schools and that monuments were erected.
The Kennesaw battlefield, like those at Gettysburg, Shiloh, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Sharpsburg, Vicksburg, First Manassas and Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Bentonville, Nashville, Franklin and many other such places is covered with monuments that call out for us to remember.
Each one of those monuments took a special effort of time and money by battle participants and their families and friends to place a remembrance at a certain spot where they fought and their comrades died. At each of these American monuments, millions of tears have been shed by thousands of broken hearts.
These people are all gone now. But these battlefields and these monuments remain. And they are worth remembering.
Forty-three years later in 1908, America was at peace. The first Ford Model T came off the assembly line that year. Joel Chandler Harris, famed author of the Uncle Remus stories, died on July 3, 1908, in Atlanta, Georgia.
America was 132 years young on July 4, 1908. Three days later, on Tuesday, July 7, 1908, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Ladies Memorial Association, of Marietta, Georgia, unveiled a new Confederate Monument at the local cemetery. Marietta Confederate Cemetery, is home to 3,000 Southern soldiers. These sons of 14 Southern states rest under the shade of many beautiful trees.
Fourteen Kennesaw girls were selected by the two ladies’ groups to represent each state. They were selected from Marietta families who knew and appreciated their heritage. Each girl wore a ribbon of one of these states. Emma Hedges was among those young ladies honored. She would go on to become a loved and respected school teacher.
All businesses closed and people began to make their way to the cemetery on that July 7th afternoon. They came by the thousands in horse drawn carriages which raised clouds of dust on the dry unpaved roads. Everyone dressed like it was Sunday.
The crowd saw many ex-Confederate soldiers attired in their old uniforms. These men of 1861-1865 came to remember their young comrades on this special occasion. They had lived long lives. Now they came to remember young boys and men who had sacrifice their young lives to defend their homes and families.
The ladies of the UDC began their program which included the playing of patriotic songs. The Gem City Band inspired the people with such songs as the all time favorite "Dixie."
Speeches were given by such noted people as Georgia’s Governor Hoke Smith and former preacher and Confederate General, Clement A. Evans.
When the monument was unveiled, men took off their hats. The women bowed in prayer. The old soldiers saluted.
The local paper reported: "The white shaft reflecting the sun, the newly erected Confederate Monument represents and imposing spectacle and attracts the attention and admiration of all passerby. It is a beautiful piece of work, twenty feet high with a base of ten square feet, of the well known Elbert County granite."
The 14 Kennesaw girls had their picture taken with General Evans. The picture was made in front of the monument. These Kennesaw girls were:
Aimee G. Glover for Maryland,
Ruth McCulloch for South Carolina,
Page Anderson for Louisiana,
Julia Anderson for Florida,
Emma Hedges for Virginia,
Linda Anderson for Kentucky,
Jeanette Black for Georgia,
Carrie Phillips for Arkansas,
Augusta Cohen for Texas,
Cora Brown for Tennessee,
Pauline Manning for North Carolina,
Sue Green for Mississippi,
Lois Gardner for Alabama and
Sara Patton for Missouri.
When the veil fell from the monument and it was revealed for the first time, the crowd became silent. You could hear the birds and a light whisper of leaves as the wind moved through the trees. It was a special silence.
That special silence would be repeated 96 years later in Charleston, South Carolina.
In April of this year the last crew of the Confederate submarine Hunley was buried with over 50,000 in attendance. The funeral parade covered over four miles and some think it may have been one of the largest parades in our country’s history.
When the caissons bearing the remains of the Hunley crew passed by this massive crowd, they would go silent just as had happen in 1908. All you could hear was the wheels of the caissons and the steel heels of the soldiers at their sides. All along the four mile route, many took off their hats. Many bowed their heads. Many, especially old soldiers, saluted.
Two events are so far apart. Yes, in years the distance is great, but in the heart and soul there is no separation. We do remember.
Next time, come and remember with us. Let us not forget.