Yesterday I had the honor to take the tour of the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta Georgia. You may say so what, it is just a cemetery with dead soldiers. That would be true but there is much more to the story. This day is a very special day for this particular cemetery because this day they carry it much further. This is a special day because people dress up in Civil War era clothing as actual people who lived during the war. They tell their stories and relay what their lives were like during this horrific time in our history. They tell their story and the stories of those buried there. There was even a woman there who told the story of her great-great grandmother.
The story of those buried there are intriguing but the story of the cemetery is interesting in itself because it came into existence because of a nearby train wreck which killed many soldiers. The problem back then was that most of the time the soldiers were buried locally where they died and many were unknown. The local people took it on to themselves to donate land and provide the soldiers with a decent burial and grave.
Originally the grave markers were just carved wooden planks. Unfortunately wood isn’t very permanent and with the proximity to the railroad tracks caused many of the markers to burn to the ground from the sparks from the passing trains. Then others just rotted away over time and the actual locations of many have been lost. All the graves are marked but who is actually buried in each one is not known. The local caretakers took it upon themselves to replace the markers with plain marble headstones so that they grave sites would at least be marked. For these reasons many more became unknown over time but at least every soldier had a decent grave and a marker to remember that they had been alive and had fought in the war.
The cemetery has a lot of history but the story doesn’t end there. This part of the Marietta Cemetery is dedicated only to those who served in the Civil War on the Confederate side of the conflict. Because of the racism of the time it was only for the white soldiers, no black soldiers were allowed to be buried there. However there is one black man buried there. His story is one of the most interesting of all the stories to be told about the cemetery. He was a slave that was sent off to war, to serve as a valet for his master’s son while he was fighting in the war. But he was much more than just a slave to the son because the son grew up with him at his side, he was more a friend than a slave. The son became a captain in the Confederate Army and then made his “servant” friend the drummer for the unit. The drummer’s name was William H. (Bill) Yopp. But his story doesn’t stop with the war because he had a great life after the war he traveled extensively and worked in many different positions. He finally retired to the Confederate Soldiers Home in Atlanta. His devotion and friendship with Captain Yopp never waned even to their retirement and eventual deaths. He retired there with his old friend Captain Thomas M. Yopp where they both eventually died. He was nicknamed by the soldiers as “Ten-Cent Bill” because he did a very wide range of chores for them and he always charged 10 cents.
Because of his skin color he was not allowed to be buried in this cemetery. The locals and his friends didn’t accept that and fought to make him an exception. They won the fight and as a result he was buried there in 1936 to become the last resident of the Confederate Soldiers Home and only black person to be buried there.
The story doesn’t end with just the soldiers because there is even more to be told. There once was a military academy just down the street that was considered to be the west point of the south. Sherman made it one of his primary targets for destruction when he marched through Georgia. He burned it to the ground and in a later battle he captured one of their cannons. He turned it into a war prize and dragged it home with him. It was his most prized trophy and he proudly displayed it for all to see. It finally took an Act of Congress in 1910 to have it returned to Georgia where it was proudly placed in the cemetery. The best part is that they intentionally positioned the cannon so that it sets on a hill pointed at the Union Cemetery. To this day it is still on guard against the Union Army.
If I was to say that the tour was an enlightening experience it would be an understatement. It was one of the best two hours that I have spent on any tour in a very, very long time. The place is nicknamed the “Garden of Heroes” which is a name that it indeed lives up.
There are many fallen soldiers there who died and were buried without any fanfare or pomp and circumstance. The locals even went so far as to go out to the battlefields to dig up those soldiers who died on the field of battle, after the battle was long over of course. The soldiers back then were usually buried right where they fell. The locals wanted to give them a proper burial and so they did. This was no easy task because many times the soldiers’ graves were already trampled and unrecognizable. But they didn’t care how hard it was because many of the locals had lost their own in the war and they never came home. This was their way to feel better about their lost sons, fathers, cousins, brothers, uncles and friends. They did what they had hoped others had done for their lost.
The cemetery has over 3000 Confederate soldiers buried there. It consists of Confederate soldiers from all the Confederate states as well as from the states of Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri. They all have stories to tell but unfortunately most of their stories are lost to us. There was a record kept of the known names but there actual burial site wasn’t recorded. A monument was erected and the known names were engraved into the marble so their families could at least know that their loved ones had been given an honorable burial.
You have to remember that this cemetery was created by the locals who were still living there during the war. What you should also know is that the locals were mostly women because all the able bodied men were gone off to war. It was and has always been because of the compassion of a small group women from Marietta that this Cemetery stands today.
The stories you hear will also honor the women who were the driving force behind the creation and care of the cemetery over time. One particular character was portrayed my a fellow colleague of mine. She did an excellent job, as did all the people involved. The person I refer to is Laura Jean Van Mever I would have not known about the event and I am indebted to her for that. Thank you Laura. But all of the characters were not only in the clothing of the time but they were also in the mind set which gave you a true window into their characters.
If you are ever in Marietta Georgia you should stop by and pay homage to these fallen soldiers and to the honorable people of Marietta who have shown that they have compassion for total strangers.
This article was written by Bertrum J Meisner Jr. I am not a professional writer. I am just a common every day laborer like most of you. I write from my heart, logic and life experiences. I am a devout Constitutional conservative and Christian. My only degree is in life experiences, which comes from a lifetime of learning from life. I derived my education from being part of this great nation and that has given me more of an education than I could ever get from any text book. I love this country and everything it is supposed to stand for. I write to bring it back to its roots and to help stop the destruction that is coming to this country both morally and physically.
Bertrum James Meisner Jr
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