Sunday, April 20, 2008

Woman trying to give identity to unknown Confederate soldiers

Monroe County's citizens made a great contribution to the Cause. Their care of the sick, wounded and dead will live on in the annals of time. In the wake of Sherman's march to destroy Georgia, the wounded had to be moved to points of safety. First a few of the wounded were sent to Forsyth; but after the battles in Atlanta, Jonesboro and Stone Mountain, the numbers swelled to 18,000 or more. Every shelter available was used: the courthouse, the old Lumpkin Hotel, stores, private homes, the Monroe Female College and the Hilliard Institute. When all available space had been consumed, tent hospitals were set up in groves near the railroad.
Mrs. Ella Palmer, a nurse attached to the staff of General J.B. Palmer, gave an eloquent account of just one instance of this terrible time in our history. She describes in detail how the kind people of Forsyth met the arriving trains in their wagons and buggies. Those great and loving citizens of Monroe County gave their all to help care for the soldiers who were wounded and dying. Adjoining the Sneed tent hospital was what has now become the Confederate Cemetery of Forsyth.
In 1889, the Ladies Memorial Association of Forsyth began the movement to erect marble headstones over their graves in the Confederate Cemetery in Forsyth. Two hundred ninety nine Confederate soldiers, one nurse (Honora Sweeney), and one Federal soldier were buried in the Confederate cemetery. The plot of ground containing the wooden markers with numbers and names of the dead was destroyed by fire in September of 1883, hence the words "Unknown Confederate Soldier" was placed on the stones.
With encouragement from the editor of the "Monroe Advertiser", J. T. McGinty (also a Confederate Veteran) and the first donation of $50.00 by W.A. Darter of Fort Worth, Texas (whose brother, James I. Darter, is buried in the cemetery), the project was underway.
As the result of much effort, the Vermont marble headstones were erected by the Georgia Marble Finishing Works of Canton, Georgia in 1893. The footstones were installed and a speaker's stand with a roof was erected in April of 1902.
On April 4, 1917, Mrs. George Newton, President of the Memorial Association, made out a deed to the Confederate Cemetery to Mrs. Charles W. Center, President of the Cabaniss Chapter, UDC. It was recorded October 18, 1917 in the Monroe County Courthouse in Deed Book 38, page 301. The Cabaniss Chapter # 415, United Daughters of the Confederacy has faithfully and lovingly cared for the final resting place in all the years hence.
Linda Hallman of Thomaston, Georgia began early on in her hobby as a researcher to find an interest in The War Between the States. She came in possession of an apparent list of Confederate soldiers in the late 1980's sent by a gentleman in Virginia. Along with the list, he simply stated that he was too old and too tired to continue and wanted someone to have this list. Upon closer examination, Linda discovered the list actually identified Confederate soldiers who died and were buried in Forsyth, Georgia. Of course, her first thought was, "Can this information possibly be true after all this time?" She has since undertaken verification of each name on the list by carefully checking exisitng records. In fact, she actually has been able to identify even more soldiers than appeared on the original list.
It is here that we must pause and appeal to all those interested in Southern history to help us with any information about the boys buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Forsyth, Georgia. Please be generous and share what information you have! She will gladly answer all questions by emailing Linda Moore Hallman. Linda is a member of the Cabaniss Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Forsyth, Georgia. She currently serves as the Project Coordinator for the restoration of the Confederate Cemetery in Forsyth City Cemetery. She is Regent (1997-2000) of the John Houstoun Chapter, National Daughters of the American Revolution, Thomaston, Georgia. She and her husband, Ed, have resided in Crest Community, Upson County, Georgia since 1975. Linda is employed by Thomaston Mills, Inc. in Thomaston, Georgia. She is authoress of A Genealogical Sketch of the Scott Family of Morgan County, Tennessee, copyright 1990. She co-authored with her husband, Record of Interments for Rose Hill Cemetery of Bibb County, Georgia, 1840-1871, copyright 1998. Ironically, she marched among the tombstones of the Confederate Cemetery as a member of the Mary Persons High School Marching Band in the middle 1960's; she having graduated there in 1966.
This web page is dedicated to her mission and is an account (sometimes inaccurate) of the news media coverage and various individuals and organizations interested in preservation of Southern history. Many thanks to the volunteers who have made this project possible. Parts of this introduction were taken liberally from the pages of Monroe County, Georgia, A History, by the Monroe County Historical Society, Inc., Forsyth, Georgia, copyright 1979. The news articles are transcribed by the webmaster verbatim.

The gravestone of Honora Sweney, the nurse who died at the hospital and is buried next to the young men she tended. Her gravestone has since been replaced with a new gravestone.

Linda at Home with Her Boys
Linda Hallman double checking new stone placement. Notice we have a ways to go before we are through! To the left of Linda is a beautiful tall oblique monument placed there for James I. Darter, Company C, 24th Texas Cavalry, (d: August 21, 1864). Photo taken by Ed Hallman November 1997.

A second view of the cemetery taken in ca 1994.

View of Forsyth Cemetery, Confederate Section before the project began. Photo taken by Linda Hallman ca 1994

In 30 years, the Forsyth, Ga., native has found the names of 175 men buried in a 300 - lot grave of unknowns.
Associated PressForsyth, Ga.
Linda Hallman was touched by the 300 graves in Forsyth Cemetery that bore identical headstones: "Unknown Confederate Soldier."
She spent more than 30 years trying to find the names of the men., and with the help of other researchers she's been able to identify about 175 of them. So far, 100 new markers have been erected at the cemetery, and more are on the way.
Hallman said she first noticed the graves in the early 1960's, when she read the historical marker erected next to them in the cemetery. At the time, she was a member of the marching band at Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, north of Macon in central Georgia.
"We used to practice up there (near the cemetery) because the football team had the field," she recalled. "It always bugged me that so many men had died without anybody knowing their names."
The soldiers came from all over the South and were brought to Forsyth on cattle cars to be treated in crowded hospitals here in the summer of 1864. Their graves were dug in a 50 - square - yard plot of red clay, in 12 even rows.
Hallman, who graduated from Mary Persons in 1964, joined the United Daughters of the Confederacy and began searching records in Atlanta and elsewhere, hoping to find the names of the soldiers who died while being treated in Forsyth. She also met with other researchers, who led her to more material.
The turning point came a few years ago, when a Virginia man who said he was "too advanced in age to do more research" sent her some valuable information, she said. It was a list of names culled from the reports of Edward Fluellen, chief surgeon of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Army of the Tennessee.
Using those papers, Hallman has now identified about 175 of the soldiers.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - which provides new marble or granite headstones for the graves of American soldiers, including those who fought for the Confederacy - has provided markers for the graves, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans are installing them.
SCV members from Forsyth and nearby Thomaston replaced 50 of the 1930s - era "unknown soldier" headstones last weekend - including one Pvt. Joseph D. Ridley, 6th Florida Infantry, who died Aug. 22, 1864. Another 50 were replaced last year.
Jack Grubb, commander of the Thomaston chapter, said he hopes to finish the work within a couple of years, as fast as the government can send the stones.
The exact location of each body is unknown, but the volunteer workers are certain that the names on the new stones match those buried in the cemetery. They hope future generations will help maintain the markers.
(This article was sent to Linda Hallman from a lady in the Order of Robert E. Lee, Ladies Official Ladies Corps, SCV chapter from Senoia, Coweta County, Georgia shortly after the publication of the story in the Macon Telegraph.)

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