Fencing in a chapter of history|
Confederate groups honor 55 dead with historical marker, iron enclosure
By Patrice Stewart
DAILY Staff Writer
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Women in antebellum dresses and hats, gun-carrying re-enactors clad in Civil War uniforms, and Masons in funeral finery were in the cemetery to honor 55 men who died about 143 years ago.
They don't even know the names of most of those buried in the Confederate part of Decatur's City Cemetery. But the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans wanted to do what they could, so they raised about $6,400 to install a black wrought-iron fence around the graves and erected a historical marker.
DAILY Photo by Dan Henry|
Joe Wheeler Chapter No. 291 United Daughters of the Confederacy members April Crews, front, and her grandmother, Edith Hammond, dressed in period costume for Tuesday's dedication ceremony at Decatur City Cemetery.
At the unveiling and dedication ceremony Tuesday, they celebrated their successes and looked back. "For many years, April 26 had
been the day set for Confederate Memorial Day, and we wanted this event to be held on that day," said Kay McCarley, president of Joe Wheeler Chapter No. 291 of United Daughters of the Confederacy.
When 13 Decatur area women formed the chapter in 1899, the graves had been neglected and unmarked for more than 40 years since the Confederate soldiers under the command of Albert Sidney Johnson moved through Decatur. While en route to Corinth, Miss., they died while fighting Federals or from previous wounds and sickness.
The early UDC goals were to mark the Confederate graves in the southeast corner of the City Cemetery, build a monument near the courthouse and support the Confederate Veterans Home near Montgomery.
After years of saving butter and egg money, as well as the donations and proceeds from silver teas and other events, McCarley said her predecessors had enough money to place 55 headstones. The women and the Horace King Camp of United Confederate Veterans dedicated the markers June 3, 1903.
"Today we are reminded that nothing is ended until it is forgotten," said McCarley. She said her research found that the women wanted to plant old-fashioned white carnations, or dianthus, on the 55 graves, but the cemetery staff advised against it because of the upkeep required. Even in the early 1900s, she said, "Southern women were very opinionated, so they voted to do it anyway."
Only two of the graves have been identified: John R. Palmer and Isaac Beard, Company B, 6th Arkansas, who was a Master Mason and has descendants in Texas. As part of Tuesday's ceremony, members of Rising Son No. 29 Masonic Lodge of Decatur gave him a proper Masonic funeral ceremony.
Recently, Thomas Whitman, past commander and treasurer of Sons of Liberty Camp No. 580, Sons of Confederate Veterans, shared information with other states. He placed a small sign in the cemetery after determining that three other men in the cemetery — Sgt. John R. Hopkins, Cpl. James E. Patrick and Pvt. Jacob Hubbard — were part of the 12th Louisiana Infantry who were killed in action at Decatur on Oct. 28, 1864.
Whitman also saw the need for restoration of the Confederate cemetery, so the Sons of Liberty and United Daughters of the Confederacy joined hands to plan and raise funds for the project. Three from each group served on the committee: Whitman, Bernie Malkmus and Rand Pickell, plus McCarley, Judy Blackwell and Sarah Gray.
Whitman, who researched and submitted paperwork to the Alabama Historical Commission so the Confederate cemetery could be listed on its cemetery register, also helped clean it, straighten headstones and arrange for fencing and marker. McCarley and state President Connie Foster presented him with UDC's Stonewall Jackson Service Medal for significant contributions by non-members.
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