March 17, 2008

Tornado Seriously Damages Atlanta's Civil War-era Cemetery

Included in the damage were marble columns and angels at the site of Georgia's Civil War Gov. Joseph Emerson Brown (see picture) — but apparently didn't shred a leaf from a nearby willow oak. Full story here.

A recent book entitled Historic Oakland Cemetery covers the park's history. According to the publisher: "To learn about a community's past, the city cemetery is the place to visit. As Atlanta's oldest permanent landmark, Oakland Cemetery holds the past, present, and future history of the Gateway to the South. Established in 1850 as a small municipal cemetery on the southeastern edge of town, Historic Oakland has evolved into 88 acres of art, history, architecture, gardens, and peaceful green space in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 as a significant example of an historic Victorian-era cemetery, Oakland is the final resting place of more than 70,000 deceased. People of both statewide and national importance have been buried throughout the cemetery's grounds in the past 150 years, including author Margaret Mitchell, golfing legend Bobby Jones, Confederate generals and soldiers, Georgia governors, Atlanta mayors, and ordinary people known only to their families.

Focusing more on the Civil War is Headstones of Heroes: The Restoration and History of Confederate Graves in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery. This hardcover was publsihed in 1997 and is readily available in the secondary market.

The grounds also boast what is referred to as the Confederate Memorial Grounds. This section is the final resting place for approximately 6,900 Confederate soldiers including 3,000 unknowns. Through much of the Civil War, Atlanta hospitals overflowed with men wounded in battles to the north. The largest cluster of wartime hospitals was within half a mile of the cemetery. As fighting moved closer to Atlanta and deaths mounted. Land adjacent to the Cemetery was secured as a Confederate burial ground. After the war, several thousand soldiers who had fallen in the Atlanta campaign were moved from battlefield graves to Oakland. Approaching this area from the main gate, the Confederate Obelisk provides an orienting landmark. The 65-foot monument, made of Stone Mountain granite, was dedicated in 1874as a project of the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association. For years it was the tallest structure in the city.

Marked military graves occupy a large central rectangle south of the Obelisk. Included are the headstones of 16 Union soldiers who died in local hospitals. Another area of marked Confederate graves lies along Oakland’s southern wall. Northeast of the Obelisk, the unknowns are guarded by the “Lion of Atlanta.” Modeled after the Swiss “Lion of Lucerne.” The Lion was carved in 1894 from the largest block of marble quarried in Georgia up to that time. For the nameless soldiers, the dying lion rests on the flag they followed and “guards their dust,” in the words of a commemorative poem.

To the northwest of the obelisk, three Confederate generals are buried: John Brown Gordon; Alfred Iverson, Jr.; Clement Anselm Evans. Generals Lucius Gartrell and William Stephen Walker are buried on family plots. Also within the grounds are Bell Tower Rdige, which is considered the highest point in the cemetery and the second highest point in all of Atlanta. A historical marker indicates that this was the observation point of Confederate Commander John B. Hood as the Battle of Atlanta raged to the east.

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