John Shearer: History Of Confederate Cemetery Told Through Markers On Site

Sunday, August 20, 2017 - by John Shearer

Saturday morning, a few students at UTC could be seen walking along East Fifth Street and past some newer buildings getting ready for the start of another school year.
 
Across East Fifth Street, though, the scene was very quiet. But the discussions around town about that site have not been.
 
Here between the Citizens Cemetery on the west side and the smaller Jewish Cemetery on the east sits the Confederate Cemetery.
 
It was in the news Friday after Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced that the city was trying to make sure it is no longer listed as a trustee of it.

According to records, the city had been listed as one in 1942 by a local court order.
 
The move comes after violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend over protests and counter-protests over plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in that college town. The incident has started removals or calls for removals of Confederate monuments around the country, due to the fact that many people consider them representations of a racist past.
 
The NAACP has also called for the removal of the 98-year-old bust to Confederate Lt. Gen. and former Chattanoogan A.P. Stewart on the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn.
 
The Confederate Cemetery by UTC will likely continue to operate much as it does today with the continued help of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other groups of descendants. But the city wants to make sure it is not connected with it.
 
So that begs a further question – what all can be found in the Confederate Cemetery other than the remains of former Confederate soldiers? It turns out several interesting markers and memorials are there, including the grave of a black man.
 
A look at it on Saturday revealed a well-manicured piece of land about 200 yards long stretching back to East Third Street in front of the landmark Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences and about 50 yards wide.
 
It appeared to be better kept than the larger and adjacent Citizens Cemetery, which had one or two trees and several limbs scattered about the grounds.
 
The gates to the Confederate Cemetery from both streets were locked, but it can be easily visited from some steps leading up from East Fifth Street into the Citizens Cemetery and by walking a few feet east through the grass.
 
The Confederate Cemetery is a historian’s or researcher’s dream, because it has markers telling much of its general history. Going down to the library and spending much time trying to find old documents or newspaper articles are not required here.
 
One marker erected by the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in November 1913 on the 50th anniversary of the Civil War battles in Chattanooga said that those buried there came from 11 Southern states.
 
It said most of them died in Chattanooga hospitals from wounds received both at the Battle of Murfreesboro in late 1862/early 1863 and during the time from January through early September in 1863. The latter was when the city of Chattanooga was evacuated by Confederate troops.
 
The marker also said that a few known soldiers from the Chickamauga battle of September 1863 and the battle of Missionary Ridge in November 1863 are also buried there.
 
Some were also brought there after their remains were uncovered during highway or building construction in the years after the war. 

Also buried there, the marker said, are two Union soldiers who died while being held prisoners of war in Chattanooga. A tall American flag sits next to their marker, as do smaller ones by each grave. One of the two soldiers is from Michigan. 

Also buried there are a hospital nurse and a black Confederate soldier, both of whom are unidentified. The latter’s grave simply says, “Negro Man CSA,” which stands for Confederate States of America.

That was just a marker, but the actual resting place of the soldier, Shaderick Searcy, was found covered under some dirt and grass in March 2016 by cemetery maintenance workers. He was a slave whose two Georgia masters were both killed in the Civil War. He lived until 1937.
 
There are also a number of other tablets/markers in the cemetery mentioning those who died and are apparently buried there. There are several tablets to soldiers from Alabama, as well as at least one to soldiers from Texas. The main marker said that work was paid for by Mrs. Frances Fort Brown of Chattanooga.
 
Also in the cemetery is a large obelisk marker that simply says, “Our Confederate Dead.”
 
A marker inside the large stone gate alongside East Fifth Street said the entrance was put up in 1901 by the Daughters of the Confederacy, Chapter 81. The reason, it said, was to honor and recognize the valor and heroism that “our Confederate soldiers displayed in their battle for our beloved Southland.”
 
The marker does not say, but the gate, which features a metal Confederate battle flag on it, was designed by Lawrence Dickinson, some information found online says.
 
Also interesting in the cemetery is a pavilion/gazebo put up in 1920 by the A.P. Stewart chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the same group that donated the Stewart bust for the County Courthouse one year earlier.
 
Although many of the graves do not have markers other than the tablets listing the soldiers from particular states buried there, a few graves do exist. Some spouses also appear to be buried on the grounds and have stones.
 
The graveyard also has two markers and/or memorials put up within the last 20 years.
 
Also on the grounds are a pretty and old tulip poplar tree and some other hardwoods, including one or two dogwoods that appear to be in worse condition than the poplar.
 
The latter’s condition might be used to describe the state of the Confederate reminders right now in the eyes of many.
 
And that includes the Confederate Cemetery. It might not sit far from the center of town, but the city’s leadership apparently does not want it central in the life of the city.
 
Jcshearer2@comcast.net




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