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Jerry Summers: Confederate Cemetery(s)

Thursday, September 22, 2022 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

An unidentified anonymous source sent me a 24-page pamphlet titled “Roster of Our Dead Buried in Confederate Cemetery at Chattanooga, Tennessee.”  It was first published in 1894 which would be the era of the “Lost Cause” movement led by the Daughters of the Confederacy and other groups urged on by self-serving politicians to appeal to and memorialize the loss of a loved one during the Civil War in 1861-1865.

The August 21, 1894, document in 24 pages lists the names and companies served of 749 known and 156 unknown sons of the South from the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky that were originally buried in a “low unsightly spot.”

In reality there are two Confederate Cemetries in the area.  The one described above lies north of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus between that location of the old City High School on East 3rd Street.  There also exists the Mizpah Jewish cemetery in that location that was created in 1866.  It had originally been started in 1853 as the Hebrew Benevolence Association for Jewish immigrants.

The written documents described above contains four pages of commentary by another historical figure in Chattanooga who was identified as the Chairman of the N.B.

Forrest Camp Memorial committee formed in 1885 in the name of the general remembered both as the “wizard of the saddle” and the leader of the multiple executions of black prisoners at Fort Pillow in West Tennessee.  Finally, Nathan Bedford Forrest would be identified as one of the founders of the Klu Klux Clan in middle Tennessee.

His name was Joseph F. Shipp and he served as the Sheriff of Hamilton County from 1904-1908.  He served as a captain in the Confederate Army and after the war became a very successful entrepreneur in the manufacturing industry in Chattanooga.  By 1893 Shipp was allegedly known as one of the wealthiest citizens in Hamilton County.

Unfortunately, he was the Sheriff in 1906 who was in charge of the jail when vigilante justice took place in the rape case of a white woman by a negro, Ed Johnson, who had been sentenced to hang but the execution was delayed by the appellate process.

The complete story has been fully reported based on the original research and investigation conducted by the late City Court Judge Ellis Meachem (EM) (an acknowledged author of several books), and the award-winning publication Contempt of Court by respected writer Mark Curriden (MC) and well known attorney Leroy Phillips, Jr. (LP).  It was reported by a deceased attorney and actually corroborated by the lawyer’s son that EM turned over his background materials to LP who with MC turned the original unfinished product into an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for legal writing.

Due to his alleged conflict in the mob removal of Johnson from his custody and the hanging of the prisoner from the Walnut Street Bridge, Sheriff Shipp and several of his deputies were charged with contempt in the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., convicted, and he was required to serve a sentence of three months in a federal prison.  Upon his return to Chattanooga, it is alleged that he was welcomed home by a crowd at the train station estimated to be around 10,000 fans and supporters.

Throughout the rest of his life until his death on Sept. 18, 1925, at his home on Lookout Place, Shipp was a strong advocate for honoring the deceased Rebel soldiers buried in the two afore-mentioned cemeteries.

He urged the various State Divisions of the United Confederate Veterans to “furnish a Bronze with each comrade’s name and command cast therein the same to stand as a perpetual memorial to the memory of our heroic dead as shown by the written Roster.”

The receipt of the “Roster” in a plain manilla envelope provides significant historical data on one of the most prominent burial sites of Southern soldiers in Hamilton County.

The second collective burial plot is on the former William S. Standifer’s Farm in Silverdale at 7710 Lee Highway which in 1900 was reported to contain 75-100 Confederate graves in an abandoned cemetery.  Actually, there were approximately 155 soldiers buried there but due to deterioration of the wooden markers and lack of official records their identifies are “unknown.”

Over the years various degrees of interest have surrounded the final resting place of those who served but did not survive the end of the conflict.

At a veterans meeting in 1903 the sum of $75 was raised to purchase the large lot from Mr. Standifer’s widow in 1904.

In 1926 and 1934 additional funds and donations of materials resulted in a large concrete archway being erected over the entrance.  Allegedly local foundries donated cast iron signs that were erected but are missing in 2022.

A non-profit corporation was formed in 1979 titled the Chattanooga Area Relic and Historical Association but its corporate status was dissolved on Dec. 31, 1987.

Descendants in the sons of Confederate Veterans and others have maintained the upkeep of the area to the present.

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You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)

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