SCV dedicates 25 Confederate graves at Spring Hill Cemetery


SCV dedicates 25 Confederate graves at Spring Hill Cemetery

A small crowd of neighbors and history buffs formed near the front entrance of the Spring Hill Cemetery Saturday morning for the dedication of 25 newly marked Confederate graves.

A small crowd of neighbors and history buffs formed near the front entrance of the Spring Hill Cemetery Saturday morning for the dedication of 25 newly marked Confederate graves.

Speakers and city dignitaries sat under a small white tent behind a podium, just to the right of the rowed white stones that will now commemorate men who fell in the Battle of Thompson’s Station and Spring Hill.

The ceremony was organized by Commander David Cost of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Nathaniel Cheairs Camp. Cost and his Cheairs companions have been searching for more than a year for living relatives of the fallen veterans who could give them the official permission to file for and acquire stone markers from the Veterans Administration.

To lend the occasion some authenticity, visitors could see men and women in period dress all around the perimeter of the graveyard and throughout the cemetery. Members of several SCV camps as well as the Maury Light Artillery roamed the paths around the graves, preparing their equipment for a ceremonial salute. Ladies from the United Daughters of the Confederacy waited in the heat with their baskets of roses to adorn the new stones.

Just at 11 a.m., Cheairs Chaplain Gary Rice gave an invocation. Mayor Rick Graham offered an official city welcome. Cost then made his opening remarks, detailing how the members of the Sam Freeman Camp of the SCV in Savannah had first found an 1866 newspaper article that listed the names of 39 hitherto unknown soldiers who were reported to have been buried at Spring Hill.

President Marissa Lemley Brown of the Sparkman Chapter of the UDC spoke next on the topic of Southern women after the war.

“Preservation of graves at that time was largely a private matter,” Brown said. “A great number of private organizations and ladies’ societies scoured the South in search of the dead. Maury County has a rich Confederate history, and has included such women since the very end of the war who have dedicated themselves to finding, mourning, and honoring the dead.”

Brown noted the role played by Martha E. Bonn, whose 1866 article about 39 soldiers who were transported to the Spring Hill cemetery came to light almost 150 years later, and enabled Saturday’s dedication to take place.

“Thanks to her writing and the efforts of Commander David Cost and the Cheairs Camp, the families of these 25 men have now learned of their ancestors being buried here,” Brown said. “Like many other Maury County residents have done the past 150 years, today we honor these men who died defending their homeland and states’ rights, and we remember the noble deeds of our Confederate heroes. As one speaker put it at the Maury County Confederates gathering on September 10, 1894, ‘They will no longer sleep alone.'”

At the speakers’ conclusion, Lieutenant Commander Tim Westbrook, of the Cheairs camp, read a roll of the honored soldiers was read by. As he read each name aloud, ladies from the Old Hickory Chapter of the UDC in Dickson placed a rose on that man’s grave.

The final grave to be decorated was that of Captain Samuel Freeman of Forrest’s artillery, whose namesake is the Freeman’s Battery. Freeman’s members erected a monument to their hero at the cemetery several years ago.

The decorations were followed by a three-shot rifle salute from the 1st Tennessee Infantry, including Mark Lewis, Mike Hoover, Jeremy Johnson and Hal Boaz. Cannon fire could then be heard from the rear of the cemetery as members of the Freeman’s Battery and the Maury Light Artillery fired their guns. Two of the cannons dated from the Civil War.

Following a performance of “Taps” by bugler Chad Gray, Cost again spoke about the men being honored.

“Most of those who died in the war were buried in shallow graves,” Cost said. “Unlike today, there were no dog tags to simplify identification of the dead. Some men had their names sewn inside their uniforms, and sometimes their unit. Their comrades-in-arms often buried them where they had fallen with only simple wooden markers to designate where. Martha Bonn and her friends went and found many such wooden markers, and put these men to rest here.”

Cost said that finding 22 living descendants of some of the men buried at the cemetery has brought about some incredible responses.

“Many of their reactions have been remarkable,” Cost said. “They’re often amazed that someone would care enough to search for them 150 years after the death of an ancestor. To die in battle in that day so often meant a death apart from one’s family. It would be catastrophic for these men to be forgotten.”

Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for BrentWord Communications. Contact him at greg@springhillhomepage.com or follow him on Twitter @JinkersonGreg.

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