SCV chapter builds up Confederate cemetery

Published: August 09, 2009

By Steve Gillespie / managing editor

The Marion CSA Cemetery has been refurbished by the Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp 1649 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Of the 170 Civil War soldiers buried there, all unknown originally, 47 of them have been identified with help from the Lauderdale County Archives Department.

Although it’s not known which soldier is in what grave, most of them died at the Confederate Army Field Hospital that was located at what was known as Marion Junction during the war.

Confederates identified as buried in the cemetery are from Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

George M. Church, a charter member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp, organized the group in 1994 and served as its first commander. He is the cemetery coordinator.

He said the soldiers laid to rest in the cemetery were in battles from Shiloh to Vicksburg, and buried from 1862-1864.

Symbolism can be found throughout the cemetery, from the number of bricks in the walls and columns to the number of posts in the rails of the fencing there.

"The wall is seven bricks high to represent the original seven states of the Confederacy," Church said. "And there are six more bricks where the arch is for the states that joined after Fort Sumter."

Other symbolism represents various elements of the U.S. Constitution and the Bible. Church said the four battle flags stand for the four gospels.

United States flags, Mississippi state flags and Confederate battle flags all wave in the cemetery.

"The distance between the columns of the memorial arch is 20 feet — Mississippi was the 20th state to join the Union," Church said. "The flag staffs used at the arch are 12 feet long — the 12 disciples of Christ." He added that all other flag staffs at the cemetery are 10 feet long, symbolizing the 10 commandments.

About $60,000 was spent on the restoration of the cemetery, which is located at the corner of Confederate Drive and Forrest Street and now is accessible with handicapped ramps.

The wall around part of the cemetery is 470 feet long and was built with old Virginian brick and lined with 34 watermelon red crape myrtle shrubs. The headstones were all reset and large marble inscriptions were included in the cemetery between the archway and the headstones.

One of the inscriptions reads: "Rest in peace brave warriors in the fullness of time you will receive a just verdict for the action you took in that great and noble "cause" your glory and honor shall never fade and our grief will never disappear, we shall preserve your memory and protect your honor. Let all remember that the South is different and so shall it always be. Long live our Southland."

The Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest 1649 Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans meets the third Tuesday of each month at Western Sizzlin’ restaurant in Meridian. Church said it was the largest camp chartered in the organization with 122 members. Ben Gaddis is the group’s new incoming commander.

A memorial service is held on the first Sunday in April each year, unless that happens to fall on Easter Sunday, then it is moved to the second Sunday of the month.

Church’s grandfather, Jesse Shumate Smith, served in the Confederate Army. Originally he was from Leake County and is buried in Neshoba County. He served in the 33rd Mississippi Infantry, Company H, and was wounded in the battle of Atlanta.

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