Grave markers dedicated for Confederate colonels

By Fred Brown
Posted June 4, 2011

KNOXVILLE – For almost 148 years Col. Solon Z. Ruff’s family never knew where he was buried after he died leading a Confederate charge up the steep slopes of Fort Sanders in late 1863.

That changed today with Confederate Decoration Day that commemorated and dedicated the markers where Ruff and Lt. Col. Henry P. Thomas were buried after both died assaulting the formidable works of the fort during the famous Civil War siege of Knoxville.

Members of the Longstreet-Zollicoffer Camp 87 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans honored the two infantry officers in their annual dedication day as proclaimed by Gov. Bill Haslam, who said the day is set aside to remember those who died in the war.

About 100 people braved 90 degree heat at the Henry Lonas Cemetery, 2792 Filmore St., to commemorate and to place wreaths on the two side-by-side markers for both Ruff and Thomas, installed earlier by members of SCV Camp 87.

Ron Jones, commander of Camp 87, said he had invited descendants of the Ruff family to attend the ceremonies who said they only recently learned of Ruff’s final resting place through an article on Efforts to locate descendants of the Thomas family, Jones said, were not successful.

“The great-great-great granddaughter of Col. Ruff told me that her great-grandmother cried at the kitchen table because she never knew where Ruff was buried,” Jones said.

Neither Ruff nor Thomas descendants attended the dedication. After their deaths, both men were buried in the cemetery, then in the vicinity of Amanda Crawford’s home. Crawford was the daughter of Henry Lonas, for whom the cemetery is named today.

Keith Bohannon, associate professor of history at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Ga., filled in the backgrounds of Ruff, commander of the 18th Georgia Infantry, and Thomas, commander of the 16th Georgia Infantry.

“It seems fitting today to remember these two lives who died in the country’s costliest conflict,” Bohannon said.

Also in attendance were Jim Brown, 99, of Tellico Village, and Tom Bruce, 86, of Fountain City. They are True Sons of the Confederacy because both had fathers who fought for the CSA during the Civil War.

H. K. Edgerton, an African American from Asheville, N.C., descended from slaves, did a stirring rendition of “I Am Their Flag,” a poem about the meaning of the flag.

©2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.     

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