Honoring Heritage at Green Hill Cemetery
By Ned Jilton
October 23rd, 2011
Nestled among stores, businesses and the baseball field in Elizabethton is Green Hill Cemetery, a cemetery that holds an amazing amount of Tennessee history for its modest size. On Saturday members of the Son of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Order of Confederate Rose along with Civil War reenacting units of Company B, 19th TN and Company F, 59th TN honored Lt. Robert J. Tipton and three other Confederate soldiers buried there by dedicating a new flag pole and Confederate flag to fly over the cemetery. There are video highlights at the end of this posting.
The plans for flying the flag of the Confederacy over the cemetery had stirred some controversy in the weeks before the ceremony and was opposed by members of the Watauga Historical Association who maintain Green Hill Cemetery. The association had voted down a request from the S.C.V. but the S.C.V. had approval from the original owners of the cemetery, the Tipton family. There are video highlights of H. K. Edgerton’s remarks on this subject in a second video at the end of this posting.
Commander Joe Adkins of the Son of Confederate Veterans addressed the reasons as to why the flag should be flown and the veterans service be honored even though they fought against the Union during the Civil War.
"Very often we are told we should just forget it." Adkins said, "What the people that are saying that can’t seem to realize is they are asking us to forget family. And that is what this is about, family. If the name of this country and government should change should I forget my father, who fought in the U.S. army in World War Two? No, I cannot. Would I forget my Great-great-great-great grandfather who was one of the Overmountain Men who crossed this Watauga River on his way to Kings Mountain to defeat the British and give us the right to have our own nation and fly the Betsy Ross flag? No, I can’t forget him."
"So should I forget my great-great grandfather James M. Hilton, Company H, 48th Virginia Infantry, who enlisted in the Confederate Army in the spring of 1861 and served until he contracted tuberculosis and was sent home on medical leave? No I won’t forget him." Adkins said and then added "Neither will I forget his brother, Abraham Hilton, who fought for the Union in the 13th Indiana Infantry who was captured and died a prisoner of war in Andersonville. I will not forget any of them. They all earned their place in history and they all deserve to be remembered."
"As Southerners we must be steadfast in defending our Southern Heritage." Adkins said, "We must be steadfast as Americans in defending the principals that this nation stands for. Very often we are told by our detractors you southerners just need to just get over it. We are over it, the South lost the war, it’s a fact of history. No one is denying that. We are over it, we are not the ones saying no. We are not the ones saying take flags down. We are not the ones saying take those statues, monuments and memorials down. We are saying lift it all up. Lift our history and our heritage up into the light of day."
As to the Confederate soldier near whose grave the flag pole stands, 1st Lt. Robert J. Tipton was the grandson of Samuel Tipton, a soldier in the American Revolutionary War and the founder of the city of Elizabethton. Just as there was controversy with the flag flying over his grave now, there is controversy over his death in the war. Lt. Tipton was not killed in battle but was murdered by bushwhackers masquerading as confederate soldiers.
According to S.C.V. member Rev. Rick Morrell, Lt. Tipton was on detached service from the 19th with Capt. Walker’s Battalion of Thomas’ Legion who were in the area so Robert went home for the night to see his brother, Eldridge, who was home on leave.
During the night a group showed up at the house, waking Lt. Tipton, claiming to be Confederate soldiers and that they had been attacked at Carters Depot, and had been "badly whipped" and all their officers had been killed or captured and they needed someone to lead them. Tipton agreed to help them and he and his brother joined the group and slipped off into the woods behind the farm to avoid any Yankees that may have followed.
As soon as the group stopped for a moment, the bushwhackers jumped the two brothers and took them hostage. Then a man named Yates had an old pistol he aimed it at Lt. Tipton and pulled the trigger. The pistol misfired. Tipton told Yates the he would need "a better weapon than that to face the enemy". Yates pulled the trigger a few more times and finally it fired, wounding Tipton mortally. Before Tipton died another of the bushwhackers stepped forward and shot him in the head. Tipton’s brother, who was later released, was made to watch the whole time.
Following the story of Lt. Tipton, descendents of the Tipton family came forward carrying a "Third" National Confederate flag which was raised on the newly installed flag pole followed by three volleys fired by the reenactors. Then to the cheers of the crowd H. K. Edgerton spoke for 25 minuets on the Confederate Battle flag and had a few humorous responses to those who were in opposition to the raising the Confederate flag.
© 2011 Kingsport Publishing Corporation