Confederate soldier’s grave marked at historic church

Saturday, February 11, 2012
By Winston Skinner
The Newnan Times-Herald

In the old cemetery at Bethel Methodist Church near Senoia, there is a shiny white tombstone — a new tribute to a Confederate soldier buried there in 1922.

Frankie Lyle Chapter 2074, United Daughters of the Confederacy in Jonesboro presented the grave marker dedication program for Marcellus E. Washington at the historic cemetery on Oct. 22. The program included remarks about Washington’s military service, a presentation of floral tributes and a dramatic musket salute.

Local genealogist Faye Storey is a descendant of Washington. She and her mother, Artie Storey, who also is a genealogist, helped gather information for the event. Marcellus Washington was born Oct. 30, 1844, in Meriwether County. He married Mary Louise Kempson in Coweta County on Feb. 28, 1866, and died in the Meriwether County community of Rocky Mount on July 26, 1922.

The grave marker dedication opened with a welcome by Linda Ramey and a reading by Susan Sloan.

Floral tributes were presented by Bonnie Bolin on behalf of Frankie Lyle Chapter, Jerry Gibby for James Longstreet Camp 1289 — Sons of Confederate Veterans, Calvin Kohler for Coweta Guards Camp 715, SCV.

Mike Webb presented a tribute to the Confederate soldier. "Marcellus Washington deserves to be remembered," he said.

Washington was a member of Company A, 7th Georgia Infantry, Coweta Guards, Coweta Second District Guards. He enlisted as a private on May 31, 1861. Washington was wounded in January or February of 1864 and was paroled at Farmville, Va., in April of the following year.

"The 7th Georgia was organized for the war May 31, 1861, in Atlanta with 611 men. The regiment moved to Camp Winchester in Frederick County, Va., by June 20, 1861. From here the regiment moved to Camp Bartow in Prince William County, Va. — two miles northeast of Manassas Junction," Webb said.

The unit "received their first taste of battle on July 21" reporting 153 casualties, Webb said.

"The 7th Georgia went on to fight in 27 more battles over the next four years. Some of the more famous are Seven Days Battle, Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, The Petersburg Siege and Appomattox. In fact, the 7th Georgia participated in every campaign of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia except when detached with Gen. James Longstreet at Suffolk, Va.., at James Island in Charleston, S.C., in Georgia and at Knoxville, Tenn.," Webb said.

Webb said Washington was wounded during a "hellish overland march through the mountains." Webb read from a letter — written by Private Zachariah H. J. Benefield to his wife, Sarah Jane Gore, dated April 4, 1864 — telling firsthand about the struggles of that time.

"The regiment went on to participate in the Wilderness campaign, the Petersburg Siege and the retreat to Appomattox Court House. While en route to Appomattox the army engaged in battle at Sailor’s Creek," Webb said. Lee lost 7,700 men — a blow that "was a leading factor in his decision to surrender 72 hours later," Webb said.

"Sailor’s Creek is also known as Farmville. It was here where Marcellus ended his military career and was paroled," Webb explained. "At the close of the war, Gen. Lee instructed his men to return home and be good and productive citizens. Marcellus Washington did just that."

Webb commented, "Whether or not you agree on the reasons men went to war in 1861, you must recognize that they answered to call of their country — to defend their country and home from those wishing ill upon them — that they did this willingly and without hesitation."

Following his remarks, Webb helped Sparks Ramey unveil the new tombstone. Linda Ramey led the dedication of the marker.

Prayer was offered by Macy and Alyssa Brown, and Dianne Webb read "C.S.A" by Father Abram J. Ryan, poet priest of the Confederacy.

An SCV honor guard — David Helms, Ronny North, Bob Stephens, John Todd — gave the musket salute, and the closing prayer was by Sonny Oliver. Jimmy Dunagan played "Taps" on the bugle, and Dan Loftin played his guitar and accompanied the group in singing "Dixie’s Land."

Bethel Methodist Church was organized in 1839. The church’s Victorian era building is now home to Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

© 2011 The Newnan Times-Herald Inc.

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