Skip to comments.Forgotten Tennessee cemetery yields N.C. Confederate graves
Posted on 10/11/2004 6:36:53 AM PDT by Constitution Day
Forgotten Tennessee cemetery yields N.C. Confederate graves
By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press Writer
October 9, 2004 11:35 am
JACKSBORO, Tenn. -- On a little hill overlooking the Cumberland Mountains, weeds and brush are being cleared from a neglected family cemetery, revealing a tall sentry-like beech tree and a forgotten past.
"Boothill" and 52 slash marks are carved deep in the trunk -- one cut for each of the sunken graves surrounding it. Some are marked by jagged field stones, others not. Who is entombed here?
"I was afraid that during my lifetime I would never know," said 88-year-old Alice Coker, a retired public health worker who has been tracking the mystery for half a century.
Descendants have recently provided the answer. These were Civil War soldiers, members of the 58th Confederate Regiment of North Carolina from just over the Great Smoky Mountains in Wautauga and surrounding counties.
Most were farmers, ages 19 to 44. They died months after enlisting not from combat but from "brain fever," measles and other diseases while encamped here during the harsh winter of 1862-63.
In the 1940s, Bob Delap, a member of the family who owned the small Delap Cemetery next to these neglected graves, told Coker that he was told as a boy they were Civil War soldiers. But Delap, who maintained the cemetery and the story, died in 1953.
With him, the story was lost and the cemetery fell into neglect, despite the burial of two Vietnam veterans there as late as 1988.
"I am not (a Civil War buff), but I am a curious person," Coker said. "But I couldn't find any local people who knew anything about it. It bothered me all these years."
That changed in late 2002 when Leta Cornett and her husband, Blaine, from Vilas, N.C., walked into the Campbell County Historical Society.
Cornett had been searching for the final resting place for her great-great-grandfather, Pvt. Dudley Glenn, for 15 years. All available records pointed to LaFollette, which was Big Creek Gap in 1862, and nearby Jacksboro.
She told the woman staffing the society office she was looking for Confederate kin in a Civil War cemetery. Maybe it was because this was pro-Union territory during the war or simply so long ago, but the woman told Leta she was wrong.
"She just didn't much like the idea that I insisted. To be quite honest, she was a little rude," Cornett said, laughing. Then the woman remembered Coker.
"So she called her and I heard her go, 'Uh-huhhh, uh-huhhh.' And I looked at my husband and said, 'She found it!'" Cornett said.
The Blaines drove immediately to Coker's house. Coker threw open the door in welcome and then they went to the cemetery.
"It was grown up. It was hard to get through the briars," Cornett recalled. But she was happy. "Ecstatic. I just can't hardly comprehend it," she said.
Since then, Glennis Monday, the environmental officer for the Campbell County sheriff's office, has been regularly leading teams of prisoners up the hill to clean up the cemetery.
They've hauled away 80 truckloads of brush and burned probably 80 more from an area just under an acre. "When I first came up here, I couldn't find it," Monday said. "You wouldn't have been able to turn in any direction without hitting a tree."
It's a far cry from manicured yet, but the cemetery's past is now coming into view. The beech tree strikingly stands guard over the sunken plots.
The society hopes in the next several months to create a nonprofit foundation to hold title to the property and raise money for a fenced and gated enclosure, its own entrance road and maintenance.
As many as 57 soldiers were buried here, according to Cornett's records. And the society intends to install a grave marker for each one.
"I think these men should be recognized," Coker said. "They were soldiers and died during the war. I think they deserve at least to be recognized and have it known where they are buried." URL for this article: http://www.heraldsun.com/state/6-531105.html
Probably it's a middle age thing, but I've been getting into reading old tombstones to see what I can discern about the person's life from them.
Came across a poignant one in Boston from the 1700s -- a ship's captain had a stone made for his chinese bo'sun's mate.
As someone who has tramped through woods and fields looking for lost ancestors, I think this is cool.
Boston has some amazing old cemeteries.
I got interested in cemeteries when I was about 10.
After my grandfather survived throat cancer, he decided to retire from farming.
When a few years had passed, he got bored and took a part-time digging graves for the local funeral home.
I'd always tag along with him in the summer and go look at the tombstones while he was operating the backhoe.
I think my parents found it to be a morbid pastime.
Thanx. As a history buff, I love reading of these findings that tie us to our past.
Thanks for the ping Samwise.
Thumbs up for history and honoring America's military dead.
I know what you mean, I've done the same.
One Confederate ancestor I've never found was in the 56th NC.
I think he might be in our family cemetery under one of the many field stones, but I'll never know which one.
Sorry, but I laughed. < |:)~
I hear ya.
I was a "grandpap's boy," too. < |:)~
Another confessed gravestone reader here.
I find it most interesting to read the tombstones in cemeteries. So much of local history is found or can be surmised by reading the stones.
Just Friday I stopped at an old cemetery in my travels. Since I like the Civil War, it was a real find to discover graves of many Civil War veterans from NJ, some who, through their regimental descriptions, were present at Gettysburg.
But the stone most poignant was a more modern one, from 1945. It was placed by the family of a sailor that perished in the sinking of the USS Drexler.It simply said--"lost at sea".
When I got home, I googled up "USS Drexler" and found that this was a destroyer that was sunk by Japanese kamikaze
planes in 1945. Another reminder of the tremendous cost of freedom.
Speaking as someone who has done genealogy for many years, this is a wonderful find. I have spent many an hour tromping through over growth looking for old family graves.
We visited a couple of cemetaries in PA - an old Church near our home had graves from the 1700's......it was eerie but I liked knowing that here we were, 200-300 years later thinking about that person........
Nobody's moving in and that's a fact.
How true!! LOL!!