Northern transplant becomes caretaker of Confederate grave

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 12:41 PM
Last updated 9:24 PM
  • Follow Latest News

COMER, Ga. -- Two years after Eugene Cruickshank acquired some land northeast of Athens, he decided to clear the thick growth of brush and trees behind his new home. He was unprepared for what he found.

On the top of a ridge behind a pond, he uncovered a small cemetery.

“The fence was down, the stones were broken in half and toppled over so we didn’t see any of this,” he said, “When I bought this place nobody said anything about a cemetery.”

The cemetery contained the bodies of Willis D. Strickland, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1857-60 and opposed Georgia seceding from the Union; his wife, Harlow Gholston Strickland; and their son, Wilson Bonaparte Strickland, a 19-year-old Confederate soldier who died of a bullet wound.

Cruickshank, a native of Vermont, and his wife, Claudette, who hails from Massachusetts, became the unexpected caretakers for this small forgotten cemetery with its Confederate warrior.

First, he put the cemetery back together. He consulted a cemetery worker in Athens and learned how to repair the old tombstones, which he put back in place. Then he fixed the old iron fence.

“Some of this, I thought we’d never get back together,” he said recently at the graveyard, where some steel posts were used to brace the weakened iron posts.

“The gate is an original. It’s a work of art,” he said.

Then, he began researching who lay in these graves, which included a small plot with only a stone to mark an unknown child. Richard Gholston, the brother of Harlow Strickand, came to live at the 655-acre plantation when his sister’s husband died in May 1862 at the age of 52, and is also laid to rest there.

With the help of a descendant who lives in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., he acquired photographs of the Strickland family and more information about their lives.

The Stricklands lost both sons in the Civil War. Milton Strickland, who served under Gen. Robert E. Lee, was killed in 1863 during the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia and is believed buried in a mass grave.

Wilson Bonaparte Strickland was serving under Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg in the Tullahoma campaign of 1863 in Tennessee, when his company was confronted at Beech Grove by a mounted infantry headed by a Col. Walker, who armed his men with repeating rifles, Cruickshank said. The teenaged soldier was shot in the head.

“The story is one of the young men that was slightly wounded cut across country and came back to Comer and told Harlow that her son had been wounded and sent to Chattanooga. Harlow got a wagon and went to the railroad and went to Chattanooga and he was dead when she got there. He had lived for 11 days,” he said.

“To take that train all the way to Chattanooga and bring this kid back, now that’s dedication,” said Cruickshank, a retired U.S. Marine major who served in Korea and Vietnam during his 29 years in service.

“This boy made it,” he said. “He’s back on home ground.”

The old soldier reached over and his hand grasped one of the iron posts.

“On Confederate Memorial Day, a Rebel flag flies here,” he said.

Comments (16) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
AndrewLafa
27
Points
AndrewLafa 10/30/11 - 02:18 pm
0
0
This isn't surprising.

This isn't surprising. Generations have passed, and Northerners have pretty much gotten over the South's treachery in the 1860s. It's all history and water under the bridge. My 3rd Great Grandfather fought with Company G, 91st Infantry Regiment New York on the Union side. That didn't stop me from moving to the south. The stain of slavery and anti civil-rights aside, the south still played a large part of our Nation's history, and everyone should take a part in preserving it.

TheGeorgian
395
Points
TheGeorgian 10/30/11 - 03:11 pm
0
0
Treachery? I am a repentant

Treachery? I am a repentant Yankee who has spent half a lifetime in the South and am proud to be a Georgian. I had numerous collateral lines fight on the Union side including Grant and, viewed from the Southern perspective it wasn't treachery at all. But I agree, everyone should take a part in preserving history. This man's family raised him right...to respect the departed...and his children are lucky to learn from example.

UncleRemus
26
Points
UncleRemus 10/30/11 - 03:46 pm
0
0
There was no "treachery" done

There was no "treachery" done by the South in the 1860s.The South seceded just as the 13 colonies did from England. The "stain of slavery" is upon the North as well.The financial base of New England's antebellum manufacturing boom was from money it had made in shipping slaves.Prominent northern families like the Fanueils, Royalls, and Cabots of Massachusetts; the Wantons, Browns, and Champlins of Rhode Island; the Whipples of New Hampshire; the Eastons of Connecticut; Willing & Morris of Philadelphia were also the leading slave merchants.While president of Yale,Ezra Stiles imported slaves. Brown University was built with slave trade money and slave labor.Six slave merchants served as mayor of Philadelphia.Ohio enacted Black Laws in 1804 and 1807 that compelled blacks entering the state to post bond of $500 guaranteeing good behavior and to produce a court paper as proof that they were free.New England sought to demonize the South through its institution of slavery; they did this in part by burying their own histories as slave-owners and slave-importers.This cleansing of history had a racist motive as well, denying blacks, slave or free, a legitimate place in New England history.

Sweet son
9661
Points
Sweet son 10/30/11 - 04:11 pm
0
0
Both the Northern and

Both the Northern and Southern regions of our nation were made to prosper by the work of "white" and "slave" efforts. I was not around but I am sure that some slaves were treated unfairly as were non aristocratic whites. We all agree that it was part of our nations early history and I feel that it should be regarded as just that: history! None of us can live on history and past inequities we must work together for the good of ALL and not always argue issues along black and white lines! Richmond County Commission; prime example. Have a good day: everyone! :):)

AndrewLafa
27
Points
AndrewLafa 10/30/11 - 04:31 pm
0
0
Of course New England had

Of course New England had slaves. No one is innocent when it comes to the terrible history of these people. But industrialization, the religious movement of the 2nd Great Awakening, politics, and the unsustainable costs of slave labor still came together to end slavery up North before the South. The southern cotton crop was financed mostly by Northern bankers who saw slave labor as being cost prohibitive, and the boycott of slave produced goods by abolitionists drove down demand for southern products.

Considering that southern states and northern states came together to fight England, many Northerners viewed the South's succession from the Union as treason. Hence the reason Jefferson Davis was charged and imprisoned with treason.

No doubt Davis was mistreated in prison, and the brutal tactics of the Yankees upon civilians were terrible, and today would probably be considered war crimes.

But that still doesn't change the fact that many Northerners felt the south acted in a treasonous manner.

Again-water under the bridge. But I wanted to clarify those points for you all. There's two sides to every story, and they should both be told.

AndrewLafa
27
Points
AndrewLafa 10/30/11 - 04:33 pm
0
0
By the way, ACES, I would

By the way, ACES, I would love to see a picture of this great find of history.

Riverman1
79171
Points
Riverman1 10/30/11 - 04:49 pm
0
0
Heck, were there even English

Heck, were there even English speaking American soldiers in the Union Army or were they all mercenary Germans?

Riverman1
79171
Points
Riverman1 10/30/11 - 05:03 pm
0
0
The South really didn't want

The South really didn't want to fight the north. We had Bull Run One and kind of waited for the north to realize how horrible war would be. The South could have marched right into DC., Philadelphia and New York, but waited for the north to do the gentlemanly thing. Ditto Bull Run Two. Teach us to think Yankees are honorable.

Sweet son
9661
Points
Sweet son 10/30/11 - 05:56 pm
0
0
Oh, forgot to say thanks to

Oh, forgot to say thanks to Mr. Cruickshank for taking his time and money to preserve the graves and the history. It is truly just that: history for all of us!

bclicious
616
Points
bclicious 10/30/11 - 07:03 pm
0
0
Eugene Cruickshank is an

Eugene Cruickshank is an exception to the rule, and darn good yankee!

Riverman1
79171
Points
Riverman1 10/30/11 - 09:06 pm
0
0
Sweet Son, that was nice of

Sweet Son, that was nice of him. Let me add my thanks.

usafveteran
32
Points
usafveteran 10/31/11 - 10:24 am
0
0
May God bless Major

May God bless Major Cruickshank for his actions! If more Northerners were like him, the South would be able to preserve its history and memorials rather than endure its irradication at the hands of politically correct politicians and historically ignorant individuals.

LadyVal
0
Points
LadyVal 10/31/11 - 03:39 pm
0
0
Treachery? The treachery was

Treachery? The treachery was all on the other side. Lincoln planned a war as soon as he was elected and did all that he could to turn Fort Sumter into an opportunity to arouse Northern war sentiment which had been very low prior to Sumter. However, that viewpoint changed not so much with Sumter as with the realization that the departure of the Southern states which paid over 75% of the federal revenues and the existence of a low tariff nation on the same continent would bankrupt the North and that could not be permitted. Hence the bloodiest war in American history and the subjugation and enslavement of the South all in the name of "ending slavery" and "preserving the Union." The war did neither. It simply changed slavery and destroyed the Republic.

Charliereb
7
Points
Charliereb 11/01/11 - 12:35 pm
0
0
Thanks so much to the

Thanks so much to the Cruickshanks....as a descendant of a Confederate Veteran, i am extremely thankful for your efforts. It certainly shows that not all Northerners move down South and immediately disrepect Southerners and their past.

AndrewLafa......treachery, really?

Charliereb
7
Points
Charliereb 11/01/11 - 12:38 pm
0
0
Oh, and Semper Fi!

Oh, and Semper Fi!

bjphysics
36
Points
bjphysics 11/01/11 - 12:48 pm
0
0
On a related note, a sound

On a related note, a sound argument, based on contract law, can be made that secession was legal when the Southern states did it from 1860 to 1861; it’s not legal anymore but a strong case can be made that it was then.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs