Augusta’s West View Cemetery is a resting place for 68 Confederate soldiers. They are not gathered in a tidy group like other places, instead they are scattered about the large public graveyard between Harrisburg and Lake Olmstead.
“The soldiers buried here are the survivors,” said Kelli Spearman, a descendent of two Confederate soldiers buried in the gated cemetery. “Because of that, they mostly are forgotten.”
Nestled in a shady corner of the cemetery, the William Henry Talbot Walker Chapter #2253 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy held its Confederate Memorial Day Observance on Sunday afternoon. They hold it there every year, Spearman said.
“This place is special to us.”
Sunday’s program included a presentation on the CSS Georgia by former Augusta mayor and Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy President Bob Young.
The vessel, built in 1862 as an ironclad warship, spent its short life as a “floating battery” moored near Old Fort Jackson. It was scuttled in December 1864 to prevent its capture by Union troops.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental impact statement for the $653 million Savannah harbor expansion includes $14.2 million to recover the ship’s remains.
A plan to raise the wreckage of the CSS Georgia from the bottom of Savannah harbor is in discussion now. One of the options the Army Corps is discussing is keeping the entire remains in Savannah.
“I think that’s shortsighted,” Young said. “More of Georgia should get to link their stories to pieces of the wreckage.”
Young said a women’s group called The Ladies Gun Boat Association, with some Augusta members, raised more than $75,000 of the $115,000 it cost to build the vessel. The rest of the money came from the state.
Young said the women had two stipulations in donating the money. One was they would name the captain, and two was they could name the cannons after Georgia cities that had raised money for the cause. The first would be the city that raised the most, Augusta.
There are no plans of the CSS Georgia that survived the war, Young said. He argued by shipping it to different parts of Georgia, each city would get to research their part of it.
“The CSS Georgia was scuttled, used, neglected and lost,” he said. “This way it would finally get its respect.”
Young encouraged the crowd of about 30 people to voice their opinions to the Corps of Engineers. The public comment period for the harbor expansion closes May 21.
After his presentation, some the Walker Chapter members remembered their Confederate ancestors with a roll call.
One, Barbara Smith, said she was surprised she did not know of The Ladies Gun Boat Association, but she was not surprised at its dedication.
She said the National Memorial Day and the Confederate Memorial Day were all started by women who were visiting the graves of the soldiers they lost.