Confederate dead rest beneath magnolias

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The sense of history in Magnolia Cemetery is as strong as the sweet smell of its namesake.

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Ron Udell, of Augusta's Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 158, walks in Magnolia Cemetery, where more than 700 Confederate soldiers are buried.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Ron Udell, of Augusta's Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 158, walks in Magnolia Cemetery, where more than 700 Confederate soldiers are buried.

War heroes are buried there, such as John Martin, who survived a tomahawk blow to the head during the Cherokee War of 1755 and went on to serve through the Revolutionary War.

Nearby is the mausoleum of Wylly Barron, which was built 24 years before his death as protection from a dying gambler's curse.

For Ron Udell, it's not one grave that interests him, though, but the more than 700 graves of Confederate soldiers buried in this cemetery on the outskirts of downtown Augusta.

"To take care of these graves for me is more like an honor," said Udell, the camp commander of Augusta's Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 158. "We try to do the very best we possibly can for them."

Most of the Confederate graves are concentrated in a special section at the rear of the cemetery. Dozens of white headstones are bordered by a bubbling white-rimmed fountain and a platform topped with marble benches.

A few of Magnolia's soldiers, such as Sgt. P.O. Hansom, died in Civil War battles such as Gettysburg. A majority probably died from the usual killers of 19th century soldiers, however: disease and infection.

Some of their stories are known by the descendants who have traced their ancestors through census rolls and service records. Others are a mystery, but that doesn't diminish the responsibility of caring for the grave, Udell said.

"Some of these fellows went off to war and their family doesn't even know they're buried here," he said.

Augusta's original public graveyard, Magnolia started with a land purchase in 1817. Its first burial was in 1818, a signal of relief for other private cemeteries that were rapidly filling up, such as the one at St. Paul's Church on the riverfront. The cemetery was later expanded to its current 60 acres with a land donation by Nicholas de L'Aigle.

In the 1860s, Magnolia Cemetery's location along Second Street placed it on the outskirts of town. As such, Augustans incorporated the cemetery's brick wall into its perimeter defenses in anticipation of Gen. William T. Sherman's attack. There are still visible signs along the wall where the bricks were removed for cannon placements.

The section where about 330 Confederate soldiers are buried -- along with the war's survivors and a handful of Union soldiers -- was dedicated for that purpose in 1924.

Most of the cemetery's residents died in one of Augusta's eight military hospitals; each Confederate state and branch of service is represented in the square.

Roughly 400 other Confederate soldiers and noteworthy people are buried in other sections of the cemetery, including Nathaniel Savage Crowell, the medical director of the Confederate Army, and John Troup Shewmake, a member of the Confederate Congress.

There is a section dedicated to 183 Union prisoners of war who died in the Augusta area. Most were reinterred at the National Cemetery in Marietta, Ga., but there are still 15 headstones dedicated to federal soldiers. Magnolia also claims seven Confederate generals, including two born in Augusta and one from Washington.

Maintaining the Confederate Square is a work in progress; the elements are the primary enemy of the decades-old headstones. Fallen leaves from the dozens of magnolia trees on the property pile up on the roads in waist-high drifts. Heavy branches fall and crack headstones or, in some cases, the trees fall and cause damage.

In one case, the weight of a fallen tree pushed a headstone all the way into the ground.

"We were cleaning up and thought, 'Shouldn't there be a headstone here?' " Udell recalled with a chuckle. "There was about an inch (of headstone) poking out of the ground."

Though the city does maintain the property, the local Sons of Confederate Veterans say they want this part of the cemetery to stand out for visitors.

Henry Gilmer's ancestors are not buried at Magnolia, but his contributions are done in honor of all Civil War soldiers. "I'm helping take care of my plot like I would my own family," he said.

About this series

Augusta's contributions to the Civil War effort shaped the city and still affect us today.

MONDAY: Cutting-edge smartphone technology will allow Augusta Canal visitors to see the long-gone buildings of the Confederate Powderworks in real time.

TODAY: Magnolia Cemetery, the final resting place of more than 700 Confederate soldiers and seven generals, has a long and colorful history.

WEDNESDAY: Augusta and its canal played a far larger role in the Civil War than the gunpowder it produced.

THURSDAY: Bob Hester spent more than a year tracking the origin of six songs from Augusta published in the 1867 anthology Slave Songs of the United States.

FRIDAY: Experts and locals share their tips for finding the names of your Confederate and Union ancestors.

SATURDAY: The history and reach of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway extend much further than the South.

SUNDAY: The legend of the missing Confederate gold ends in Washington, Ga., but it was only through the courage and cunning of its guardians that the gold made it past Augusta.

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bclicious 06/28/11 - 03:56 am
All Confederate Memorials and

All Confederate Memorials and Graves are racist and should therefore be removed and/or destroyed. All black people are offended by anything to do with the acknowledging that there was once a Confederacy; therefore, we must never again mention the confederacy again.

Remove it from the history books just to be safe.

JAndy 06/28/11 - 06:01 am
BC. Remove this from history?

BC. Remove this from history? Well, I hate to tell you this but, no matter what part of the country you are from it IS your history as well. just Like Frederick Douglas is part of mine. get use to it because it is and will be around for generations to come. It cannot be changed, erased or destroyed. The government can have it censored and not taught in school. But, it will still be taught to children for generations to come. So good luck with that one. Oh by the way I live in Georgia. It was once considered the Confederacy. Now we are just the plain ole south. Where are you from?

copperhead 06/28/11 - 06:23 am
ANYTHING that offends ANY

ANYTHING that offends ANY minority should be taken out of our history and replaced with politically correct history!

southern2 06/28/11 - 08:18 am
Thank goodness for the SCV

Thank goodness for the SCV and the UDC whose main goal is preserving accurate history and memories of one of the greatest generations of America's history. Without them the stories of valor and courage would be "Gone with the Wind!"

seenitB4 06/28/11 - 08:22 am
Thanks for keeping this

Thanks for keeping this history is our history, like it or not....I love the South & always will.

dokken3605 06/28/11 - 09:18 am
BC you truely show your

BC you truely show your ignorance for History the Confederate States only existed for 4 yrs so explain to me where did the slaves come from before then ummm let me help you the Usa and it existed for a few more years in the Us than the 4 yrs it did in the Confederacy to me the US flag is more racist under it you have had Jim Crow Laws ,Discimination against blacks ,Japanese -Germans intered in camps ,Indians butchered, illeaglly removed from there homes and made to move across the country where most died on the Way hence trail of tears .Not one slave ship flew a Confederate National they either flew Us or other nations flags ,even the so called emancapation proc didnt free any slaves even Grant still owned slaves till shortly after the war so if they are are offened by any thing it should be the Us which they have already started going there also here in Sc recently when the naacp was haveing mlk day they covered up the statue of George Washington so as not to offend any one I proudly fly my flag and will always and dare any one to try and take it down luckly my children have learned the true History and not the political crap well i spent enough time .

Mr. Thackeray
Mr. Thackeray 06/28/11 - 09:23 am
Well, well, dokken. It would

Well, well, dokken. It would seem your particular brand of history is the only history proper to teach! Most of your rant we have all heard before, Lost Cause and all that. Next you'll tell us that slaves fought for the CSA as well. Interesting brand of Twistory!

Riverman1 06/28/11 - 09:28 am
BC was being

BC was being sarcastic.

Beautiful opening line: "The sense of history in Magnolia Cemetery is as strong as the sweet smell of its namesake."

Knittnfool 06/28/11 - 11:38 am
What I can't understand

What I can't understand is...slavery was abolished, yet millions of people (white, black, and every other color) are still slaves. Slaves to the federal government who decides how much money you can have for groceries, how much money you can have for rent, etc. A slave is a slave is a slave. Except now, government is your "massah." Don't talk about being "offended" by our history when you are still living as a slave. Remember...if Government can give you something, they can take it away just as fast and you have no say in the matter. The Confederacy is a part of our past and there's no way around it. Get over it!

bclicious 06/28/11 - 12:18 pm
Yeah, Riverman called it; I

Yeah, Riverman called it; I was being sarcastic. I always love to jump on the Copperhead bandwagon of sarcasm.

It is so fun!

With that, I really do believe that we should honor all memorials, especially those relating to the history of the south.

It was however nice to get a reaction.

tcowan13 06/28/11 - 12:57 pm
God Bless All Who Have Fought

God Bless All Who Have Fought And Died In Any War In These United States And God Bless All Who Have Died Fighting For Our Wonderful Freedom.Please Stop The Hating And The Misinformation.God Will Always Bless Those Who Believe In Him. 'Nuff Said.

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