top of page

A Lone Tombstone

In 2016, I traveled to Calhoun, Georgia where Captain J.F. McCartney was stationed with Company D of the 56th Illinois Infantry, guarding the railroad that carried supplies to Sherman’s army as they advanced toward Atlanta.

The Resaca Battlefield site was only a few miles north. Here in the early summer of 1864 General Sherman had for three days probed for a weak spot in the Confederate defense before a flanking move forced Johnston’s army to retreat.

I walked over the battlefield which I recognized was only a very limited part of the actual area of conflict. As I drove up a connecting road, I came to a memorial sign and a small cemetery, so I stopped to explore further.

The memorial explained that the woman who lived here had fled as Sherman’s army approached. A few weeks after the battle, she returned to find, on this corner of her property, around thirty bodies. She called in neighbors to help bury them. These Southern soldiers had been wounded and some were perhaps already dead when the Confederate army retreated. Advancing Union soldiers treated wounded and buried dead on the main battlefield but they did not venture into this small corner. Unable to retreat with their Confederate units, over the next days or weeks, these men died.

Most of the graves were marked with a simple flat stone: Confederate soldier, Unknown. However, over in one corner of this small area was a tombstone similar to any in a cemetery of the time:

After the war, his daughters learned from other members of his Alabama unit that their father had been wounded before the company retreated from this location. The daughters had no way to know which of the Unknown graves was his, so the monument is over on one side. Another tragedy of war.

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

The letters of James Griffin of South Carolina appear in A Gentleman and an Officer, by Judith McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton published by Oxford University Press in 1996. The book is valuable for

The key phrase that tore the country apart in 1860 is part of Amendment V in the Constitution: “…nor shall any person …be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” The Supreme

The Civil war began in 1861—one hundred and sixty years ago. After so many years, does that history still matter? It was the most costly war, in terms of lives lost, in American history. From a popul

bottom of page