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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.

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