This is the fourth time I have revamped this post. I debated about not posting it at all. It is not that it is a bad post and it shouldn’t be controversial. Alas we all have those things.
While I was road tripping, I visited battlefields. I’m a Civil War girl and battlefields are a must. This includes cemeteries. I love old cemeteries, which is probably a weird thing to admit. Still, they’re my thing. Cemeteries and battlefields kind of go hand in hand. So when I stopped at the battlefield I disliked, I saw that it had a Confederate cemetery up the ways in which I came. I did not hesitate to visit; especially, since I was going back that way anyhow.
It ended up being an actual cemetery with historical markers. I could state my embarrassment for being none the wiser of this fact, but we all have our moments. I made my way to the back of the cemetery. I’m not sure how I knew I needed to head towards the back, but I did. I guess it just kind of seemed fitting. The older stones always get pushed towards the back in most cemeteries that grow to modern times.
When I arrived at the back. There they were. A double layer of headstones with the back layer all being lined with flags. American flags and Confederate flags alike. Symbolism of those that respect those that fight and those that symbolize a Civil War buff holding tight for the respect of the Confederate part of the Civil War. All this lining the fence that separated the cemetery from the rest of the city.
As I got out of my car there was a twinge in my heart. I’m not sure why this was. I had been to many of cemeteries for non-funeral reasons and I had not felt this before. Maybe it was the fact that the heaviness was deep or something else. It could also have been partly due to the sign that graced the beginning of this long line of headstones.
There were so many headstones. Some with names and so very many without. So many markers just stating, “Unknown Soldier” to indicate the final resting place of someone who gave his life for a war that he may or may not have wanted to fight.
I snapped a few shots and just stood there taking it all in. After a few minutes, a man in a red pickup stopped and I apologized for blocking the way even though I was as far as I could get (I thought maybe he was annoyed. Not all the cemetery traffic seemed to care that it was a cemetery nor seemed fond that it was also a tourist spot). He just waved it off, that was not his concerned. He asked if I had relatives buried in this row. I didn’t know.
Besides the fact that there were so many unknown soldiers, it is family history and that is not something we talk about in my family. I would not be surprised if there were in fact those that donned Confederate grey in my history line. Who knows what all the family tree contains on my mother’s side. It is also likely that I had slave ancestors on my father’s side. Another side of the family tree I will never know. I could say that I might even have Union Blue somewhere amongst them all, but truth be told…knowing what I do know…well, let’s just say that’s a story for another day. Anyway, my point is there is no telling what lingers from the limbs that make up my genealogy.
I explained that I simply had an appreciation and was into the Civil War. He thanked me for having an appreciation for them….even if they did lose. He also proceeded to tell me how his grandfather had fought in the Civil War and was buried off yonder in another portion of the cemetery not too far away. I believe he said his grandfather was a general. I’ll let you decide which side. I will say that I was in the south and that rebel red and blue was flying high. Back to point….I love meeting strangers like this and hearing the stories they have to offer. We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then he went on his way.
After he left I stood there a little bit longer. Just taking it in. My heart was growing heavier and I was finding it hard to drag myself away. When I finally did, I continued to think about these stones. These soldiers. So many unknown. So many forgotten. Other things went through my head mind as well.
I’m no fool. I know had this war ended differently that my life would be different or non-existent. I think the ultimate outcome was inevitable, but we will never know. It happened the way that it happened and different circumstances have vastly different outcomes. Still, these were soldiers with families that knew nothing more than their loved ones never came back from the war. Not even just from the Civil War. All the wars that plague our history (and present). So many reasons for a heavy heart. May all the fallen rest in peace. Today and yesterday.