Both during and after the Civil War (1861-65), Georgians faced the task of burying the Confederate and Union soldiers who died within the state’s bounds. Many of the fallen were later reburied either in existing cemeteries or in new ones specifically dedicated to Civil War soldiers. Nearly every sizable cemetery in Georgia contains individual graves of Confederate soldiers or veterans who died after the war was over, and several have entire sections devoted to Civil War dead. A few cemeteries hold only Confederate soldiers killed in the war; the Confederate Cemetery at Resaca was the first of these to be established in Georgia.
Approximately 120,000 Georgians served the Confederacy, and many thousands of them died over the course of the conflict, with estimates varying from around 11,000 to 25,000. Within the state itself, several major battles and numerous skirmishes left both Union and Confederate soldiers dead near farms, homes, hospitals, and towns. While many soldiers died on battlefields, many more died in hospitals from wounds and disease. Though most of the dead in Georgia were Confederates, a significant number of Union soldiers died as well. Such was the case at Andersonville Prison, where the Union dead were buried on site because of an inability either to preserve corpses or to move the dead.
Many fallen soldiers remained unidentified. The corpses were often very deteriorated after battle as the result of wounds and decomposition, and many were initially buried in mass graves near where they fell. For major engagements, such as those at Chickamauga, Resaca, and Atlanta, bodies were moved to nearby existing cemeteries or to new ones created just after the fighting.
Stone monuments or obelisks were often constructed in these cemeteries to honor both individuals and full companies and regiments that suffered significant losses. In addition, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which formed a Georgia chapter in 1895, placed iron crosses of honor on many graves throughout the state. Later, soldiers’ resting places were officially marked with regulation government headstones, noting their service to the Confederacy.
Kingston and Cassville Cemeteries
Each cemetery in Georgia has its own history relating to local events and politics during and after the Civil War. Kingston and Cassville, both in Bartow County, for example, established Confederate cemeteries after intense fighting in that area in May 1864, during the early part of the Atlanta campaign. There are 250 unknown Confederate and 2 Union soldiers buried in Kingston. The Cassville cemetery holds approximately 300 unknown Confederate soldiers (including a general) who died in eight local hospitals. They were buried in the town cemetery after Union general William T. Sherman’s troops set fire to Cassville. The UDC placed marble headstones on all the Cassville graves in 1899.
Marietta boasts both a national cemetery and a Confederate cemetery. The national cemetery contains around 10,000 Union soldiers, only 7,045 of whom are known, who died during the Atlanta campaign. The Confederate cemetery, established in 1863, is the largest of its kind in the state. It holds 3,000 soldiers who died in local hospitals, in combat during the Battle of Chickamauga or the Atlanta campaign, or in an 1863 train wreck that occurred north of Marietta. In 1902 wooden markers at the Confederate cemetery were replaced by marble headstones.
The separate cemeteries in Marietta were created because local civilians objected to enemies lying together in death. A prominent Marietta businessman, Henry Green Cole, sought a combined Confederate and Union cemetery, and donated land toward the project. When local officials objected, Cole gave the land to the federal government to be used for the burial of Union casualties only, and it was designated as such in 1866.
Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, established in 1850, has 6,900 Confederates buried in its grounds, including 5 generals. It is Atlanta’s oldest cemetery. The first soldiers were buried at Oakland as early as September 1863, following the Battle of Chickamauga. Soldiers who died in Atlanta while seeking treatment for wounds or disease were also buried there before the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864. During the Battle of Atlanta, Union soldiers vandalized the cemetery; they stole nameplates, broke into crypts, and exhumed Confederate dead in order to place Union corpses in their coffins. Wooden markers in the cemetery were replaced by marble ones in 1890.
A well-known monument to the Confederate dead, the “Lion of Atlanta,” was erected at Oakland in 1894. Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens was briefly interred there after his death in 1883, but his body was later moved to his home at Crawfordville, in Taliaferro County.
One of the best-known and most visited Civil War cemeteries is the burial ground at Andersonville, where more than 13,000 Union prisoners died and were laid to rest in 1864 and 1865. Due to the efforts of nurse Clara Barton, who worked to identify and mark the graves, the Andersonville cemetery was designated a national cemetery in 1866. It is one of fourteen cemeteries in the United States managed by the National Park Service, and one of only two in which American war veterans can still be buried.