J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Elmwood Cemetery”

What the Dead Can Teach Us

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This may sound a bit morbid, but I love exploring old cemeteries. In my opinion, the older, the better. One of my favorites is Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. A person can learn a lot about that city’s history, just from walking around. There is a section for Confederate soldiers, including some officers, another area filled with small pox victims from the epidemic in 1873, and a slave section, where most slaves didn’t even receive the honor of a headstone. The ornate, Victorian headstones and monuments are beautiful and sad. One that stands out to me is an empty swing, which is near the grave of a child.

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Author Shelby Foote, who wrote volumes on the Civil War and was featured in Ken Burns’ documentary, is buried there. He was so enthralled with Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Forrest family that he requested to be buried near them. He got his wish.

http://www.elmwoodcemetery.org

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Another fascinating place to visit the dead is in New Orleans. The graves in the cemeteries are all above ground because the sea level is so high. Many graves were washed into the sea before people placed the deceased in mausoleums.

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One fascinating character buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans is none other than the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau. The crypt where she is buried is usually covered with trinkets, charms and Mardi Gras beads. This cemetery is believed to be the most haunted cemetery in the country.

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Some of the oldest cemeteries are, of course, in Europe. I have seen several Irish graveyards, and I think they are profoundly beautiful. Filled with Celtic crosses, these old cemeteries are certainly filled with ghosts, too. I’d love to be able to hear some of their stories.

Irish Cemetery

Here in Colorado, there are many old cemeteries as well. Some consist of the graves of miners, who came here looking for fortune, but instead, found sickness and poverty. The Gold Camp Victorian Society dresses in period clothing and provides tours of the Mount Pisgan Cemetery near Cripple Creek. An interesting stop on the tour is the headstone of Fred E. Krueger. No, not the horror character, but a mere 15-year-old boy who died of mysterious causes in 1897.

Fred

https://gazette.com/premium/the-mysterious-headstone-of-fred-e-krueger-found-west-of/article_d76db5d6-ee9f-11e9-a5a1-572389059672.html

Many take it upon themselves to provide the upkeep of these national treasures. My husband’s SCV camp cleans up a small cemetery in Horn Lake, Mississippi every year. I think it’s crucial that we respect and revere these honored dead. They are an important part of this country’s history, and of our own history as well.

Women of the Confederacy (Pt 2.)

 

Belle Edmondson

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More than one Southern lady stepped up to the plate to do her share in preserving the Confederacy. Such is the case of Belle Edmondson, a Memphis belle who risked her life to do her part.

Born to Mary Ann and Andrew Jackson Edmondson on November 27, 1840 in Pontotoc, Mississippi, Isabella Buchanan Edmondson was the youngest daughter of eight children. In 1849, her father was elected clerk of courts in Holly Springs, Mississippi. “Belle” and her sisters attended Franklin Female College nearby. In 1860, the family relocated to a farm in Shelby County, Tennessee, eight miles southeast of Memphis on Holly Ford Road, which is now Airways Boulevard.

Once the countryside became engulfed in the Civil War, it wasn’t long before the Edmondson’s got involved, because they were staunch supporters of the Confederacy. Two of Belle’s brothers enlisted for the Southern cause. They both fought at the Battle of Shiloh, and Belle tended to wounded soldiers as a nurse.

When Memphis fell in June 1862, Belle’s family farm became located between opposing lines. Pickets and scouts from both sides patrolled the area. The Rebel army was less than 30 miles south.

Finding herself in a position to assist the Confederates, Belle passed information she gathered in Memphis during the day, and risked her life to transport it to the Rebels at night. She also delivered needed supplies, such as medicines and amputation tools, in her petticoats, and letters and money in her bosom, knowing that Union soldiers were reluctant to search women.

At one point, she met with Generals Forrest and Chalmers. In an entry to her diary dated February 27, 1864, Belle wrote:

Annie Nelson and myself went to Memphis this morning – very warm, dusty and disagreeable. Accomplished all I went for – did not go near any of the officials, was fortunate to meet a kind friend, Lucie Harris, who gave me her pass – ‘tis a risk, yet we can accomplish nothing without great risk at times. I returned the favor by bringing a letter to forward to her husband, Army of Mobile. I sat up until 8 o’clock last night, arranging mail to forward to the different commands. It was a difficult job, yet a great pleasure to know I had it in my power to rejoice the hearts of our brave Southern Soldiers … God grant them a safe and speedy trip.

On March 16, she wrote:

At one o’clock, Mrs. Facklen, Mrs. Kirk and I began to fix my articles for smuggling, we made a balmoral of the grey cloth for uniform, pinned the hats to the inside of my hoops – tied the boots with a strong list, letting them fall directly in front, the cloth having monopolized the back and the hats the side. All my letters, brass buttons, money, etc. in my bosom – left at 2 o’clock to meet Anna at Mr. Barbie’s – started to walk, impossible that – hailed a hack – rather suspicious of it, afraid of small-pox, jumped in, with orders for a hurried drive to corner Main & Vance … arrived at pickets, no trouble at all, although I suffered horribly in anticipation of trouble. Arrived at home at dusk …

Her diary entry of April 16, 1864, reads:

Another day of excitement – about 30 Yanks passed early this morning, only six came in for their breakfast, they did not feed their horses – they behaved very well, and seemed to be gentlemen, in fact we so seldom see gentlemen among the Yankees that we can appreciate them when they are met with.

Belle’s frequent trips back and forth across the opposing lines soon attracted the attention of Union officials. General Stephen A. Hurlburt issued a warrant for her arrest. When Belle learned of this, she wrote an entry in her diary dated April 21, 1864:

…(Hurlburt) would be compelled to arrest me if it came to him officially, but as my father was a Royal Arch Mason, and I a Mason, he would take no steps, if I would be quiet.

And on April 25:

…I am so unhappy about the trouble I have got in – oh! what is to become of me, what is my fate to be – a poor miserable exile.

Belle fled south to avoid arrest. She traveled through Tupelo, Pontotoc, and Columbus before arriving at Waverly Plantation in Clay County, Mississippi on July 14, where she remained until the war ended.

When the war finally did end, Belle returned to Memphis, but details of her life after this are sketchy. In the early 1870’s, she befriended President Jefferson Davis and his family. She was engaged twice, but both of her fiancés backed out of their commitment. After announcing her third engagement to a mysterious “Colonel H,” Belle died two weeks later in 1873 from one of three epidemics that swept through the city. She was only 33 years old. Family legend dictates that “Colonel H” was a Yankee officer.

Belle’s memory lives on through her diary. She is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis with her parents.

Dishonoring Memphis’ History

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Memphis just can’t leave well enough alone. In 2013, the city council voted to change the names of three parks in the city, specifically Forrest Park, Confederate Park, and Jefferson Davis Park, to names more politically correct and anti-Confederate. It’s astonishing to me how some Southern cities like New Orleans, Charlottesville, Dallas, and of course, Memphis, want to disregard their history. Not only that, but some members of the city council want to move General Forrest and his wife’s bodies from Forrest Park (they are now buried beneath the statue of the general on King Philip) and move them to Elmwood Cemetery. There is a reason General Forrest and his wife were moved to Forrest Park from Elmwood Cemetery in 1905: out of enormous admiration and respect. Now the city wants to disregard this and display flagrant disrespect.

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MEMPHIS CHAMBER OPPOSES MONUMENTS

The Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce is mobilizing support for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s request for a State waiver to allow the City to remove the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in violation of State Law.

In advance of the Oct. 13 meeting on the Tennessee Historical Commission, where Strickland will make his case, the chamber’s board of directors has drafted a letter “in behalf of the business community.”

The letter calls the statue of the Confederate general, “one of several divisive symbols that hamper our city’s efforts to attract and retain top talent for the skilled workforce that is critical to our success.”

The Chairman of the Historical Commission has told Mayor Strickland that the Commission will not hear the city’s request for a waiver at the Oct. 13 meeting in Athens, Tennessee.

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(Courtesy Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Oct. 6, 2017 ed.)

The War against the Flag Rages On (But You Can Win!)

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Since I posted on my blog last week, numerous developments have occurred in regard to the desecration of the Confederate battle flag. Not only have several big box stores vowed to discontinue sales, but Apple has taken down some of their games as well. Since then, sales of the Confederate battle flag have doubled. TV Land has stopped showing The Dukes of Hazzard, and rumor has it that Facebook will not allow postings of the Confederate battle flag (we’ll see if this gets posted).

NASCAR C.E.O. Brian France said that the flag is an “offensive and divisive symbol.” However, he somewhat changed his stance. Instead of banning the flag from races, he has offered a flag exchange, and is asking that spectators fly the Stars and Stripes instead of the Confederate battle flag this weekend in honor of Independence Day.

Ft. Sumpter has furled its Confederate battle flags, and all Confederate flags are being removed from the entrance to Stone Mountain. Some nut is even circulating a petition to have Stone Mountain blown up.

Baltimore’s mayor and city council have taken up a proposal to remove three Confederate monuments in the city. And Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton wants something even worse. He has announced a proposal to have the bodies of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife exhumed from Forrest Park (recently renamed Health Sciences Park by Wharton and the city council), and moved to Elmwood Cemetery. He would also like for the statue of General Forrest to be removed from the park. There is no word as to where the city would move it, or if they plan on moving the body of General Forrest’s grandson, who is also buried at the park. Absurdity reigns.

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The Ku Klux Klan has stated that they will march in South Carolina later this month to protest the removal of the Confederate battle flag. In my opinion, this is derogatory to the cause. Because of them and their racist views, the Confederate battle flag has been associated with them. However, most of us know this is not the case.

It’s bad representation like this that gives fuel to the fire of anti-Confederate nonsense. In a recent poll taken by USA TODAY/Suffolk University, the country is split on whether or not to do away with the flag. According to the poll, 42% believe it represents Southern history and heritage, while 42% believe the flag is racist and should be removed. More than half of whites who were polled believe the assault in South Carolina was an isolated incident committed by one lone gunman, and one-third say “it reflects a larger problem of racism in America.” However, among African Americans, three out of four say the battle flag reflects racism.

I would say that hypersensitivity is part of the problem. Why is it that three-fourths of blacks view the flag as racist? I’m sure part of the reason is because of the way the flag, and white Southerners in general, are portrayed by the media. Here in Sioux Falls, a local television station broadcast this story:

“A Sioux Falls couple feuding with their neighbors is flying the Confederate flag, hoping to offend people they don’t like who live close by. What would you think if this was your neighbor?”

Really? I find the wording to be offensive and misleading. We don’t know what their feud is about, or if there even is a feud. Is that really why they are flying the flag, or are they just proud to be from the South? Who knows, but in this case, it’s bad reporting. The cartoon below, which recently appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, is also very offensive. Associating the Confederate battle flag with ISIS is horrendous, to say the least.

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So what happens now? Will the flag continue to vanish, whether we like it or not? Why don’t we get a say in the matter? Why haven’t these issues been put to a vote? And what will this lead to? Will all books with the flag on the cover, historical or otherwise, be banned? Will all movies be banned as well? Gone with the Wind is already under scrutiny, and you can forget about ever seeing The Birth of a Nation on TNT again.

A Beautiful Glittering Lie Cover Art   9780595908561

In honor of the Confederate battle flag and those who fought under it, I am running a contest throughout the month of July. Please send an email to jdrhawkins@gmail.com stating what the flag means to you, and you will be entered to win both of the first two books in the Renegade Series – A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire. It’s my intention to show the Confederate flag in a positive light and educate people about the Southern cause, so please help spread the word.

Tragedy on the Mississippi

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One hundred and fifty years ago today, the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history took place. This little known event happened on the Mississippi River, not long after the Civil War ended. The name of the vessel was the Sultana.

At the close of the war, Union prisoners were released from Southern POW camps. Some of the parolees were transported to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they awaited their release. Riverboats traveling along the Mississippi River vied for the lucrative opportunity to transport newly released prisoners to their homes in the north, and were paid handsomely by the Federal government. One such vessel, the Sultana, was chosen to transport Andersonville and Alabama prisoners, who were crowded onto the boat, surpassing the 376 person limit.

The boat made its way upriver to Helena, Arkansas, where the above photo was taken. It docked in Memphis, and shortly before 2 a.m., set off for Cairo, Illinois. However, seven miles north of Memphis, the boat suddenly exploded, sending burning prisoners to their deaths or into the icy cold river, which was flooded and swollen with spring thaw. Those who weren’t burned to death or drowned managed to make their way to the riverbanks, and waited for rescue while they watched the unmanned boat spin helplessly in the water, aflame in the night sky. After being rescued, the surviving Union soldiers were taken to hospitals in Memphis. Many succumbed to their wounds, or to their weakened state as POW’s, but some survived. Approximately 1,800 of the 2,427 passengers perished.

Controversy still surrounds the tragedy, including a conspiracy theory that Confederates sabotaged the boat, but this was never proven. It is believed that a faulty boiler actually caused the explosion. Although the riverboat was overloaded, and some people were rumored to have taken bribes, no one was ever held accountable.

Today, there are monuments signifying the event. One is located in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. The disaster was overshadowed by President Lincoln’s assassination, as well as the manhunt for his killer, John Wilkes Booth, who was killed the day before in Virginia. The Sultana tragedy was barely reported in newspapers. Americans were tired of war and death, so the horrific event was essentially ignored. It was a terrible ending to a terrible war.

The Civil War and Memphis

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Anyone interested in the War Between the States knows that Memphis is the site of many historically significant events. Tennessee ranks second in the number of battles that took place there (Virginia, of course, had the most). It isn’t surprising that, over the course of over 150 years, many places have disappeared beneath strip malls, golf courses, or kudzu. Some, however, still remain intact.

One of the most notable places is Elmwood Cemetery, where Nathan Bedford Forrest’s family is buried. (Historian and author, Shelby Foote, is interred beside them, and General Forrest is now buried at Forrest Park.) Also in the cemetery are numerous slave’s graves, Confederate soldiers’ graves, and victims of the 1878 yellow fever epidemic.

Jefferson Davis Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River, and Confederate Park nearby, both escaped flooding this spring. Many antebellum homes, including the beautiful Hunt-Phelan House, still exist, as does evidence left over from battles, such as a street sign marking Union General Washburn’s escape from General Forrest’s cavalry forces. A home that was part of the Underground Railroad still stands on North 2nd Street, and the Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, is still in publication. (During the war, the press was moved several times to avoid capture. The Commercial Appeal now publishes Civil War news every Sunday)

Happy Birthday General Forrest

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Today marks the anniversary of one of the Civil War’s most influential and controversial commanders, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Born on July 13, 1821, Forrest rose to fame after enlisting as a private in the War Between the States. Because of his outstanding, strategical military mind, he advanced to general during the course of the war.

At the onset of the Civil War, Forrest was a wealthy planter, slave trader, and real estate investor. Although he had no formal education, he worked hard (his father died when he was 17, leaving him responsible for his family) and put his younger brothers through college. Becoming a Memphis millionaire, he paid for horses and equipment for a regiment of Tennessee volunteers. From there, he proved to be a military genius in several battles. He was quoted as saying he was the first with the most, and that he came out a horse ahead (he had 29 horses shot out from under him, but killed 28 men). Author Shelby Foote stated that there were only two geniuses in the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

At the massacre of Ft. Pillow, Forrest was accused of intentionally killing surrendered Union soldiers because they were black. He was later found innocent of the charges. After the war, it was rumored that he helped establish the KKK, but this has never been proven, and he denied it adamantly. In fact, a court hearing was held, led by Union General Sherman, to prove his guilt, but that never happened. General Forrest was only 56 years old when he died on October 29, 1877.

Originally buried in Elmwood Cemetery, his body was disinterred to Forrest Park in Memphis in 1904. Every year, a ceremony is held to honor this special man and significant Confederate leader, and this year is no exception. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy will be at the park today to pay special homage to this amazing man.

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