|Marietta Hilton-site of the XV Corps hospital 1864|
August 14, 2014 Thursday
Overwhelmed with history. That's what I am right now. I't hard to put all of my jumbled thoughts together because they're going around, as Ray Stevens would say, like a golf ball teed off in a tile bathroom. It's bad enough I spent several hours telling you about Chickamauga then find I have forgotten files from a friend who's ancestor fought in the same unit as grandpa that I didn't even consult (I'll have to add Part V-b to the list) and I also haven't told you about Orchard Knob or Missionary Ridge (the Battle of Chattanooga) yet either. So thinking about how to put that all down, and to add insult to injury, we drive to the national encampment of the SUVCW in Marietta, Georgia, next to the Kennesaw Mountain NMP and a suburb of Atlanta. Of course, the pulse starts to rise as I gather with my brothers who also have great stories to tell. But then we go on a trolley tour of Marietta with a brother who is a historian (Brad Quinlin of the Ga & South Carolina Department) and he begins to jam more into my head than I can contain. I describe it to the Hurricane as that itch in your ear that your pinky finger just can't get to. That's what history does to me. Cemeteries drive me crazy because every stone has a story to tell and military cemeteries are even worse. So, I love history but it will be my demise when my head explodes.
I will just have to tell you some of the things that have popped up that I couldn't possibly explore but I must say something about:
- The hotel we're staying at (Hilton Marietta) is the actual site of the XV Corps hospital in 1864 and those who died here were buried here under what is now the club house until re-interred at the Marietta National Cemetery. The golf course around us once was covered with tents filled with wounded soldiers. It humbles me as I sit in a rocking chair on the back terrace and look over the green fields. It was not always so.
- Brad pointed out to us many building and churches that were used for hospitals both by the Confederates and later the Federals.He showed us the train tracks, still in use today, where the wounded came in by the trainload, all day and all night.
- Marietta was a supply depot for Sherman's march and the buildings were bulging with supplies. The town square was piled high with hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition.
- Marietta is one of only two cities that has an official Confederate cemetery and a National Cemetery. As we went through the Confederate cemetery we noted row after row of small square headstones
- As we round the corner by the National Cemetery we note that a cluster of headstones-all from children who died of typhoid. Brad also says the site of the cemetery was originally requested to be sold to the Confederacy for a good sum but the man who owned it, a Union sympathizer, refused. Later they found a tunnel from his house to the cemetery-part of the underground railroad. When he was asked by the Federals to sell the land to them for a cemetery as well he agreed and sold it-for $1.
- The suffering was great but so was the compassion on both sides. Told was the story of a black nurse from the north who came south with the troops. Much respected, she cared for them as if they were her own. A soldier wrote home to tell of her care, noting that his mother should not worry as he was receiving motherly care from her. Sadly he passed and was buried in the National cemetery. Later that same nurse died and was buried there as well, next to the soldier who wrote the letter.
- Chaplain Thomas Van Horne (author of the definitive 2 volume "Army of the Cumberland") as a chaplain in the Union Army was given General Order 26 by General Thomas, sickened by the soldiers killed at Chickamauga in September 1863 and still lying on the ground in December, an order to
These stories, and many others, are what keep me reading and exploring. Those things draw an ache of grief combined with pride that is hard to describe. It's the itch in the ear that the pinky can't get to. When we see, as Christ said, the act of love of someone laying down their life for another, whether in acts of compassion and service or with all they have-their physical life-it has to grab the soul down deep and cause a welling of emotion that drives us on to do the same. It's the honorable work of sacrifice that we must learn and tell to our children and grandchildren (dear Felix) so they too will do what's right if the time comes.
I will leave you with one last story from Brad Quinlan even though it happens during WWII. Brad's father served in the Pacific but never told his stories, as was the case for many of our veterans. When he died, Brad found his book and papers from his old unit. He found there were 41 remaining survivors so he wrote 41 letters and got back...41 replies (2 from widows). They were all astounding but he one that gripped him was from his dad's platoon sergeant. It seems Brad's Dad (Leonard Paul Quinlan) was the sergeant's runner and the sergeant, Brad's dad, and another man were in a foxhole when a Japanese grenade landed in with them. The third man threw his helmet over it, then his body, and when it exploded, he was killed, Brad's dad wounded in three places and unable to move, and the sergeant wounded in two. A Japanese patrol was approaching with intent to capture or kill them and they couldn't get away. From behind the chatter of a BAR was heard and the line of Japanese were mowed down. The gun continued to fire until they were able to get away. Five days later they found the gunner's body still at the gun. That man was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his sacrifice. Brad has found his grave and plans to take his entire family there to visit.
I'm still trying to get at that itch. Maybe tomorrow. I'll try to get part V-b, more about grandpa at Chickamanuga, as soon as I can. The encampment begins tomorrow with a group of men who haven't forgotten the sacrifice.
We are the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. We are the descendants of the men who fought to save the Union. Their blood runs in our veins. We are not about "representing" Civil War soldiers, we, as descendants and legal heirs to the G.A.R. are a direct link to these men. We honor our ancestors by keeping alive the memory of their service and sacrifice in a way that no other organization can.
We are not a re-enactment unit or a living history organization. We are as close as you can get to a Civil War soldier. When we wear the uniform we are not "representing" or "portraying." We are remembering. The blood of our ancestors cries out to us from the grave. We must not, we cannot forget. Because we remember, some part of them lives in us. Because we remember, their sacrifice was not in vain. Because we remember, the nation that they fought to save endures and thrives, and they can rest contented in their graves -
Because We Remember