Huddled under blooming dogwood trees in clusters of about 10 people, visitors were led through a series of 15 stopping points, where volunteers re-enacted stories of those who were involved with the cemetery’s beginnings.
In 1863, soldiers wounded in the Battle of Chickamauga, near Chattanooga, Tenn., were brought to Marietta to be cared for in the area’s hospitals, and for some to be buried.
The effort to bring fallen soldiers to rest atop the hill just south of Marietta Square was led predominately by women, including Jane Glover and Mary Green, who were honored with the unveiling of two statues Sunday.
About 3,600 were interred at the cemetery — nestled at the intersection of Powder Springs and Atlanta streets — in honor of their contributions to the Civil War. About 1,000 graves have been identified so far, although efforts to identify the unknown soldiers are continually underway, said tour guide Rich Irving.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Irving moved to Marietta almost eight years ago. As the manager of supply chain at Floor and Décor in Kennesaw, Irving wanted to learn about “the other side” of the war’s history, and has been a tour guide for two years now, he said.
“No matter what side you fought on, or cheered for, these guys slaughtered each other. This history, these stories will never, never die down here,” because of the strong efforts to preserve and pass on the history, Irving said.
A third statue was unveiled yesterday to commemorate all of the women who helped to bring the cemetery together.
Women like Julia Allen-McClatchey, who helped to haul the bodies of the wounded and dead soldiers in wagons up the steep path into the cemetery, and to bury those who were dead.
Allen-McClatchey, who was played by Gretchen Ingram, a Marietta police officer, has volunteered for the re-enacting role two years in a row, she said.
“It’s interesting to tell the history, and it is important for the people in Marietta, who have lived here their whole lives, who don’t realize what happened right here,” she said, “And, it’s fun.”
Wearing a hoop skirt and a bright purple dress, she was accompanied by her daughter, 9-year-old Caroline Ingram, who was cooling off on a marble bench, waiting for the next tour group to arrive.
Dressed in period clothing, with wooden canteens, antique rifles, cups and glasses, many in grey and woolen Confederate uniforms, the re-enactors shared their histories.
Visitors heard stories of loss, love and betrayal, of how a community came together to tend for its wounded and dead at the end of what is commonly referred to as the nation’s bloodiest war.
“I think it is very impressive in the information and the re-enactors. I was not aware of this history of the cemetery, even though I was born and raised in Atlanta. The way it is maintained is very impressive,” said Mary-Lu Stevens, a small business owner in Smyrna, who visited the cemetery with her brother and his girlfriend.
Angela and Burt Meisner agreed. Although they have been living in the Atlanta area for 27 years, they had never visited the cemetery before Sunday. The couple, who now live in Smyrna, enjoyed the experience, they said.
The Marietta Confederate Cemetery is now maintained by many organizations, including Keep Marietta Beautiful and the Marietta Confederate Cemetery.