Volunteers needed for Confederate ceremony
by Noreen Cochran
December 04, 2012 12:42 AM | 4281 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Volunteers are needed Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. for a holiday tribute to the Confederate dead in which 140 green wreaths trimmed with red bows will be laid on soldier’s graves in the nationwide Wreaths Across America event.

Officials say individuals can volunteer by showing up early on the day of the event.

The event, beginning with a noon program at Brown Park and moving to the Marietta Confederate Cemetery immediately thereafter, is part of an observation sponsored by Columbia Falls, Maine-based nonprofit Wreaths Across America. Brown Park is at the north corner of the cemetery.

“I think it’s important that for the first time, they are placing wreaths on the Confederate dead because these are boys from all over the South that served in the Confederacy,” said former Marietta City Councilwoman Betty Hunter, president of the cemetery foundation. “They deserve recognition as well. They were protecting their homes. It’s good that they’re being honored.”

Also working on the event is Joan Ellars, director of Keep Marietta Beautiful.

“It’s really a cool concept to honor our veterans,” she said.

A variety of organizations and individuals helped raise $2,100 for 140 of the $15 evergreen wreaths shipped from the nonprofit.

All that is needed is a congregation of interested residents to decorate the graves, who don’t need to sign up — they can just show up.

“They can come from any city,” Ellars said. “We welcome everyone and anyone. They can also be observers. If they wish to wear period costume, they may.”

Hunter, the great-granddaughter of Confederate foot soldier Catlett Smith, said the historical aspect of the event will interest many populations.

“It’s for anyone interested in local history and for historians, not just of the Civil War,” she said. “We’re encouraging military families and veterans of all wars to attend.”

In addition, the ceremony will be making its own history.

“We are the only Confederate cemetery in the U.S. that’s involved in this,” Ellars said. “To our knowledge, ours is the first Confederate cemetery to be involved.”

According to Ellars and Hunter, the cemetery’s involvement is thanks to Houston Spencer, a colonel in the Old Guard of the Gate City Guard.

“We are one of the oldest historical military organizations in Georgia,” Spencer said about the 110-strong group tracing its roots to a militia formed in 1853 to help protect the city of Atlanta.

The Marietta resident said he got in touch with the nonprofit after a service at the National Cemetery in Marietta.

“The Gwinnett Civil Air Patrol laid wreaths. They do that every year,” Spencer said. “I was standing there and I said, ‘There’s a cemetery across the tracks that needs to be recognized.’ That’s what started it.”

Spencer said the civil air patrol’s event was inspiring.

“Last year they put out 1,000 wreaths. To see them is mind-boggling,” he said. “It gives you a sense of awe because this is a reverent, solemn memorial service to servicemen who gave their lives in service of the country.”

The event reverberates with Spencer and his fellow historians.

“This is a memorial service to the men that are buried in the Marietta cemetery. They gave their all and we need to recognize it. That’s what the Old Guard is about, recognition of our heritage and passing on to future generations the heritage of the old South,” he said.

Spencer, whose great-great-grandfather William Mitchell Spencer was killed at the Battle of Shiloh, Tenn., said Marietta’s Confederate cemetery is as special as a battlefield.

“When I go to the cemetery that’s what I get; a sense of, a feeling you get when you’re standing in an area where you know there are soldiers buried there. That’s what I felt in the cornfield and sunken road of Antietam,” he said about the Sharpsburg, Md. battlefield. “It’s just that feeling that comes over you, for me, to know what took place that afternoon. That’s what I feel when I’m in the cemetery.”

Hunter said the effect of the wreath ceremony will be extraordinary.

“I think it will be beautiful,” she said. “I wish we’d have snow.”

Volunteers and visitors are asked to arrive at 11 a.m. to allow time for parking on West Atlanta Road or at the Marietta City Cemetery next door.
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