It was a night of living history at the Marietta Confederate Cemetery on Saturday as spirits from the past rose again to tell their stories for the cemetery’s second annual candlelight tour.
Among the talkative ghosts were Mrs. Jane Glover, wife of John Glover, Marietta’s first mayor; Gen. William Phillips of the famed Phillips Legion and A.R. Waud, Civil War field artist for Harper’s Weekly.
Harper Harris, who sits on the cemetery’s board and hosted the event, said it is a way to connect people with history.
“There’s 3,400 graves here, somewhere between 3,100 and 3,400 soldiers buried here,” he said. “If your people were here during the war, that’s our ancestors, whether they were Yankee or Confederate, they’re buried here or in the National Cemetery or all over. … 630,000 to 670,000, depending on who you talk to, a lot of people died in the war, and they’re our ancestors, and it’s our history.”
Harris said the cemetery is owned by the state of Georgia, but the Marietta Confederate Cemetery Foundation helps pay for its upkeep. All money raised by the tour will go directly back to keeping the plots clean.
“It takes a little money to keep this thing up, and that’s our whole purpose, is to take care of this cemetery,” he said. “No money goes in anyone’s pocket, it all goes back to taking care of the cemetery.”
As Harris spoke, the cemetery echoed with sweet bluegrass music played by Woodstock-based Dixie Jubilee and the dulcet tones of Carter Horne, former contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.”
Once the sun had set, the tours began, and history-loving guests strolled through the dark cemetery, following lantern-bearing guides to speak with a series of actors dressed in Civil War garb. There were fine Southern ladies as well as more gruesome folk, including a Civil War surgeon and gravedigger.
Harold Hitt, a retired contractor originally from Marietta, portrayed Gen. William Phillips.
Phillips, who was also president of Marietta and North Georgia Railroad, assisted Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown in a raid of a huge federal arsenal near Augusta, providing a great deal of weapons for the South early in the war.
Phillips was stricken with typhoid fever and was not able to serve out the rest of the war, but Hitt said he finds his story fascinating.
“This man was a prominent businessman, not only a sympathizer to the Confederacy and a leader of men, but these men helped form what we know today as Georgia. What we know today as the city of Marietta, this man right here helped build,” Hitt said, gesturing toward Phillips’ grave marker. “And he’s still influential because he was president of the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad, which brought millions of dollars worth of commerce, even in the 1800s, to this little area. That railroad built this town, and this man built that railroad.”