Monday, April 28, 2008
Celebrating Southern Roots
By Marcus E. Howard
Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer
MARIETTA - Confederate Memorial Day was celebrated Saturday in Marietta by a crowd of about 150 people who watched a parade, followed by a memorial service, in honor of the South's Confederate dead.
Despite critics of Confederate memorials labeling such as outdated and divisive, Suzanne Deetch, president of the Kennesaw chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy which organized the event, said the day is meant to remember history.
"It's become a black-white issue and that's not what it is," she said. "It's a history issue and it's not a slave issue. The majority of the people who fought for the South did not even know what a slave was, much less own one."
Chip Bryan, commander of the Kennesaw chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said it's important to pay tribute to those who fought and sacrificed their lives for their country.
"If you don't recognize and honor your past and your history, then what kind of future do you have?" he asked. "You've got to know where you come from to know where you're going."
Like many in attendance, Patrick Jenkins, 34, of Kennesaw, has lineage he can trace directly to the Civil War. His ancestor, John Amos from Georgia was killed in action outside of Vicksburg, Miss. during the war.
"This is the one day of the year we come out and honor the over 3,000 guys who are buried here and it's just part of our heritage and culture," said Jenkins.
Stan Dilcher, 47, of Marietta, said having an ancestor who fought in the first engagement of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., inspired him to become involved in the SCV.
The origins of Confederate Memorial Day can be traced to women in Columbus who on April 12, 1866, organized a memorial association and began a campaign to have a special day for "paying honor to those who died defending the life, honor and happiness of the Southern women," according to the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
Three days later, the Atlanta Ladies' Memorial Association was organized and a Confederate memorial observance at Oakland Cemetery was held on April 26, 1866, according to the institute.
Marietta has held an annual Confederate Memorial Day parade since 1995.
On Saturday, the parade of a small group of Confederate re-enactors began at 1:45 p.m. on Powder Springs Road, near the Root House Museum, and continued straight to the Marietta Confederate Cemetery. A cannon thundered several times in salute of the day.
The guest speaker, Rev. G.R. Graves of McPherson Baptist Church in Dallas who is also a lawyer and past SCV commander, spoke about the deeds of Confederate heroes like Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. He said the history of the Confederacy should be taught through events such as Confederate Memorial Day.
"Does the War Between the States need to be remembered, you bet," Graves told the crowd. "We want to pass on that which is good, and we may want to pass on some education about what's bad."
Visiting friends in Marietta from Long Island, N.Y., 52-year-old Patrick Ross said he learned of Saturday's event in a newspaper and was curious.
"You would never see this in New York in any shape or form," Ross said of the event.
"I think on one respect, to honor their dead and patriots of that day is commendable, but on the other hand I think it's a time past," said Ross. "I think we should stand as one nation, under God, indivisible."
Little known perhaps to many in Cobb is that a black man is buried in the Marietta Confederate Cemetery.
Bill Yopp was born in 1846 in Dublin and served as a drummer in the Confederate army. He died in 1936 and is the only African-American buried - with full military honors - in the cemetery, according to a proclamation signed in March by Gov. Sonny Purdue to honor Yopp.
"He was the last person to live in the Confederate Veterans Home in Atlanta that requested to be buried at Marietta (Confederate Cemetery)" said Larry Blair of Marietta.
Blair is a member of a committee that oversees the Confederate cemetery. He said he has performed extensive research on Yopp's life and met several of Yopp's descendants when they came to Georgia.
Yopp's engraved headstone is located in front of the few marked headstones at the cemetery. That placement was done in a show of respect to him, according to Blair.
Blair said Yopp helped fellow Confederate soldiers in need and befriended well-respected white men of his day during his many travels working on a train that ran from Atlanta to Savannah.
"He went through the war, he was a slave and became a free man, and joined the American Navy fighting in World War I and traveled all over the world," said Blair. "He ended up meeting all these politicians and was a real celebrity."