VIRGINIA: Archaeologists Map Civil War Cemetery

LYNCHBURG, Va. — Four archaeologists stood among a 45-foot by 10-foot trench within “Yankee Square” at Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg on Sunday afternoon.

Using brooms and shovels, they uncovered a patchwork of soil about 10 inches below the surface. To the common observer, the trench was just a mix of red and orange squares with splotches of brown; but to the archaeologists, it affirmed what they believed they would find in an area of unmarked land — Confederate soldiers’ graves.

The goal of the project is to be able to identify the boundaries of Yankee Square so cemetery staff can map the graves and match them to a book that documents where soldiers were buried during the Civil War. Once the soldiers are identified, cemetery staff members hope to put markers in place so visitors can see who is buried where. The project will help people understand the cemetery’s history and offer closure for descendants of those buried there, said Ted Delaney, Old City Cemetery’s assistant director.

“It’s always been an unsatisfying answer for me to say, ‘We know your ancestor is here somewhere, but we don’t know exactly where,’” Delaney said.

Autumn Parry Archaeologist Keith Adams locates unmarked graves of Confederate soldiers who died from small pox during the Civil War, at Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg on Sunday. Photo by Autumn Parry

Autumn Parry
Archaeologist Keith Adams locates unmarked graves of Confederate soldiers who died from small pox during the Civil War, at Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg on Sunday. Photo by Autumn Parry

Sunday’s work marked the second phase of what Delaney hopes to be a several-year-long project dedicated to identifying and maintaining Civil War soldiers’ graves. The project, which utilizes an annual $2,500 grant from the Virginia Department of Historic Records Work to document Yankee Square’s unknown inhabitants, began in April 2013.

During that phase, 50 graves were identified. About 35 graves were discovered this year between the two trenches dug, said Randy Lichtenberger, the director of cultural resources with Hurt and Proffitt — the Lynchburg-based company performing the archeological work

About 180 soldiers are buried throughout Yankee Square, which was started as a site for deceased Union soldiers. Within months of its creation, Confederate soldiers who died of diseases, usually small pox, also were added.

Work on this year’s phase began last Monday, but rain delayed the project. Sunday was the third workday. Archaeologists plan to spend another half day this week cleaning the site so the graves are easier to identify and record.

Based on the size and depth of the trenches, Delaney said the work doesn’t take long.

“You can cover a lot of area and learn a lot in just a few hours,” he said.

The red clay patches show either the head or the feet of soldiers buried there about 150 years ago, while the surrounding orange dirt shows an untouched area.

“We can see any time that a hole or disturbance is put in the ground because the soil’s not the same,” said Crystal Collins, one of the team members working on the project.

The holes often were filled with the soil in reverse, leaving the bottom layer on the top. In this case, the red clay at the base of the graves is now on top, she said.

The straight edges in the ground show the graves have not been excavated since the soldiers were buried, unlike the 18 graves the team discovered last Monday, where Union prisoners of war were buried during the war. Those soldiers were exhumed in 1866 so the bodies could be buried in a Petersburg cemetery, Lichtenberger said.

Before this phase of work began, Delaney said, the team wasn’t sure where they would find the exhumed Union graves.

“Now we can clearly know they’re outside the hedge, between the hedge and the road,” he said.

Since the graves are in columns and rows, the entire site doesn’t need to be excavated, just the perimeter to identify where the rows and columns start and end. The cemetery is uniform, consisting of the same size graves with the same spacing between them, Delaney said.

This year’s work brought the team a step closer to completing the map of graves, especially with the possible discovery of an untouched patch that corresponds with a spot in the records for six graves that weren’t made. If the spot is correct, then staff can begin numbering the graves to match the records, Lichtenberger said.

“We get a little further every time,” he said. “We find out more information every time, but it also raises questions every time because we find things we didn’t expect.”

One of the questions they now face is what a patch of discolored dirt represents. Archaeologists found a circular dark brown patch on top of some of the graves.

Lichtenberg doesn’t believe the spot is related to either a nearby tree or the soldiers’ graves. The patch could be the remnants of an old flowerbed or some other landscaping element, he said, but the team might never know its actual purpose.

“That’s a complete mystery,” he said.

Overall, Delaney and Lichtenberger said the discoveries are close to what they expected to find this year based on last year’s work.

“What we didn’t expect was finding the disease burials as far out as they are and crosscutting these,” Lichtenberger said, pointing to the marked graves surrounding the excavation site.

The biggest surprise has been finding some graves placed perpendicularly on top of other graves, they said.

The perpendicular graves often were noticeable as dark brown patches crossing the reds and oranges, showing a newer grave.

“To me, that’s the most interesting thing because it goes against everything you understand about the integrity of a grave,” Delaney said. He wondered how such grave placement could be approved but understood how the chaos of war could cause that to happen.

Lichtenberg also said the overlapping graves are interesting.

“The fact a good number are crosscutting, you don’t expect that,” he said.


GEORGIA: Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail to be Dedicated May 10

The non-profit organization Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails® and the Whitfield County Board of GeoCommissioners will dedicate the Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail® at a 1:00 PM ceremony on Saturday, May 10, at the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center in Tunnel Hill, Georgia. 

Occurring on the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the decisive 1864 Atlanta Campaign during the Civil War, the dedication ceremony will culminate a full day of interesting and family-oriented fun activities with the unveiling of the 13th interpretive marker along this historical driving trail, entitled “Tunnel Hill.” article.275756

When fully completed later this year the Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail will wind its way some 340 miles from northwest Georgia through metro Atlanta to its culmination in Jonesboro.  The Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail follows many of the same historic roads traveled by both the Union and Confederate armies during the Atlanta Campaign.

About 350 colorful Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails roadway “trailblazer” directional signs, featuring an outline of Georgia surrounding a Civil War cannon, mark the historic trail route.  Fifty new National Park Service-styled interpretive markers are already installed along the Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail or will be in coming weeks.

The Dedicatory Speaker at the 1:00 PM ceremony will be former University of Georgia Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Vince Dooley.  An avid amateur Civil War historian, Dooley earned a master’s degree in History from Auburn University.  Other speakers are to include National Park Service Historian Jim Ogden, Georgia State Transportation Board member Roger Williams, Georgia Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Kevin Langston and Chairman of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, Mike Babb.

In addition to the dedication ceremony and marker unveiling on May 10, a variety of family fun and totally FREE activities will also occur throughout the day.  They include guided tours between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM of the famous Western & Atlantic Railroad tunnel and the historic Clisby Austin House, used by Union Major General William T. Sherman as his headquarters during the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign.

A concert of Civil War era music by the Eighth Regiment Band of Rome, Georgia, will begin at 12:30 PM and continue after the dedication ceremony.  Both Union and Confederate Civil War reenactors, including a full-scale cannon, will demonstrate military skills throughout the day and present a firing salute during the dedication ceremony.

Other organizations assisting in this special day include the Dalton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Tunnel Hill Heritage Foundation and the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division.

Both public and private funding for Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails and construction of the Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail has been provided by numerous individuals, organizations and participating communities, the State of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

For more information visit the Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails website at


GEORGIA: Sherman’s March began 150 Years Ago

Yankee invaders entered Georgia from Tennessee 150 years ago, determined to capture Atlanta and break the back of the South.

Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s battles through Georgia began in May 1864 with a fight at Tunnel Hill north of Dalton.

Rome historian Dennis Nordeman looks at a Civil War display in the Rome Area History Museum, 305 Broad St. Nordeman became a Civil War buff while doing research on Rome's rivers for another volunteer function as a Captain of the Roman Holiday riverboat. (Doug Walker,

Rome historian Dennis Nordeman looks at a Civil War display in the Rome Area History Museum, 305 Broad St. Nordeman became a Civil War buff while doing research on Rome’s rivers for another volunteer function as a Captain of the Roman Holiday riverboat. (Doug Walker,

Sherman felt supremely confident as he started the march to the Atlantic for a number of reasons, one of them being that he whipped his Confederate counterpart Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in Mississippi during the previous summer.

The fighting in Tunnel Hill occurred May 6-7. The battle of Resaca in Gordon County lasted from May 13 to May 15.

On May 16-17, some Union troops entered Rome.

Their move into the city was not a siege. According to the 1860 Census, Rome only had about 2,000 citizens, not including slaves.

By the time the Union Army was on the doorsteps of Rome, many residents had already fled the city, leaving only small units to protect the area.

Local historian Dennis Nordeman, who became deeply involved in Rome’s history as one of the first Roman Holiday riverboat captains, said most of the local leaders had seen the writing on the wall in April and early May and left the city.

Rome was defended by units at Fort Norton, now known as Jackson Hill, Fort Attaway, near the modern day intersection of Martha Berry Boulevard and John Davenport Drive and Fort Stovall, which was at Myrtle Hill.

A major entrenchment was located in the area near the modern day Floyd Medical Center.

Fort Attaway was the first to fall, then the trench line, then Fort Norton.

“(Union) Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, believe it or not, came down with I think 30,000 troops and pretty much overwhelmed Rome right away,” Nordeman said.

Davis said that Rome was one of the most heavily fortified places he had ever seen.

Part of that fortification involved seven major artillery pieces that had been shipped from Mobile, Alabama, to Atlanta to be rifled to improve their range and accuracy.

Rome’s John Carruth, leader of Rome’s 8th Regiment Band, a musical re-enactment group, said the artillery was shipped to Rome when it was determined that Sherman was going to try to take Atlanta from the north.

The Yankee superiority forced the outnumbered and outgunned local defenders to flee, burning the Fifth Avenue and Broad Street bridges behind them to try to protect the heart of the city.

“The Confederates burned stuff at the time that they thought might be useful to the Union troops,” Norde man said.

The Yankee troops set up their artillery on the hill where Shorter University now sits and fired on a couple of steamboats, the Alfarata and Laura Moore, which were used to ferry troops and supplies up and down the river.

The steamboats were lined with cotton bales to protect them from the Yankee cannonballs and were able to escape down the Coosa River. Nordeman said the two boats served out the war in lower Alabama.

“The capture of Rome was pretty painless,” Norde man said. “They (federal troops) did some damage in terms of taking over some buildings, hospitals and shooing people out of their homes and using them for their purposes.”

The handful of Romans who stayed behind no doubt found life both dangerous and difficult, Nordeman said.

Fearing that Atlanta might be taken with little more than a whimper, Confederate President Jefferson Davis fired Johnston and replaced him with General John B. Hood.

Sherman himself actually came into Rome during the second week of October in pursuit of General Hood.

It was when Sherman left the city in November that he ordered much of it to be burned.

“He fiddled around this area … chasing Hood and started sending telegrams,” Nordeman said. “By about Nov. 10, Sherman finally got permission from Grant for the evacuation of Rome and that’s when they (federals) started doing the damage,” Nordeman said.

-Rome News-Tribune