Confederate Grave Restored
By Vicki Fleming, Murfreesboro Ch. #91, Murfreesboro, TN
This article also appeared in the Middle Tennessee Times serving DeKalb County
And the August 2002 issue of the United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine
Each time I visit a cemetery, it brings a measure of sadness a measure of respect. I think of loved ones that have died and what they may have gone through in life. Were they born during the Depression? Did they die during infancy? Did they fight in a war?
These are the easy ones. These people have a headstone with names, places and dates. Some headstones have special inscriptions. These are the lucky ones. It means someone remembered, and someone cared about who they were. Each grave, each person buried has a story to tell.
Other graves have no stories to tell. These are the forgotten graves, the ones with no tombstones, and the ones with no special inscriptions. Nothing to remind us who this person was or what they did in life. They are forgotten souls.
The sadness comes to me especially when the person buried is a veteran because I am a veteran. I was willing to die for the sake of my country as were my father before me and other ancestors before him. I respect the veterans that have given the last full measure of their life, and I respect the veterans that gave of their time, their willingness to fight for the betterment of others.
I say it’s sad because many times these graves are forgotten, the cemeteries neglected. I say it is sad because no one seems to remember or care about these neglected souls. In National Cemeteries or larger, more public cemeteries, the grounds are cared for. Ceremonies are held and loved ones remembered with flowers and maybe a flag. It is a place of quiet repose.
Two months ago, the sadness came again, but unlike other times this occasion had a better ending. As a member of the Gravemarkers Committee of the Tennessee Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, I was called upon to locate and determine the condition of the grave of S.R. Corum of Smith County, Tennessee.
Mr. Talley Bailey, a descendant of S.R. Corum, had viewed some pictures on the Internet of Polly Hill Cemetery in Smith County. It was a small cemetery located on the knoll of a hill in a pasture on a privately owned farm. Could we possibly locate the grave and restore it in order to honor his ancestor? Currently residing in Ft. Dix, New Jersey, he could not attend to the matter himself.
Mr. Bailey’s family tree is replete with ancestors from those that fought at Valley Forge with Washington, through the American Revolution, the War Between the States and World War II. All he asked was could we locate this grave? Could we help him remember and honor one of his ancestors?
I agreed to take on the task. I contacted Mr. John C. Waggoner, Jr., the gentleman who had taken the pictures of Polly Hill Cemetery (and many others in Smith County). Mr. Waggoner is a member of the Robert L. Hatton Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. After several emails we agreed to meet and to visit this lonely isolated cemetery. Retta Waggoner, John’s wife joined us to work on this task.
Because the cemetery is shared with any number of cows (and one mean bull), we had speculated the cows were responsible for many headstones being knocked over and in some cases broken, and so it was. Where was the Corum grave? Thanks to the Historical Society in Smith County, someone years ago had made a listing of each grave, person by person, row by row. The documentation provided by the Historical Society was invaluable.
We located the upright headstone of the wife of S.R. Corum. Where was his grave? There was a headstone buried beneath the dirt next to the wife’s grave. Mr. Waggoner had determined this with the aid of a special tool. Could this be his grave? At this point all that was showing was a portion of the pedestal (the base of the headstone). Great care should be taken unearthing a headstone. Older headstones are easily damaged (bovine or human causes). We dug a little with a shovel. We dug more with our bare hands.
The special moment had come. We had uncovered the face of the headstone. The marker was intact and in good condition. We were elated, if only for a while. A break for lunch and two hours later we placed the stone upright. It weighed between 200 – 300 pounds. Retta Waggoner and I cleaned the marker.
It was sad at this cemetery, but I have seen worse. Many of the stones are knocked over. Some of are broken and some, like the grave of S.R. Corum, have lain buried beneath the soil for many years. It was worth the sweat, the toil, the poison ivy, the sore muscles and the mean bull. Mr. Bailey is pleased that we were able to restore his ancestor’s grave and give honor to one of his family.
S.R. Corum had enlisted on the 22nd of July 1861 with Murray’s Cavalry and later served with Baxter-Smith’s Cavalry, Company C. During an engagement near Red Boiling Springs, his unit was making a charge. During the charge, Pvt. Corum’s horse fell on him, breaking his leg, rupturing a vein and causing other serious injuries. After a period of recovery and having been honorably discharged, he continued to help the South by doing blacksmith work in Smith County. While taking clothing to the army at the Battle of Murfreesboro, he was captured and released on oath. He lived his remaining years in Smith County and died on March 12, 1916.
I was glad of this work that day. I would do it again to help someone. Too often we can’t make the time to remember those that have gone before us. We can’t find the time to check on that small cemetery up that dirt road. It is sad to forget these neglected places and those neglected souls. In time, it will be my turn to join those that sleep in the dust. I hope someone will remember me.
For information on registering a Confederate grave or to ask a question on how you can honor your Confederate ancestor, contact your Division Gravemarkers Committee.
Note From the webhost:
Vicki Fleming is a member of the “United Daughters Of The Confederacy” Murfreesboro Ch. #91, Murfreesboro, TN. and serves on the Tennessee Division Gravemarkers Committee. Vicki is also invovled in a similar cemeteries picture project like ours in Smith County.