Preserving the Resaca Battlefield: From the Green Sisters to the Present
General Johnson fell back from the defenses around Dalton to the small crossroads town of Resaca, determined to make a stand. With his line anchored by the Conasauga River on one end and the Oostanaula on the other, he had 55 thousand men aligned for battle. General Sherman dug in across the valley with two-thirds of his army, about 70,000 men, thus setting the stage for the brutal two-day (May 14-15, 1864) Battle of Resaca, littering the Resaca Valley with destruction, dead men and dead horses.
Like many families in the area around Resaca, Col. John F. Green took his family and fled in the wake of the army’s arrival. Upon their return, they were sickened by the sights that greeted them. Though the armies had moved on, the Confederate dead were left behind, covering the property, many hastily buried in low mounds and shallow depressions, often with limbs protruding above the ground. The Federal Army had collected and properly interred their dead, but the fleeing Confederates had not.
Colonel Green’s daughters Mary and Pyatt, rose to the occasion when a desperate need for action had to be taken. With the help of local farmhands and servants, they collected hundreds of bodies, and buried then neatly in rows in the Green’s flower garden as a temporary measure.
Following the war’s end in in summer 1866, Mary and Pyatt began a letter writing campaign, mailing out requests for funds in ads to newspapers throughout the south to give proper burial for the rows of dead resting in Green’s flower garden. Even in a post-war economy full of poverty and depravation, small offerings trickled in; nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars. Finally, after $2,000.00 was raised, the Green sisters donated a 2.5 acre lot that included a picturesque stream running through the grounds for their cemetery.
The first Memorial Day commemoration was held October 25, 1866, and in an account of the event Mary Green wrote: “The day selected for the dedication was bright and beautiful, one of those charming days of our Indian summers where no sound was heard save the fluttering of falling leaves – a suitable accompaniment to our sad thoughts, as we stood in the ‘bivouac of the dead.’ The Resaca cemetery and the one in Winchester, Virginia were consecrated on the same day. Each of the sponsoring entities, thinking theirs was the first Confederate Cemetery in the nation. Without question, Resaca Confederate Cemetery is the oldest Confederate Burial Ground in Georgia and one of the two oldest in the South.
The 2.5 acres was the only preserved site on the Resaca Battlefield until serious preservation efforts were underway in the 1990s. In May of 2000 an additional 571 acres of pristine battlefield land was purchased by the State of Georgia working in conjunction with the Friends of Resaca Battlefield organization. In 2003 the earthwork known as Fort Wayne and a surrounding 65 acre were acquired. An additional 550 acres of the famous Chitwood Farm property and Cherokee Battery site were added in 2012-2013
The Resaca Battlefield Historic Site on the 511 acre acquisition from May 2000 will be holding its long awaited grand opening on May 13, 2016 at 3pm. Information is available on the Friends of Resaca Battlefield site. The Battle of Resaca reenactment commemorating the 152 anniversary of the battle will be held May 20-22. http://www.resacabattlefield.org/FoRstart.html
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