Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Delap Family Cemetery

I’ve spent the past few days on "vacation" in east Tennessee and Kentucky. I know many people would not consider the constant tramp through battlefields, museums, and cemeteries as much of a vacation - but it is the only way I know. Last Friday, I revisited the Delap Family Cemetery in Campbell County, Tennessee.

For those of you not familiar with this story, here are portions of an article that I wrote two years ago:

North Carolina Confederate Soldiers Honored at Last.

On a recent warm and humid Saturday morning, more than 250 people gathered on a hilltop in LaFollette, Tennessee. They were there to honor a group of long-lost Confederate soldiers. Many of those soldiers were from the mountains of western North Carolina.

In the summer of 1862, these soldiers marched away from Grasslands, the estate of Col. John B. Palmer. The soldiers who left for war that summer represented some of the oldest families in the area, and they joined for many reasons: personal and family honor, desire to "see the world," and fear of conscription.

The regiment was the 58th North Carolina Troops. Their destination was garrison duty in east Tennessee. The first winter for these soldiers, 1862 to 1863, was a difficult one. Over sixty men from the 58th North Carolina perished far from their mountain homes. They died not from battlefield wounds, but from a host of diseases, including measles, typhoid, and even dehydration from intestinal viruses. Since their encampment was described as being "near a spring," it is possible that they were exposed to contaminated water. Those who succumbed were buried in a local family cemetery and, for the most part, forgotten.

But there were a few local residents who remembered the cemetery. Eighty-four-year-old Alice Coker learned about the cemetery from its caretaker, Bob Delay, in the 1960s.

In 2003, Watauga County native Leta Cornett, whose grandfather had served in the 58th North Carolina and met his death in camp that winter of 1862-1863, stopped by the Campbell County Historical Society and Museum and inquired about the location of the burial ground. She was directed to Coker.

Ms. Coker quickly identified the cemetery, grown up with trees and thorny bushes after years of neglect, as the long-lost burial ground of the 58th North Carolina. Historical societies and government agencies from across Tennessee and North Carolina quickly became involved, and the cemetery was cleaned and restored. Tombstones were ordered from the Veterans Administration....

I wrote several articles about the cemetery, many of which were published in local newspapers and in the Carolina Confederate. Sadly, the story of these Confederate soldiers is not well known out of Campbell County, Tennessee, and western North Carolina.

This was my first trip back to the cemetery since the memorial service in June 2005. I wanted to take a few pictures without all of the people milling around. The photograph above was one of those that I brought home, along with all the food, baby clothes, and zucchini that my wife’s relatives loaded into our car!

I’m having a rather restful July Fourth before heading down to our little community celebration this afternoon. It’s a great little event with plenty of fun photo opportunities and chances to visit with the public. I always look forward to it.

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