It’s another Memorial Day Weekend and I’ve turned my three day weekend into a four day weekend by taking off Friday. Each year during this time, if I have time, I usually make a tribute to our fallen soldiers. This usually means an early morning or late evening trip to a cemetery to take pictures. My Saturday was filled with some planned activities, but those activities were cancelled. I took the opportunity to spend some time at another cemetery.
I will try not to venture too far into politics, but politics ties into this post. The Civil War is often not memorialized in the mainstream on Memorial Day. If you are familiar with the latest news in the USA, you probably have heard about Confederate Monuments being removed from Southern towns and cities. Personally, I find this appalling. Why are we erasing history? How far will this go? What are we teaching future generations? If I can petition my government to get rid of something or someone, because I’m offended or don’t like something, what does that say about the current state of our country? Because of this disrespect and the fact that Memorial Day has its roots in the South, I figure I would give some respect where respect is due. When I decided that I wanted to seek out a Confederate Cemetery, I asked the one person who would point me in the right direction, my wife.
When I told her my plans, she told me to go to Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville. She described a vast and beautiful landscape filled with large, old trees, elaborate tombs and headstones. She said that the centerpiece of the Confederate burials was Confederate Circle. I’m lucky to have a historian for a wife. Civil War history is one of her specialties. Her knowledge has revealed to me that a lot of what’s happening is fueled by ignorance and misinformation. After locating the address, I set my alarm for an early morning trip.
It was a struggle to get up as I did not go to bed until late. When I did finally make it out the door, I was greeted with a cloudy sky. I wanted to have a little sun to make things interesting, but there would be no sun for this photo shoot. When I arrived at the cemetery, I drove through the maze of roads winding around the tombstones and grave sites. After a few turns, I was actually lost. I couldn’t remember how to get back to the entrance. I kept driving and admiring the elaborate tombstones. I could spend the entire day here. In fact, if my wife was with me, we probably would. I kept driving, turning left then right. I did not see any pictures of the Confederate Circle prior to this trip, so I did not know exactly what to look for. However, when I saw a familiar flag and a towering monument, I figured I had stumbled upon the prize. I was correct. Tour Stop No. 22 was the Confederate Circle.
The above sign is for the walking tour. You can pick up a tour guide at the office to navigate the 250 acre cemetery and learn about its rich history. Maybe I should have stopped by the office first. That’s just like a man, right? I don’t need any stinking directions, LoL! After the War Between the States, the women of Nashville bought land at Mt. Olivet and created the Confederate Circle. The remains of 1500 Confederate Soldiers were removed from area battlefields and interred underneath and around the 45 foot granite monument that stands at the center of the circle. Seven generals are also buried here.
Below is what’s written on the face of the monument above, left face then right face.
THE MUSTER-ROLL OF OUR DAUNTLESS DEAD IS LOST,
AND THEIR DUST DISPENSED ON MANY FIELDS.
THIS COLUMN SENTINELS EACH SOLDIER GRAVE
AS A SHRINE.
THIS SHAFT HONORS
THE VALOR, DEVOTION AND SACRAFICE UNTO DEATH
OF CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS OF TENNESSEE.
THE WINDS OF HEAVEN, KISSING ITS SIDES,
HYMN AN EVERLASTING REQUIEM
IN MEMORY OF THE UNRETURNING BRAVE.
Below is what’s written on the other side of the moment as pictured above, left side first then right.
IN THE MAGNANIMOUS JUDGMENT OF MANKIND,
WHO GIVES UP LIFE UNDER A SENSE OF DUTY
TO A PUBLIC CAUSE DEEMED JUST,
IS A HERO.
ERECTED, THROUGH THE EFFORTS
OF WOMEN OF THE STATE,
IN ADMIRATION OF THE CHIVALRY OF MEN
WHO FOUGHT IN DEFENSE OF HOME AND FIRESIDE,
AND IN THEIR FALL
SEALED A TITLE TO UNFADING AFFECTION.
This post would not be complete without capturing the flags, no pun intended. This first flag is the Third National Flag of the Confederacy. It’s a modification of the Second National Flag which did not have the vertical red stripe at the end. In some instances, the Second National Flag resembled the surrender flag when the wind was not blowing, so the red bar was added. This changed also gave it a new nickname, “The Blood Stained Banner.”
The following flag was patterned by General Earl Van Dorn, a US Army officer who later became a brigadier general for the Confederacy. His pattern became the battle flag of the 6th Missouri Infantry. Before his death, he gave the flag to his wife Josephine for safe keeping. She sewed the flag into the inside of her dress and safely made it back to Missouri with the flag. The original flag is currently on display at the Civil War Interpretive Center at Corinth, MS.
The next flag is arguably the most misused and misunderstood flag in our nation. This is a topic within itself. I will just say that it is NOT the CONFEDERATE flag. It’s a Tennessee Battle Flag.
The next series of images are pictures of plaques that display information about some of the more prominent people buried here. These plaques are located around the perimeter of the Confederate Circle.
I left the Confederate Circle and continued driving around the cemetery. I drove for awhile before I finally discovered the way out. As I was driving, I noticed what looked to be a bricked building built into the side of a hill. There was a plaque at the bottom of the hill next to the roadway.
After reading the plaque, I grabbed my gear and hiked up the hill. Raindrops begin to fall, so I hastily found my composition. I wanted to shoot from a vantage point that showed how this structure was embedded into the side of the hill.
I got my exterior shot and then proceeded to go inside. I felt like I was stepping into a tomb. There were remnants of dirt dobber nests on the walls. It was cool and there was a water leak in the back next to the tables where bodies were probably staged. I imagined the doors suddenly slamming shut and the faces of confederate ghosts emerging from the walls. After amusing myself with my imagination, I stepped outside to get one more exterior shot.
As you can see in the picture above, there were lights inside. These lights were on a timer switch so they turned off when they were not in use. I won’t go into more detail. I will let the pictures do the talking. I spent the next hour capturing the following images.
As you can see from the last few pictures, the sun finally started to break through. I wished it was around earlier that morning, but sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. Speaking of rolling with the punches, I would encourage those who are standing up against those trying to erase our history to keep up the fight. It won’t stop at town squares. Eventually that 45 foot granite monument at Confederate Circle in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery will be slated for removal because it hurts someone’s feelings. Don’t laugh! I didn’t think the government would be telling me what light bulb to use either. The end game is to erase ALL vestiges of the Confederacy. I find this to be a huge disservice to those whom we memorialize. I’ll end this post with an image I actually took at the Confederate Circle. It’s message sums up my feelings about these current events.
I love finding little jewels when I visit cemeteries. These jewels come in the form of vestiges left by family members and wayfarers. The jewel I found this time was a sign someone left behind to send a message. This sign illustrates my discussion from the beginning of this post. There are plenty of things that I don’t like. Frankly, there are people I don’t like. However, the thought of shutting someone down or getting rid of something just because I don’t like it NEVER crosses my mind. As an adult, I can manage and navigate through a world where I face people whom I disagree and face things I don’t like. Basically, the world does not revolve around me. In other words, I can COEXIST.
Thanks for reading and thank you to ALL who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for this Great Nation! By the way, there is one piece of information I’ll share with those who don’t know me. It adds perspective to this post. I am a black man, and I approve this message.
Images Best Viewed in Lightbox Below!