A quiet secluded valley surrounded by towering trees and gentle slopes cradles the remains of about 400 Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the bloody two-day Battle of Resaca, May 14-15, 1864.
That the Civil War-era cemetery exists at all can be credited to two sisters whose home lay within the battle zone.
According to the Bicentennial History of Gordon County, Col. John F. Green was forced by the battle to take his family and flee. When they returned, members were stricken by the sight that greeted them — the Federals had collected and properly interred their dead, but the fleeing Confederates had not had time to properly bury their own.
Around the house on all sides were scattered graves of soldiers who had been buried where they fell. Low mounds and shallow depressions dotted the battle-scathed land for hundreds of yards. Some of the bodies were exposed; others only hastily covered with dirt.
Col. Green’s daughters, Mary and Pyatt, with the help of their black cook and black maid, dug graves with their own hands and began burying the fallen soldiers in their flower garden. This was the beginning of the Resaca Confederate Cemetery, the oldest Confederate military burial ground in Georgia and one of the two oldest in the South.
No money for the gruesome task
Later the girls conceived the idea of collecting all the bodies and interring them in a plot to be known as a Confederate cemetery. There was only one problem. They had no money for the project and work would be expensive.
ln the early summer of 1866, Mary and Pyatt began writing to friends around the state, trying to raise money for the cemetery. Though the entire South was poverty-stricken, people gave what they could: a nickel, a dime, 25 cents or a dollar. The appeals resulted in free-will offerings of $2,000 coming from a number of states.
Col. Green donated the land within the battlefield area. Around two acres was cleared of undergrowth and surrounded by a picket fence. Rustic bridges spanned the stream that ran through the grounds. Bodies of the dead were removed and placed in graves concentrically according to states represented by the soldiers: Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana.
But expenditures exceeded the costs by $500. The General Assembly of Georgia was asked to pay the deficit, and Mary Green became the first woman ever to appear before the Legislature. As a result of her petition, she was granted not only the $500 she requested, but $3,500 more. In granting the additional money, the state asked Mary to oversee the reburial of soldiers who had fallen at Chickamauga.