Resting place for Confederate soldiers

The serene, wooded cemetery atop the hill behind the Old Shelby Springs Hotel, used as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War, is officially known as The Shelby Springs Confederate Cemetery, but it was commonly referred to as The Old Soldier’s Graveyard.

It came into existence as a burial site for some of the soldiers treated at the hospital who succumbed to their wounds and illnesses.

These soldiers hailed from locations all over the South, as many were brought to the hospital by train.

Records from the hospital are scarce and barely legible, but the surviving reports, housed on microfilm at the Shelby County Historical Society, indicate whether a deceased soldier’s body would be interred at the cemetery.

When feasible, family members of the deceased came to Shelby Springs to claim the body of their loved one for burial elsewhere.

Soldiers aren’t the only people buried in the cemetery.

Located on the far end of the property is a community cemetery, where burials for local citizens took place until 1921.

Currently, there are 95 identified soldier’s graves in the cemetery and 212 graves marked with a headstone that reads, “Unknown Soldier, C.S.A.” According to Bobby Joe Seales, president of the Shelby County Historical Society, the headstones marking each grave do not necessarily match its occupant. Sonar testing was used to locate remains beneath the soil and pinpoint actual graves, but determining exactly who is buried in each location is nearly impossible.

When the descendant of a soldier presents proof to the historical society that their ancestor is buried in the cemetery, a random “Unknown Soldier,” marker is removed and replaced with one that identifies the person’s relative.

In recent years, there has been much effort to preserve the cemetery, bringing the formerly neglected property to its present refurbished state.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Captain William Houston Shelby Camp No. 1537, was formed in 1991 to aid in the preservation of the cemetery.

The organization holds a memorial service at the cemetery each year on the last Sunday in April in honor of those buried there.

The historical marker near the site reads, “Lay Down Your Arms. 
Close Ranks. 
Rest In Eternal Peace.”

Catherine Cousins can be reached by e–mail at info@catherinecousins.com.