A Stroll Among the Stones

During this month of baseball playoffs, college football rivalries, and ghost stories, the urge to stroll through local cemeteries is the strongest it will get all year.

While there are many beautiful and historic cemeteries in Maury County, perhaps none are better to stroll through than Rose Hill in Columbia. Founded in 1853 on land sold by city mayor Meredith Helm, Rose Hill replaced Greenwood as Columbia’s city cemetery.

In Rose Hill are the graves of soldiers, statesmen, and many other lauded individuals. The famous here range from a famous horse racer to a legendary stock car driver. The majority of the graves, however, belong to decent, hardworking people that helped build Columbia from the ground up. For most, their stories will never be fully known or told.

Rose Hill, unlike many other cemeteries in the county, was planned and platted. Popular at this time were “garden cemeteries.” This movement made cemeteries more like city parks than unorganized repositories for the dead. Rose Hill, for example, is laid out into blocks with drives through each section. Flowering trees and evergreens can be seen throughout.

With its many drives, Rose Hill is perfect for a stroll and what really catches the attention of visitors are the monuments. During the Victorian-era, ornate monuments were constructed for graves in Rose Hill. The best of these were ordered from the Muldoon Monument Co. of Louisville, Kentucky.

Muldoon Monuments:

The Muldoon Monument Co. was founded in 1854 by Michael Muldoon. The earliest monuments from Muldoon in Rose Hill are in the Mayes family plot and are signed “Muldoon, Bullett, & Co.” Charles Bullett was a French sculptor who supervised the production of monuments in the firm’s workshop in Carrara, Italy. The monuments of Lou and Ella Mayes were made by this firm in the 1860s.

 

Another marker in the same plot is for Lena Mayes Childress and her daughter. Lena was a sibling to Lou and Ella Mayes. This monument—and those to Lou and Ella—have no dates on them, only their ages at death. Using her death date, Lena passed away between 1872 and 1873. Lena’s monument is a fine example of an extravagant late-Victorian marker.

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Grave of Lena Mayes Childress & her daughter

There are two other fine monuments in this family plot, but no markings could be found to identify the makers. Muldoon is still in business today under the name Muldoon Memorials. Their website reads, “The test of our vistion is as simple as a trip to the cemetery. Find a memorial that impresses or inspires you and nine times out of ten, it was built by Muldoon.” Given those odds, it is fair to say Muldoon is responsible for the other two monuments in the Mayes plot.

Outside of the Mayes plot, there are other fine examples of Muldoon’s work in Rose Hill, including:

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William John Andrews, Jr. monument, circa 1887

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John William Dunnington monument, circa 1882

But, perhaps the premier Muldoon monument in Rose Hill Cemetery is the one located in the Confederate Section. This monument was designed in 1881 by George W. Kendall of the Muldoon Monument Co. and was delivered to Columbia by rail in 1882 when it was dedicated. An 1888 Tennessean article exclaims Muldoon & Co “have designed and built fourteen Confederate monuments. One of the best pieces of art is the “Lost Cause,” erected at Rose Hill, Columbia, Tenn., which is said to be perfect in all its proportions.” This monument features a Confederate soldier standing at funeral parade rest atop a pedestal that features inverted cannon barrels.

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Postcard of the “Lost Cause” monument in the Confederate Section, postmarked 1908

An ad for Muldoon Monument Co. from the back of an early Confederate Veteran magazine lists the Columbia monument as one of the company’s works. Ironically, also on the list is the Gen. Patrick Cleburne monument in Helena, Arkansas. Gen. Cleburne was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery after the Battle of Franklin where he fell. He was later removed to St. John’s graveyard and, once again, removed to Helena, Arkansas

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Ad from Confederate Veteran magazine

Local Stonecutters:

One of the earliest stonecutters of note in the county was W. Bland. His work, for the most part, went unsigned. One tombstone identified as his work is that of Ed Voss. A short article from the February 3, 1871 Columbia Herald and Mail reads:

“One of the first companies that went from this county at the outbreak of the late War Between the States (and the last to come back,) was called the ‘Maury Greys,’ under Capt., no Col., Looney. Some time since, one of its members Ed. W. Voss, died in the vicinity, and the remaining soldiers of the company in this place erected a tombstone or monument over his remains at Rose Hill Cemetery. The work was done by Mr. Bland.”

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Grave of Ed. Voss in Rose Hill Cemetery, tombstone by W. Bland

What happened to Mr. Bland is unknown, save for the fact that William Shirley took over his shop in 1871.

William Shirley was perhaps the most prolific local stonecutter. Born in England in 1826, Shirley arrived in the United States at age 16 and married his first wife in New York at age 22. His first child was born in Maury County in 1851. The first found mention of William Shirley as a stonecutter is as a partner in the firm of Shirley & Shane in Nashville. This partnership produced many beautiful monuments in the 1860s, including that of James Hodge in Rose Hill.

 

In 1869, William Shirley and J. P. Shane dissolved their partnership and the next year found William Shirley in yet another partnership, this time with T. J. Canterbury. This firm was based out of Columbia, but this partnership, too, dissolved in 1871.

 

 

That same year, William Shirley took over W. Bland’s old shop and began his own marble works. He had several sons under his employment, including William N. “Bill” Shirley. “Bill” Shirley shared his father’s occupation as a stonecutter and mason. The two would also marry the same woman, but that’s a story for another time. Young Bill Shirley would go on to cut all of the limestone for the Columbia Arsenal buildings and is credited with discovering phosphate in Maury County. Despite the millions of dollars other people made from his discovery, Bill Shirley died a pauper and was buried in Rose Hill without a tombstone.

Many marvelous monuments in Rose Hill are engraved “Wm. Shirley.” These are more than likely the work of the elder William Shirley or, at least, were produced in old-man Shirley’s marble factory under his name.

 

His old partner, T. J. Canterbury also did a lot of work in Rose Hill during the 1870s. The Columbia Herald and Mail reported in their “Around Town” column on March 31, 1871, “Wm. Shirley says he has a $600 monument for Mrs. Sowell to go over her husband at Rose Hill.” The next sentence reads, “Mr. T. J. Canterbury sold in one hour last Monday over $2,000 worth of monuments.”

 

People were just dying to get those monuments!

Monuments in Rose Hill are not limited to Muldoon, Bland, Canterbury, and Shirley. Messrs. S. P. Payne, Hill, Arthur McPhee, and Gracy were all active stonecutters in Columbia after the Civil War. Still, other stones were transported to Columbia from Nashville, St. Louis, and similar large markets. W. M. Dean Marble Co. in Columbia also did a large amount of monument work around the turn of the century until relocating to Nashville in 1940. When Dean left Columbia, the art of stonecutting left, too. All we are left with today are the works these true artisans left behind, still standing ever-vigilant in Rose Hill.

The history and beauty of Rose Hill Cemetery are unsurpassed. Do yourself a favor and stroll among the stones. At the end of your stroll, you might just be able to pick out which ones are Muldoon or Columbia made.

-Adam Southern

The Immortal 600: Two were from Maury

With the beach and lighthouse of Tybee Island in the rearview mirror, US 80 sprawled out in front of the vehicle as it snaked its way toward the mainland of Savannah, Georgia. Just outside of Tybee, a sign read “Immortal 600 Memorial Highway.” The sign was placed in an appropriate spot, as rising above the brackish water surrounding it, the brick walls of Fort Pulaski could be seen rising from the marsh.

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Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, Georgia

Fort Pulaski was one of the homes of the Immortal 600, a band of six hundred Confederate officers held as prisoners of war by the Union. Here at Fort Pulaski, the Immortals would endure some of the worst privations of the Civil War. These privations came after first being used as human shields and starved near Charleston, South Carolina.

This is a story that begins with Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones, commander of the Confederate forces at Charleston Harbor. For months, he watched as Union guns pounded, not just the coastal defenses, but the residential areas of Charleston. Nightly, homes with women and children were shelled by the Yankee guns.

In an effort to give the innocent residents of Charleston some much-needed relief, Gen. Jones sent word to his Union counterpart, Maj. Gen. John G. Foster that fifty of his officers, including five generals, were housed in the neighborhoods of Charleston as prisoners of war. Basically, Jones let the Union command know that when they gave the order to shell the non-combatants of Charleston, there was the possibility that they would also be shelling their own men.

Foster was outraged. He reached out to Union high command and asked for fifty Confederate prisoners of similar ranks to be brought to Morris Island so that they could be placed in an equally dangerous predicament. Luckily for these fifty rebel officers (and the fifty Yankees in Charleston), Foster and Jones were able to come to an agreement and exchanged prisoners. Crisis averted, right?

Wrong. After this prisoner exchange took place, Foster received word that the Confederates were bringing six hundred more Union POW’s into the city in hopes of another exchange. Once more, Gen. Foster reached out to Washington, DC, this time with the request for six hundred Confederate officers to be brought to the Union fortifications on Morris Island.

These six hundred officers were taken out of the prison camp at Fort Delaware. At first, these men were told they were going to be exchanged. Rightfully so, many of the men looked forward to the trip and going home. It wasn’t until the men arrived on Morris Island that they learned they were not going to be exchanged. Instead, they were to be used as a human shield.

On September 8, 1864, the six hundred Confederate officers were placed in front of the Yankee cannons. Union shells soared over their heads on the way to Fort Sumter. Confederate gunners, if they wished to return fire, risked the chance of hitting their own men. Confederate gunners aimed high, but still shells exploded prematurely and rained shrapnel down on the six hundred men below. Union guns also misfired and sent shots through the prisoners’ encampment.

Despite the conditions, not one man died as a result of the bombings. Three did die on Morris Island due to the starvation rations and exposure to the elements.  After six weeks of this, a ship arrived to take the six hundred to their next destination, Fort Pulaski. Lt. Henry Cook wrote, “The horrors of Morris Island were not to be compared with what awaited us on the coast of Georgia.”

Arriving in mid-October, most of the 600 would call Fort Pulaski home until March 1865. Perhaps the greatest hardships were experienced during this time of incarceration. Due to the poor conditions at Confederate prison camps, especially Andersonville, the Union commanders of Fort Pulaski put the Immortal 600 on what they called “retaliation rations,” consisting on a small piece of bread, soured cornmeal, and rotten pickled onions. Meat was not to be had, except for the rats, cats, and dogs the men were lucky enough to catch. Scurvy and dysentery were as common among the 600 as the lice crawling about their uniforms.

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Inside Fort Pulaski. The Immortal 600 were housed in the case-mates beyond the cannon.

Another thirteen died at Fort Pulaski and were buried outside the walls on Cockspur Island. As the condition of the Confederate prisoners worsened, the decision was made to remove them from Fort Pulaski and to return them to the prison at Fort Delaware. The largest number of Immortal 600 deaths occurred upon the return to Fort Delaware. This is not surprising after reading a description of the men penned by a fellow prisoner, Robert E. Park. He wrote, “Their lean, emaciated persons were covered with livid spots of various sizes, occasioned by effusion of blood under the cuticle. They looked pale, languid and low spirited, and suffered from general exhaustion, pains in the limbs, and bleeding gums. All this was caused by their rigid confinement and want of nourishing food.”

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Monument to the Immortal 600 just outside the walls of Fort Pulaski

Among the men transferred back to Fort Delaware was Maury County’s own Lt. William H. Alderson. He arrived with the rest of the Immortals on March 12th and was admitted to the prison hospital on March 13th. He died on March 30, 1865. The cause of death was listed as erysipelas, a bacterial skin infection. Modern medical journals state this condition can usually be cured in a matter of days when treated with penicillin. He was taken from Fort Delaware and buried across the river on the New Jersey shore.

Another Columbia man, Joseph A. Irvine, was among the ranks of the Immortal 600. Luckily for young Lt. Irvine, he was sent to Hilton Head, South Carolina and exchanged on December 15, 1864. He would miss the horrors of “retaliation rations” endured by his colleagues, but he had still endured more than any prisoner of war should have. Joseph Irvine would return to Maury County and serve as a deputy sheriff before becoming a lumber broker. Today, he rests in Rose Hill Cemetery.

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The grave of Joseph Irvine in Columbia’s Rose Hill Cemetery.

The Immortal 600 became heroes in the final days of the Civil War. Southerners looked to them for inspiration—enduring privations on Morris Island, Hilton Head, and at Fort Pulaski, the easiest thing for the men to do would have been to take the oath to the Union and go home. A very small number of the men did this. For the vast majority, honor and commitment to their cause would not allow this. Today, a small stretch of highway in Georgia and a granite marker outside of Fort Pulaski commemorates their bravery and dedication. On the base of that marker reads the words, “Lest we forget.”

Let us never forget…

 

 

 

References & Suggested Reading:

Edgar, Capt. Alfred Mallory. My Reminiscences of the Civil War with the Stonewall Brigade and the Immortal 600. 35th Star Publishing, 2011.

Joslyn, Mauriel Phillips. The Biographical Roster of the Immportal 600. White Mane Publishing, 1995.

Joslyn, Mauriel Phillips. Immortal Captives: The Story of 600 Confederate Officers and the United States Prisoner of War Policy. Pelican Publishing, 2008.

Murray, Maj. John Ogden. The Immortal Six Hundred: A Story of Cruelty of Confederate Prisoners of War. The Confederate Reprint Company, 2015.

Stokes, Karen. The Immortal 600: Surviving Civil War Charleston and Savannah. The History Press, 2013.

Immortal 600