The 4th of July is a major holiday in America for a good reason. It celebrates the day we won our independence from those pesky redcoats across the pond. And no place celebrates the 4th better than Marietta, Georgia. A parade, concerts, art and craft shows, and of course, fireworks.
But don't forget that the hard-won independence has to be protected constantly by the vigilance of the men and women who serve in this nation's armed forces. And since 1866, the 23 acre Marietta National Cemetery has been the final resting place of 17,000 of them.
Most of the festivities in Marietta will happen on and around the beautiful old square. However, as you approach or leave downtown Marietta, Georgia head east down Roswell Street just a few blocks, and you will come to the main entrance of the Marietta National Cemetery. This entrance is comprised of a Roman-inspired arch approximately 35 feet high with Doric columns, a pair of ornamental iron gates, and inscriptions above. One of the inscriptions says, "Here rest the remains of 10,312 Officers and Soldiers who died in defense of the Union 1861-1865."
The only other three similar entrances are at Arlington and Vicksburg. The Marietta, Georgia National Cemetery was designed by Union Army Chaplain Thomas B. Van Horne. He also laid out the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Of the national cemeteries constructed between 1861-1869, the one in Marietta, Georgia, was the most ornate and elaborate of its era.
The cemetery was initially built to provide a suitable resting place for the more than 10,000 Union dead from Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. The remaining 7,000 plots are filled with fallen veterans from every war since. The Marietta National Cemetery is closed to new interments, although there are a few plots awaiting veterans who arranged burial before becoming full.
The land was donated by Daniel Cole, who initially turned down the $50,000 offer on the land as he was saving it for a "better purpose." This plot of land rising above Marietta, Georgia, was going to be the capital of the Confederacy. Sherman put that plan to rest and provided most of the veterans who became interned there.
Cole originally intended the cemetery for the burial of both Confederate and Union troops, but bitterness following the war prevented that. But by 1870, the cemetery was at its present size of 23 acres, and veterans from all subsequent wars are buried alongside the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War.
Unlike the beautiful, grassy green park-like space at the National Cemetery in Canton, the one in Marietta, Georgia, has a suitably somber feeling. Rising on the second-highest hill in Marietta, the graves are arranged in semi-concentric rings around the hills. Stately old oaks stand guard over the veterans buried there.
Fresh cut flowers can be placed on any grave at any time, and you can get a metal container at the cemetery entrance. The wonderful people who maintain the cemetery will remove them when they become unsightly. Artificial flowers can only be placed on and around certain holidays.
I have visited the Marietta, Georgia National Cemetery in both winter and spring. And although the budding trees and blooming dogwoods added needed color, the images taken during the dead of winter seem more appropriate.
As is the case with much of downtown Marietta, parking is very limited. The roads through the cemetery are very steep, curving, and narrow. Please be respectful of other visitors as well as the permanent residents if you decide to pay a visit to the Marietta, Georgia National Cemetery.
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