Climbing Family Trees: A Summer Day 139 Years Hence by Linda Soloski

Climbing Family Trees

More great stories, poems, and helpful hints about genealogy and searching for your family's roots from the twin authors of "Climbing Family Trees: Whispers In The Leaves"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Summer Day 139 Years Hence by Linda Soloski

“A Summer Day-139 Years Hence”
Linda J. Soloski
Brandon Florida

Was it all just coincidental? Was it just happenstance? I like to think it was “divine intervention.” For you see, on a hot day in July of 2002 I was given the great honor of standing at the burial place of my Civil War ancestor and proudly reading his name on the memorial marker at that cemetery site. It was just a few days short of 139 years to the day of his death. He died August 23, 1863 in the Confederate hospital at Dalton, Georgia.

He was just a young boy of 16, but he wanted to do his part for the Confederacy, as did two of his brothers. No doubt he slipped quietly away from his family home in order to join the troops. I have often thought of how distressed his mother must have been, especially when he did not return home from the war. He was the baby of the family. Records show that he served as a scout. He had been brought up in the mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, and taught to hunt in the dense woods from an early age.

Military muster rolls show he was absent from duty at least twice due to “disease” prior to his being placed in the Confederate Hospital at Dalton, Georgia where he died from “disease.”
Far away from home and with no way to get his body back to his family home in Tennessee, due to advancing Union troops, they laid him to rest in the Confederate Cemetery.

Actually, this entire event was a miracle. My husband, Ken and I had traveled from our home on the central west coast of Florida to a cabin retreat in the mountains of northeast Georgia. Our only thought was to get away from the merry-go-round of every day life and spend a week just relaxing and resting. I took nothing of my genealogy tools or records with me. But, as any family researcher knows, genealogy is truly an addiction and never far from your mind.

Late one afternoon, while just resting, my mind drifted to my family tree and the research I still needed to accomplish “someday.” Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, my mind flashed a message to me. “You are in Georgia. Didn’t your Confederate ancestor die in Dalton? Where exactly is that?” Like a shot, I was on my feet, seeking my trusty road map. Imagine my surprise to find that Dalton was just due west of where we were staying! The map showed a distance of about 75 miles down the mountain foothills and along the base. Hey, how bad a trip could it be? After all, the road was a fat red line on the map! Surely that indicated a nice, paved road. Thinking the hardest part would be to convince my husband to get under the wheel and drive there, I was elated when he readily agreed that it was something I should pursue.

Now I have to tell you one of the strangest pieces of this whole puzzle. When we arrived at the cabin a few days earlier, there was a bookrack with tourist pamphlets in the lobby. There was also a travel magazine called “Georgia” which was dated 1996, over 6 years old. I quickly grabbed the 6 year old publication to see what it had to say about Dalton. The very first “must-see” location was listed: “Confederate Cemetery. 421 Veterans who died in the hospital located at Dalton, GA are buried here.” The hair stood up on the back of my neck! That old magazine had survived 6 years just for the purpose of telling me where to go that day!

Upon arriving at the cemetery, we were dismayed to see that it covered a tremendous amount of land on the crest of a hillside and was at least two city blocks wide. It was then divided off into many, many sections. Each one had several entrance roads off the main road, which then wound around the gravesites. We drove far to the back and I spotted two elderly ladies at a grave. My husband pulled alongside their vehicle and I got out and walked toward them. Not wanting to alarm them, I called out from several feet away, “Hello! I wonder if either of you two ladies might help me with a grave location.” I explained what I was looking for and wouldn’t you know it, one of them was a family researcher also. She was only too glad to give me directions to the area I needed to find.

Arriving at the section, I found it cordoned off by a low, wrought-iron fence. Row after row of hundreds of small, white headstones, all exactly alike, and bearing the inscription “C.S.A. 1861-1865" covered the area. I had absolutely no way of knowing which grave was his. Then I spotted a huge granite marker placed at the opening of the area by local SCV and other organizations. In and of itself, it was a beautiful memorial. I walked into the fenced-off area and when I got to the backside of the marker I discovered to my sheer delight that all the names of those buried there were inscribed on it– and in alphabetical order! Almost fearfully, my eyes ran down the list and there it was-his name engraved among the others!

And thus it was, that shortly before noon I stood looking out on the hallowed ground where that young soldier was laid to rest. Not once in almost 139 years had any family member been this close and could call out his name, Newton Thomas Rogers, to say thanks for his effort and the giving of his young life. In my heart I said a prayer of thanks. Amen and amen!


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