On a peaceful hill overlooking the city of Fayetteville sits a small but very beautiful cemetery, filled with the graves of Confederate soldiers who died in Northwest Arkansas during the Civil War. Confederate Cemetery was founded and later dedicated by the ladies of the Southern Memorial Association in 1873.
You may be wondering why the Confederate soldiers are buried alone in their own cemetery. Let’s go back in time to the end of the war. Imagine with me if you will…
The History of Confederate Cemetery
The war has ended. Fierce battles have been fought in Northwest Arkansas, including the Battle of Pea Ridge, the Battle of Prairie Grove, and the Battle of Fayetteville. The harsh winters of 1861-1862 have left many soldiers very ill and claimed many lives. Graves are everywhere across Northwest Arkansas, and the dead lay just where they fell.
The Federal government made arrangements to bury all of the Union dead in National Cemeteries, including the National Cemetery in Fayetteville.
Confederate soldiers, however, were left where they’d fallen or where they’d been buried, sometimes in a mass grave or roadside grave.
Imagine being the family member left behind… the wife, mother, sister, or daughter of a fallen Confederate soldier. All they wanted was a proper burial for their loved ones; they wanted them to be remembered. For this reason, Mrs. Sallie Cox, along with several other women established the Southern Memorial Association in 1872.
I could talk about dignity and about love no matter the side of war; I could talk about how important it is to remember war. Let me just share the words of ladies from the Southern Memorial Association, as they worked to raise funds for moving the bodies of their dead. These words are written on an informational plaque inside the Confederate Cemetery…
“Help us gather the moldering bones of our soldiers from the barren hillsides and place them beside their fallen brothers to rest where their graves may be bedewed with the tears of their kindred and strewn by the hand of affection with brightest flowers.”
Those words will forever haunt me. So poetic… so beautiful… so filled with grief and desire to bury their dead with dignity and love… filled with, I can only imagine, a desire for closure. And after one year of raising the funds, they celebrated the dedication of the cemetery.
Visiting Confederate Cemetery
Upon arrival at Confederate Cemetery, you’ll enter the gate and cross beyond the rock wall that was built in 1885. An informational plaque rests just beyond the gate with the story of how it all came to be. Beyond sits a gazebo where you can sit and rest.
Confederate Cemetery is one of the most peaceful places I’ve been in awhile. Beautiful, old, very tall trees shade the stone graves. Grass grows all around, not perfectly mown but still kept up quite nicely. It’s simply gorgeous and beautiful. I told my husband it reminds me of the cemetery in Missouri where my grandma is buried amongst all the beautiful old shade trees.
Graves are arranged by state with a monument in the middle pointing to each state’s section… Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana.
At the top of the cemetery are the Arkansas graves.
Most of the graves are either unmarked or not legible anymore, though there are a few that have writing, including the grave of Brigadier General William Yarnell Slack.
As we walked around, the sounds of the city faded to quiet. It was almost as if when you walked through the wrought iron gate, through that beautiful rock wall, you entered another world, another world that exists beyond the everyday life. I just couldn’t get over how peaceful and beautiful it truly was.
If one needed time to reflect or time to think, this would be the perfect place to do so.
Know Before You Go
Confederate Cemetery is located on Rock Street at the top of East Mountain in Fayetteville. While I wouldn’t call it accessible, per sé, the grounds are very well kept, and it is pretty easy to get around. There are no restrooms. It is free to visit, but they do have a small donation box inside the gate. Lastly, the cemetery is only open to visitors during daylight hours.
Annual memorial ceremonies are still held at Confederate Cemetery. In fact, the next ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 6, 2015.
Planning to also visit the graves of Union soldiers killed during the Civil War? Visit the National Cemetery, located at 700 Government Avenue in Fayetteville.