GAINESVILLE - Confederate soldier graves were marked with the battle flag they fought under Saturday by Gainesville Sons of Confederate Veteran members and their friends and relatives in an annual effort to remember Southern dead from the American Civil War 150 years ago.
Ralph Mills, Lt. Commander of Gainesville SCV Camp 1404, with 16 camp members and their friends and relatives, gathered at Alta Vista Cemetery to place miniature battle flags beside the head stones. According to Mills there are over 150 graves at Alta Vista. The camp also takes the designation of a Confederate regiment from Hall County, Company 'D' 27th Georgia, which mustered in at Redwine Methodist Church on Blackshear Place.
"We are placing flags at honorable American soldiers' graves," Mills said. "We attempt to put a flag on all 600 known Hall County Confederate soldiers that we know of."
Saturday's "flagging" is an annual event to mark the graves for April, which is Confederate Heritage and History Month in Georgia.The graves lay scattered across the cemetery's rolling landscape.
"These were honorable soldiers, these were American soldiers," Mills observed. "More men in Hall County per capita served in the War Between the States than in any other war."
Camp member Mike Couch says the flagging recalls history and heritage because the South still has strong links to its Civil War past.
"Every family in the South probably has a connection to the War Between the States and it's a way to remember those people who served the Confederacy during this time and what it took to live in America then," Couch said.
Couch disagrees with those who recall the war and the Confederacy solely as a slave nation that took up arms against the United States. The soldiers fought for their country, and their country was the South.
"I think the war was a way of our ancestors seeking independence from a government which they felt no longer a part of," Couch said. "They felt they were oppressed by that government; it's good to look back and remember states rights and honor those who dared to take a stand like their forefathers, the Revolutionary War soldiers, who stood against England and the tyranny there."
One of the newer headstones marks where Captain Benjamin F. Hanie, Company 'C' 43rd Georgia Regiment, is buried. Many 43rd members came from Hall County. Hanie's son was Gainesville's first police chief when the town inaugurated a police department in 1873. Until then,according to camp member and Gainesville police captain Chad White, a city marshal kept the peace in the growing Northeast Georgia town.
Sixteen year old Elijah Bowen from North Hall High School placed a flag at Dr. J.W. Quillian's headstone. Quillian survived the war and lived until 1912. He served in Company 'F' of the 11th Georgia Cavalry Regiment.
"I'm here to honor my fathers before me," the teenager said. "I think the worst thing that could ever happen to a soldier is to be forgotten. That's worse than being captured or killed."