Veterans Day is a day for every veteran – for Americans who fought in World War I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War, the Civil War on both sides and more. Wreaths Across America emphasizes that and, new to this year, Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery was invited to participate.
Oakwood, Citizens and Hurricane Grove cemeteries in Coffee County have participated in Wreaths Across America in the past. Each Dec. 15 at 11 a.m., the sites place wreaths on soldier’s gravesites to honor their sacrifice.
“It’s great. I was a little bit shocked because confederates are not, in some people’s mind, in high regard,” said Mike Anderson, chairman of Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery.
When he was approached by Wreaths Across America, he wanted to be sure they knew what they were getting into. Anderson told them, “Look, all of these veterans that are buried there are confederates and they said, ‘that’s no problem.’ They have an open mind, as most people do.”
“Confederate veterans are to be treated exactly the same as Union veterans,” he added.
As both chairman and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this delighted him.
“I just want to honor both sides,” Anderson said. “What the heck are you going to do when your state leaves the union? I really feel the guys who made that decision and the sacrifice they made.
“I want to honor those guys… I just don’t want it to be forgotten,” he explained.
The ceremony will be held on Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery has 59 veteran graves. As of Nov. 1, 13 wreaths have been sponsored.
About Beech Grove cemetery
Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery isn’t only a place to honor the dead, it is a battlefield. Known as Old Grove during the Tullahoma campaign in the 1800s, the site was where John T. Wilder’s Union brigade infantry secured Hoover’s Gap.
Anderson explained that, following the campaign, shallow graves of Confederate soldiers were scattered around the county. In 1866, county citizens decided to relocate the graves to Old Grove. Formally a pioneer graveyard marked by stacks of stones, Beech Grove Cemetery turned into the resting place of soldiers.
Locally, the site is recognized as the South’s first official Confederate cemetery.
In the 1960s, Governor Frank Clement recognized the site and put funds into it to build a pavilion, a store house, to bathrooms, the site’s tombstones and the monument on the site’s south end, Anderson explained.
The cemetery was owned by the state until a few years, ago. It is now owned and maintained by the Beech Grove Confederate Memorial Association. Members of the Beech Grove Confederate Memorial Association are all SCV members to ensure it is treated with the proper respect.
That isn’t to say Union soldiers are excluded – the site does have a marker for the Union troops who fought and died there as well.
Unique to the site, visitors can stand exactly where Civil War soldiers stood.
“At the end of the pavilion picnic tables, right across the end there, you can stand and know that you’re standing exactly where civil war soldiers were standing,” Anderson said.
The association knows this because, one day, a chicken scratched up a cartridge. When discovered, a local teacher came out with a metal detector and found hundreds of cartridges at the end of the pavilion, near the tables, Anderson explained.
How to sponsor a wreath
In Coffee County, Wreaths Across America will be placing around 400 wreaths. All funds collected locally will be used to order and place wreaths on the graves
The wreaths are community sponsored. One wreath costs $15, two are $30, five cost $75 and 15 costs $150.
Checks should be made out to Wreaths Across America, dropped off or mailed to Cyndi Clower at Clower Automotive at 1406 McArthur St. in Manchester, or online payments for specifically Beech Grove Cemetery can be made at www. wreathsacrossamerica.org/TNBGCC.
Wreaths Across America is a 501c3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax deductible.
For more information on how to volunteer to help raise funds or help place wreaths when they arrive in December, call Bobbie Morse at 931-247-4545 or Cyndi Clower at 931-728-9898.
This year’s deadline to sponsor a wreath is Nov. 26.
About Wreaths Across America
Wreaths Across America is a national charity that gained attention in 2005 after a photo wreath-decorated headstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. went viral. The small act of kindness was done by Worcester Wreath Company, owned by Morrill Worcester, after his company had a surplus of wreaths. Worcester’s company began this tradition in 1992.
Thirteen years later, Wreaths Across America sponsors ceremonies at more than 1,400 locations across the United States and abroad every Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. All branches of military are recognized at the locations.
In 2014, Wreaths Across America laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths, according to the Wreaths Across America website. Locations included Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.