Pictured above is a photo of the monument placed
at the burial site of the seventeen
soldiers killed in the Cleveland, Tenn. train wreck on Nov. 4, 1862.
The dedication ceremony was held Nov. 4, 1989.
A monument honoring 17men who died in a local train accident during the Civil
War, and were buried along that accident
without any kind of special tribute, was officially unvailed Saturday at Fort
Hill Cemetery. The train wreck occurred on Nov. 4, 1862, somewhere south of
Cleveland. The dead men were all members of the 33rd Alabama Volunteers, a group
who were involved not only in battles around Cleveland and Chattanooga, but also
fought around Murfreesboro and Franklin, and into Georgia and around Atlanta.
Many dignitaries and historians showed up at the dedication Saturday, which was
sponsored by the Jefferson Davis Chapter No. 900 of the United Daughters of the
Confederacy. And, several spoke on the specific unit itself and on what was said
to have occurred at that time. "Back 127 years ago, this country was at war, not
with another nation but with itself. Our country was divided," said Larry
Holcomb, the Cleveland man who has been
instrumental in not only getting the monument placed in Fort Hill, but for an
increased cleanup campaign for the cemetery. "More Americans died in the Civil
War than in a combination of the first and second World Wars, Vietnam and Korea,
all combined," he stressed. "And though we had no major battles here in Badley
County, it was a very strategic location, and the railroads played an important
role in the Civil War." He explained that the train that the men were on had
left from Knoxville on the way to Chattanooga, with the unit which had just
fought a battle in Kentucky on board. Seventeen of those did not continue
through this area and 7 more were injured. "And there was no time for burials.
These men were apparently laid in their graves and returned to earth... known
only to God, who have "gave them body and life. In this Tennessee soild, the
remains found a refuge where they might forever be at reast," Holcomb said.
Major Bob Willis delivered a brief history of the 33rd Alabama Volunteers to
those attending the dedication, including families of some of the men who were
killed in the train accident. Willis said that he come across a soldier's diary
that detailed the train wreck, and that diary read that the men that died in
accident were buried "in unmarked graves... and it kind of got to me." The
historian said that as he was attempting to find out the names, an article in an
Alabama paper asked for descendants of those killed in the train wreck to call.
At that point, a member of the Edward Nix family contacted the author, and they
has a newspaper clipping that names each man who was killed in the accident.
Those names are now placed on the monument. Willis added, in presenting the
history of the 33rd Alabama Volunteers, that throughout their Civil War years,
"whenever there was a major battle fought, you could bet that the 33rd was
there." He added that two soldiers wrote in their recollections of the train
accident that "we were traveling south through Cleveland, Tenn., at about 4
o'clock in the afternoon when a log fell of the tender and knocked the wheels
out from under Company B. "The train wrecked and the cars piled on top of each
other. We took axes to chop the wood and get the dead out. When we took the 67
men (injured) and brought them to a hospital in Cleveland, and the 17 dead we
buried in a long ditch we dug and marked their grave... and they moved on to
join the battle in Murfreesboro," Willis continued. Along with Willis, both Todd
Grace, the current director of the East Tennessee Historical Society, and Dr.
Anthony Hodges, Lt. Commander of the Tennessee Divisions of the the Sons of
Confederate Veterans, spoke on the Civil War and its affect on East Tennessee.
During the dedication of the monument, Hodges read aloud the 17 names of those
who were remembered in the special ceremony. Also, a wreath was placed on the
site as Taps was played by local trumpeter Barky Bryant. Bradley Central High
School's Ranstrassy sang several Civil War era songs, while Kevin Connell of
BCHS also performed the drum roll during the ceremony, and Todd Gregory, a
descendant of one of the veterans, unveiled the monument. Steve Goodner, a
member of the 20th Tennessee Infantry Living History Group, who has family in
Cleveland, fired a traditional musket in a salute to the men who died in the
train wreck. A special flag was given to Cora Kerr of Montgomery, Ala., who has
helped local officials work on getting the monument placed at Fort Hill Cemetery.
Among those attending the ceremony was Clevelander Creed Edgmon, whose father
fought in the Civil War. The monument is located in the Civil War section of the
cemetery, in the northeast section, It is beside the monument honoring the men
who died in a similar train accident near the Black Fox community.