Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 October 2009 18:33
Written by By Martha B. Denton, Roanoke Rapids Chapter #2332, Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 17:56
The cemetery will be dedicated Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 2 p.m. The unmarked burial area will now have a large marble marker inscribed with every name of the 170 soldiers buried here. Attached is the list of soldiers, as well as photos of the burial site. Below is a history of the cemetery compiled by Martha Denton of the Roanoke Rapids Chapter of the NC Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The UDC maintains ownership of the cemetery and has raised the funds over the past year to clear the cemetery of debris and overgrowth and to create and install the marker.
“During the War Between the States, the town of Weldon, North Carolina, was a very important point,” writes Mrs. Ida Wilkins, President of the Junius Daniel Chapter UDC in the Confederate Veteran Magazine 1928 about “The Soldiers’ Burying Ground.” The town was situated directly on the line of four important railroads. One of these was the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, the longest railroad in the world at that time, and also known as the “Lifeline of the Confederacy.” These railroads, the Wilmington & Weldon, the Raleigh & Gaston, the Seaboard & Roanoke, and the Petersburg Railroad were the main arteries for the transportation of both troops and provisions from the South to Richmond and the Army of Northern Virginia. Thousands of Confederate soldiers were kept in and around Weldon at all times. At first many of these soldiers, unused to camp life, suffered from diseases of various kinds, and many died. There being no hospitals at this time, the homes of the citizens were opened to them, and they were nursed with loving care during the winter of 1861-62. A small wooden Methodist chapel, the only one in Weldon, was taken and filled up by the government as a hospital. This was enlarged and equipped as a regular, though rough and temporary, hospital structure. Mr. W. N. McGee, of the New Orleans Zouaves, was detailed as officer in charge. Numerous wounded soldiers were brought here for treatment. During the war approximately 165 soldiers died and were buried on a beautiful elevation on the west side of town. It has since been known as the “Soldiers’ Burying Ground.” A list of these men was kept by Mr. John K. Campbell, a prominent citizen of the town. The graves were not numbered or marked. Mr. Campbell died in 1865, and though this list was found in his papers, it was not preserved.
In the years that followed, efforts were made to restore and preserve the graveyard, but these were ineffectual. The land belonged to a woman who would not sell it or permit its improvement. She passed away and the land was sold to uninterested persons. The cemetery fell into a sad state, leading a concerned Confederate veteran to write an article in the local paper, THE ROANOKE NEWS on May 28, 1896. It was titled “Unmarked Graves” and reads as follows: “At this, the season of flowers, and the time of the year when our beloved dead are being honored and memorial services are being held all over the fair Southland, the thought occurs to me, why is it that there has never been a word said about the Confederate dead who sleep in the old graveyard near the banks of the Chockoyotte? It seems to me there might be some means of at least knowing who they were, where they were from, and how they died. I have been told that quite a number fill those unknown graves, and why should they not be remembered? As we have no local record of those who died and were buried here I suppose there is no way at this late date of finding out who they were, but if there are those whose duty it is to look after these things I would be very glad indeed if it could be done, as I know these gave up all for the lost cause, as well as those whose graves are marked by marble shafts and are on each returning spring crowned with the emblems of immortality.”
According to the Confederate Veteran Magazine
article, “the exact plot of the soldiers’ cemetery came into the hands of a highly respected Negro, David Smith, who said he had known of these men and learned to love them, and he would give the land to the local U.D.C.” The gift was gratefully accepted on March 13, 1913; the plot was surveyed, and the three-fourths acre of land was deeded to the Junius Daniel Chapter and properly recorded. On one corner of the lot sloping down to Chockoyotte Creek are the remains of an old breastworks, built in the 1860’s for the protection of Weldon.
On May 10, 1913, the Junius Daniel Chapter held their first Confederate Memorial Day Service at the Soldiers’ Burying Ground. The graves were decorated with flowers and a pledge was made to have it in fine condition by the next Memorial Day. The chapter was organized August 29, 1902, and through the years the chapter pleaded with the community for help in maintaining this special place since there were no funds for its upkeep. There were many efforts by local government and civic groups that helped the ladies to preserve the grounds, but as they feared, this sacred plot always returned to a wilderness of briers, vines, bushes, trees and trash. Sadly this Chapter was disbanded in 1986.
In the fall of 2004 this Cemetery was formally deeded to the N C Division. A plea was answered once again when the General Matt W. Ransom Camp # 861 SCV came forward with their assistance in cleaning of the cemetery. The City of Weldon also assisted in the clean up effort by hauling away trash and debris after the work days. Members of the Roanoke Rapids Chapter # 2332 assisted with the work days and served refreshments. Over the past four years the area has been cleared of trees, undergrowth, vines and trash. During this period, weed killer was applied and the grounds raked, mowed, and grass seed was sown. It is finally a serene place of beauty!
This article is written with the hope that it may perhaps reach the eyes of someone who recognizes an ancestor’s name or remembers the town of Weldon, N.C. Below is a list of soldiers who died at the Wayside Hospital and are presumed buried in the “Soldiers’ Burying Ground”. The North Carolina Division plans to place a monument at the cemetery with the names of these soldiers. An October 11, 2009, dedication ceremony is planned with the public invited to attend. You can support this Division project by “Adopting a Soldier:” For at least $30.00, a soldier’s name, unit, state, and date of death can be engraved on the monument. Most of the soldiers are from North Carolina, but some are from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Anyone contributing to the “Adopt a Soldier” Project will be listed in the N. C. Division Minutes Book. You can adopt as many soldiers as you wish. The cemetery is the property of the North Carolina Division UDC and the Roanoke Rapids Chapter # 2332 serves as custodian of the cemetery. Checks should be made payable to the “NC Division Treasurer” and mailed to Caroline N. Odom, 4625 Bennett Memorial Road, Durham, N.C. 27705-2366. On the memo line, please write: “Adopt a Soldier Project-Weldon Cemetery”.
Let us do our duty and care for this cemetery as the Old Confederate veteran requested in 1896. By erecting this monument we will honor these soldiers that have lain here unknown for so long, and remember they gave their all for the cause so many years ago.-“Lest we forget.”
Confederate Deaths (19.5 kB)
Bibliography- Weldon Cemetery Article by Martha Denton
1. The Roanoke News
May 28, 1896
March 13, 1913
May 15, 1913
May 14, 1914
March 16, 1922
2. The Confederate Veteran 1928
3. The First Railroad Hub in the South, Weldon, N.C. – Larry Denton,
ACL/SAL Railroad Historical Society, Inc.
magazine-Lines South 1999, 1st quarter
Lines South 1999, 2nd quarter
4. The Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, “The Lifeline of the Confederacy- from a speech by Larry Denton to the Children of the Confederacy N C Division Convention-2000
5. Confederate Deaths and Burials in Weldon, NC 1861-1865. Information compiled in 1992 by Raymond W. Watkins, Falls Church, VA. From Record Group 109, the compiled Confederate military service records found in the Nat’l Archives, Washington, D.C.
6. Chapter Histories, North Carolina Division , UDC 1897-1947
7. Minutes of the Sixteenth Annual Convention of the UDC, NC Division at Salisbury NC October 9, 10, 11, 1912.