Roll Call of the Dead: Confederate Soldiers Haunt Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery
Founded in 1850, Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery is the final resting place for 70,000 men, women, and children. Those interred in the cemetery come from all walks of life, from prominent politicians to penniless paupers, but not everyone rests in peace. Legend has it Confederate soldiers haunt the historic cemetery to this day.
The Confederate Dead
During the Civil War, officials buried nearly 7,000 Confederate soldiers at Oakland Cemetery, but nearly 3,000 remain unidentified. Many of these men succumbed to injuries at one of the many military hospitals near Atlanta and were buried in Oakland. In the heat of war, there simply wasn’t enough time or resources to identify every soldier and ship his remains home. The statue above, Lion of the Confederacy, was erected to memorialize the remains of the unknown Confederate dead.
It’s in the Confederate section where some visitors hear “the roll call of the dead.” Legend has it that on November 14th, the anniversary of the day Confederate troops surrendered Atlanta, a ghostly voice recites the names of Confederate soldiers buried in Oakland. At times, the men called will respond.
Other Oakland visitors have reported seeing men in Confederate uniforms wandering around the cemetery. Most assumed the men were reenactors of some kind, but when the visitors inquired at the cemetery’s information center, they learned there were no costumed actors onsite.
Why are the soldiers restless? Perhaps it’s because of the lost Confederate cause or perhaps it’s because they’re far from home. Private Lucien Weakley (below), lived in Alabama but died in the Battle of Chickamauga, and was laid to rest in Oakland. Though he didn’t make it home, he fared better than many soldiers in that his body was identified and a tombstone marks his grave. A massive magnolia planted by his brother also marks Lucien’s final resting spot.
Margaret Mitchell, author of famed Civil-War era novel, Gone with the Wind, is also interred at Oakland Cemetery. In her novel, Mitchell describes the “monotonous rows of soldiers’ graves at Oakland Cemetery” that “stretched longer every day. ”
Though Confederate ghosts dominate Oakland Cemetery, there have been sightings of Union soldiers as well. In 1862, seven members of the Union Army were hanged in Oakland for their role in stealing a Confederate locomotive and attempting to cripple the railroad. Now, the executed men’s ghosts appear in Oakland, hanging from the trees and swaying in the breeze.
The Confederate section is only a small part of Oakland Cemetery; thousands of others lay to rest here as well. Though it’s easy to forget, each tombstone represents a real person with hopes, dreams, and aspirations, many cut short due to injury or disease.
What do you think of the Oakland Cemetery tales? Is the roll call of the dead real? Do Union and Confederate soldiers both haunt the historic grounds? Or are the stories just the stuff of legends?