By Daniel Silliman
Near the center of the cemetery, four men dug holes.
They didn't talk about it, they just worked, turning up red dirt as the Saturday sun rose to mid-morning. The shadows of blank memorial stones were slanting westward, and a little eastward breeze was blowing, straightening out the small Confederate flag stuck into the soil.
The four men, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, dug four holes last Saturday morning, and then dug seven more for the engraved marble markers the United Daughters of the Confederacy are installing at the Patrick Cleburne Confederate cemetery in Jonesboro.
The Clayton County chapter of the women's memorial and heritage group is hosting a ceremony on Saturday, April 5, to dedicate the 11 markers which bear the names of Texas infantry men who died during the Battle of Jonesborough in 1864, during the siege of Atlanta near the end of the Civil War. The men were buried in the plot of land on North McDonough Street, which is now the Confederate graveyard.
Barbara Gilbert, of the Texas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, documented that the 11 men were, in fact, buried there, and arranged for the engraved markers to officially honor them, according to Barbara Emert, of the local United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The Saturday ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m., will include a 21-gun salute and a "Texas Roll Call." Wreaths of yellow roses will be placed at the freshly planted markers. The ceremony will be attended by officials from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, including the president of the Texas Division, Emert said, and descendants of the fallen infantry men.
Mark Pollard, a local Civil War historian who worked last Saturday to erect the memorial stones, said the exact number of dead men buried at the cemetery is unknown and most of the soldier's names have been lost to history.
They are buried there in two mass graves and the blank markers, arranged in the shape of a Confederate battle flag, are anonymous memorials. The 11 engraved markers, he said, honor these specific men who came from Texas and died on this "strip of land" that August.
"These Texans," Pollard said, "they came a long way to give there lives on this ground in Jonesboro. They deserve to be remembered."
One of the Texans, Aaron Estes, was a bit of a legend in his own time, according to Pollard. He was reportedly six-feet, 11-inches tall, and father to 10 children. He died from multiple gunshot wounds, while trying to reach a wounded man, Pollard said, but lived long enough to reportedly tell a Union soldier his children should be told "Aaron Estes died for Texas."
The northern soldier, recalling the Texan's dying words, said "All I saw was a hero," according to Pollard.
Jon Holland, one of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, dug a hole in the dirt for the memorial marker to honor the Texas infantry dead. One of the youngest of the organization's members in the area, he said he joined about a year ago, and volunteered his Saturday, because he believes in heritage and sacrifice.
"You need to be proud of where you come from," said Holland, who is a descendant of Confederate Army Private Henry Jourdars. "I don't care whether you're Confederate or not, you need to be proud of where you come from and that's just how I feel.
"And I think any man who died for what he believed in deserves respect, regardless of race, color or creed. He deserves respect."
Eleven who died defending Georgia's railroad supply line against the Northern Army of Gen. William T. Sherman, who was besieging Atlanta and destroying the region's strategic and economic capabilities, will be honored on Saturday.