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Road trip! Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery: Part 1

Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, is an excellent example of the late 19-century trend to construct so-called “garden cemeteries,” with flowers, trees, walkways, etc. in a park-like setting. Founded in 1850 on a six-acre plot, it expanded several times throughout the next decades and now has 70,000 interments, including a world-famous author, one of golf’s pioneers, several Confederate generals including one with very strong ties to York County, Pa., and other notables such as politicians, business leaders, Atlanta mayors such as Maynard Jackson, and many other celebrities. Guided walking tours are offered at various intervals throughout the day from the Visitors Center.

I walked around on my own for an hour or so before an Atlanta Braves-Florida Marlins baseball game on September 25, 2012. The current cemetery sits on high ground near the old Confederate lines from the Civil War, and Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood viewed part of the Battle of Atlanta from the grounds depicted in the photograph above. At the time, that section of the cemetery was a country estate.

The book and movie Gone With the Wind have for years been the stereotype of Atlanta in the Civil War. Author Margaret Mitchell is buried in Oakland Cemetery, as is golfing legend Bobby Jones. Let’s have a look at their graves.

Oakland Cemetery is a scenic place to walk, with its brick sidewalks and immaculate, well maintained landscaping. Signs direct visitors to the graves of several notables, including Margaret Mitchell.

The creator of Rhett and Scarlett lies beside her husband. Mitchell won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Gone With the Wind in 1937.

Bobby Jones remains the only golfer to win the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Open, the British Amateur, and the British Open (golf’s original “grand slam”) in the same year. He earned his living primarily as a lawyer and only golfed on a part-time basis as an amateur, frequently defeating the world’s best professionals. He later helped design Augusta National and co-founded The Masters Tournament.

Oakland Cemetery remains one of Atlanta’s more unique tourist attractions.

A modern historical marker near the southeastern corner recalls the 1862 Andrews Raid, a daring Civil War sabotage caper depicted in the 1950s Walt Disney movie “The Great Locomotive Chase,” and more recently covered brilliantly in contemporary author Russell Bond’s book Stealing the General.

This 65-foot tall stone obelisk towers over the Confederate section of the cemetery, where 6,900 soldiers are buried. About 3,000 are unknown battlefield dead. Dead from the Battle of Atlanta, as well as from the area’s Civil War hospitals, are also buried here.

There are 16 Union dead included with the almost 7,000 Rebels. An impressive stone monument, the Lion of the Confederacy, is nearby.

A small section is dedicated to Confederate generals, including Lucius Gartrell, Clement Evans, John Gordon, and Alfred Iverson (above). General Iverson’s controversial conduct at the Battle of Gettysburg has been the subject of two recent studies, one by Robert J. Wynstra and one by Jason Amico.

In the second installment, we will look at the graves of two Southerners who invaded York County in late June 1863. The names of Gordon and Evans are forever linked with the Confederate occupation of York during the Gettysburg Campaign.