FRANKLIN, Tenn. – A Civil War soldier whose remains were found in a battlefield grave last spring was reburied Saturday by admirers who knew neither his name nor even what side he fought on.
Among the history buffs paying tribute to him were two old men whose fathers fought on opposing sides in the War Between the States.
"This soldier represents all of the soldiers, the thousands that were lost and are still buried across the South," said Robin Hood, chairman of the Franklin Battlefield Task Force that organized the event.
It's unknown which side the soldier fought on when he was among the nearly 2,000 killed in the 1864 Battle of Franklin. Construction workers happened upon the anonymous soldier's shallow grave in May.
Military buttons found with the remains were from the Civil War, but they don't prove whether the soldier was a Union man or a Confederate, Hood said.
"Some of them were Union and some of them were Southern," he said. "And that late in the war a lot of the Southern buttons were Union buttons, because the Confederate buttons didn't hold up as well."
The coffin draped in Confederate and Union flags was transported from St. Paul's Episcopal Church, which served as a barracks and hospital during the conflict, to Rest Haven Cemetery in a horse-drawn carriage accompanied by Civil War re-enactors.
A new memorial at the cemetery features a limestone column that was once part of the state Capitol, which served as Union stronghold during the war.
"If this man was a Union solider, his comrades may have actually passed through those columns," Hood said. "So it's fitting."
The services were attended by two elderly men whose fathers served in the Civil War.
Harold Becker's father fought for the Union in the Battle of Franklin.
"It was his first battle after he joined up in 1864," said Becker, 91, of Rockford, Mich. "And after the battle, he developed measles and he spent 18 days in a hospital."
Becker's father, Charles Conrad Becker, served in the 128th Indiana Infantry, and later was part of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea.
James Brown, 97, vented some mock indignation upon hearing the firebrand general's name.
"You mentioned about Sherman — I should shoot you!" joked Brown, whose father served in the 8th Georgia Infantry. "Sherman was a thorn in the side of everybody in the South."
Both Brown and Becker were born to elderly fathers — veterans in their 70s who survived well into the 20th Century.
Brown's father, James H. H. Brown of Oglethorpe County, Ga., was not at the Franklin battle, but fought at several others including Shiloh, Manassas and Gettysburg. A rifleman, he was also at Appomattox when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered, ending the war.
"He didn't talk too much about the Civil War, but he did tell to us boys what a hardship they had," said Brown, who was 11 when his father died. "No shoes, not enough food to eat. Toward the end it was pretty tough."
Becker said his father didn't often speak about the war either.
"He maybe talked to my older brothers more about it, but he mentioned various things," said Becker, a retired refrigeration engineer. "On nice days he'd lean his chair back and smoke his one cigar a day, and would tell us stories about the war."
Both men said they were pleased to be part of the ceremony for the unknown soldier.
"I thought it was a wonderful and marvelous affair," said Brown, a retired hotelier who now lives on Tellico Lake.