Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith ---- In the City of Conyers Cemetery on South Main Street, Jerry New, a member of the Major Gen. Joseph Wheeler Camp #863 Sons of the Confederate Veterans, stands by the grave of H.P. Almand Sr., a Confederate veteran who is an ancestor to New. New is displaying a Civil War era rifle and sword. The Sons of Confederate Veterans helped organize a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the erection of the Rockdale County Confederate Memorial Monument.
Jerry New peruses a list of 546 soldiers from the Rockdale County area who fought in the Civil War. Next to several names, he has made notations. New is kin to these soldiers, and on Friday he paid his respects to them at a ceremony honoring the 100th anniversary of the Rockdale County Confederate Memorial Monument.
"It's in dedication to so many of my ancestors. It represents so much of my family tree," said New of the monument.
The Major Gen. Joseph Wheeler Camp No. 863 Sons of the Confederate Veterans along with the Rockdale County Historical Society presented a brief wreath-laying ceremony on Friday in honor of the Confederate soldiers and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the erection of the Confederate Memorial Monument.
The Rockdale community first unveiled the 20-foot tall marble structure, a wide base supporting a tall column with a carving of a Confederate soldier on the top, on April 26, 1913, at the same location where it stands today, in front of the Rockdale County Courthouse.
Judy Bond of the Rockdale County Historical Society said that according to newspaper accounts, a huge crowd gathered at the base of the monument for the unveiling. Bond said she imagined that, "everyone gasped and shouts of joy came from the veterans as it was uncovered."
Rockdale County Historical Society member Harriet Gattis said that it took 48 years from the end of the war in 1865 to raise the money for the monument, which was erected by the Conyers Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
"As a historian, that's what captures my heart is that they prevailed, no matter what," said Gattis, of the UDC chapter.
Pauline Myers, president of the James M. Gresham Chapter 1312, United Daughters of the Confederacy, said that the beginning of the building of the monuments throughout the South occurred shortly after the war, with the first one dedicated in 1866 at Fort George. Most municipalities placed the memorials in a prominent place such as on a major road or near a courthouse.
About 85 monuments were built in the half century following the war, said Myers in her address to the crowd of about 50 at the ceremony on Friday, and financed by ladies memorial associations, United Daughters of the Confederacy and United Confederate Veterans.
"For some communities, it would take many years," said Myers of the construction of the monuments.
The Rockdale Confederate Monument is inscribed with the phrase "Many of whom gave all, all of whom gave much."
New said at least 19 of the men honored by the monument belong to his family. He said he appreciates the tribute to his ancestors, who struggled with starvation, loss of homes, injury and death due to the Civil War.
"Sherman said that he'd make the South howl," said New. "It was devastating."