Subject: Memorial Day Address 2014
Author: Marty Willett
Date:   5/26/2014 8:25 pm EDT

Fort Hill Cemetery’s National Importance – Marty Willett 05/25/2014

Ladies & Gentlemen, All of you attending today are indeed distinguished guests, but we are very pleased to have with us Congressman Sanford Bishop’s Representative, Ms. Michelle Sands.
Your Fort Hawkins Commission, the all volunteer, non funded, Mayor appointed, civic commission that has been meeting monthly since 1990, has been honored to offer a Memorial Day Observance here at Fort Hill Cemetery for five years to bring to public attention this hallowed burial ground and its national importance.

Members of the Fort Hawkins Commission are with us today with Mrs. Echo Halstead Burrell; her sister, Mrs. Lynn Halstead Stokes, is actually holding down the fort at this moment for us; Echo’s husband, Mr. Grady Burrell is a Commission Member as well as Mr. Jack Caldwell and members on today’s program, Dr. John Goolsby, who delivered the Invocation and who is also a member of the Middle Georgia Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Commission and Vietnam Veterans of America member, Mr. Michael Lynch, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Fort Hawkins volunteer and Easter Sunrise participant, Rev. Alexander Newton with the Back To The Streets Ministry, will offer our Benediction, and the ceremony concludes with Taps from Mr. Bill Carey, Fort Hawkins Volunteer and President of the Middle Georgia Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Just as Fort Hawkins has long been the forgotten fort, on the forgotten frontier, from the forgotten war, so has the fort’s official burial ground become a nearly forgotten cemetery with our fort’s clearly forgotten warriors. We thank and commend you for attending today’s service to help us continue to remedy that forgotten status despite the national significance of this special place.

Your presence today also bears testimony that Memorial Day is more than the unofficial beginning of summer, the time to buy a car, go buy sports equipment, swim, golf, grill or just take a day off. Today is the day our Nation sets aside to remember and honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice while in service to their country. That is why we are here today.

Although this is our 5th Memorial Day Observance at Fort Hill Cemetery, a quick review of our basic history is essential to appreciate today’s importance. When Fort Hawkins was founded in 1806 this cemetery became the final resting place for all those that lived and served at this frontier fort and factory, and although the fort was not officially decommissioned until 1828, the Georgia General Assembly made this an official burial ground in 1823, at which time the fort had become quite obsolete. However, this part of Macon was Jones County until annexed around 1910 and by the end of the 20th century this once proud and historic neighborhood had fallen into serious decline and deterioration. All contributing to this still very active burial ground becoming so forgotten.

However, 200 years ago this very site would have been bustling with the business of defending our new Nation. In 1806, Col. Benjamin Hawkins had permission from the Muscogee Creek Nation to lay out a six foot horse path to connect our new Fort Hawkins to the new Fort Stoddard above Mobile. By 1810, that horse path had become the Federal Road connecting Washington to New Orleans quicker than the Natchez Trace. It would become the first stagecoach road into this new southeastern American frontier and the first postal route in America. And it went right before us here 200 years ago, our first interstate.

The road came from Fort Hawkins through those yonder mighty cedar trees with the road’s cut still visible there. Here it went on to Clinton and there on to Milledgeville along the Garrison Road used by the soldiers vacating Fort Wilkinson on the Oconee coming to Fort Hawkins on the Ocmulgee in 1806. A couple of year’s ago at a Rose Hill War of 1812 Bicentennial Event, local historian and descendent of the fort’s War of 1812 Commandant, Mr. Jim Preston, pointed out, this war was actually fought along this road near the current Rose Hill Front Gate. Likewise, this before you is the remnant of that road which our Second War of Independence was fought along and our freedom secured. It is literally a crossroads in American History.

As U.S. Army and Georgia Militia Headquarters, Fort Hawkins played a most significant role in the victories at Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans, and thus this road, along with our beloved fort, helped defend and save our Nation. And in so doing many soldiers serving at Fort Hawkins and at the Georgia Militia’s nearby Camp Hope – today’s Bowden Golf Course location – made the ultimate sacrifice and died in service to their country. We have estimated 20 – 200 soldiers could be laying here in unknown graves – forgotten warriors from the forgotten war, albeit our Second War of Independence.

Today we are here to remember these forgotten warriors from 200 years ago. There are many more here in unknown graves from this period such as the soldier’s families, local citizens, slaves, servants, and even Natives. Perhaps the Fort’s Factor, Jonathan Halsted, who died in 1814, is laid to rest here and not in the Great Temple Mound at the Ocmulgee National Monument and we know that Col. Hawkins widow, Lavinia, was buried here in 1828 but her gravesite is unknown. Likewise over the past four years we have recognized other veterans that are remembered here, but this year we must remember those that gave their life while in service to their country – our Fort Hawkins forgotten warriors.

One of the current research projects about Fort Hawkins was done by Col. Harold Youmans, who reconstructed an Orderly Book for the fort during the War of 1812 for the U.S. Army’s 8th Infantry, just one of many units that served the fort. Since few records exist for the fort from this time, which we believe was caused by the British burning of Washington, D.C. in 1814, there are no known orderly books from the fort, so this reconstruction reveals much about the fort’s known activities with the 8th U.S. Regiment of Infantry and puts our Fort Hawkins into national and international context.

The flags before you are symbolic of the 20-200 forgotten warriors buried here in unknown graves from 1806-1828. However, revealed in the orderly book pages are 25 servicemen that died while serving at Fort Hawkins with the 8th Infantry during the War of 1812. Our estimate of 20-200 servicemen buried here has now been justified by this research and our efforts will continue to learn more from this forgotten chapter of American history.

This year we are proud to call these 25 names for the first time in history:

Lt. Henry Rauchner
Sgt. Miller W. Logan
Pvt. Edwin Hollida
Pvt. W.D. Hudgins
Pvt. John Murphy
Pvt. James Wilson
Pvt. Elisha Rumley
Pvt. John R. Green
Corp. Pettigrew
Pvt. Hardgroves
Pvt. Hobbs
Pvt. Mayo
Pvt. Morriss
Pvt. Rogers
Pvt. Whitlock
Pvt. William Cryer
Pvt. Eisha Yarborough
Pvt. William Framed
Pvt. Rice Huckerson
Pvt. William Morrison
Pvt. Garland Cosby
Pvt. Benjamin Wells
Pvt. William Camp

Rest assured dear Friends, both assembled here and those on the other side, that we will continue to remember and honor the national legacy and significance of Fort Hawkins and of those that served here and died here and thus buried somewhere here at this hallowed and historic Fort Hill Cemetery. We invite you to a light reception back at the fort site after our ceremony concludes for further reflection. Thank you all again for attending and bearing witness to our remembrance of these forgotten warriors at Fort Hill.

Before our conclusion, I will place our patriotic wreath to remember these forgotten warriors at the mistaken monument to the slaves, soldiers and families that supposedly “fought” here – no fighting here folks, just mourning and loving and remembering, like today’s observance. God Bless You for coming and God Bless America!!
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 Memorial Day Address 2014    
Marty Willett 5/26/2014 8:25 pm EDT
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