Just a few miles from Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is Marietta National Cemetery, the final resting place for over 10,000 Union soldiers who died during General Sherman’s successful Atlanta Campaign—an effort that marked the beginning of the end of the Civil War. To enter the grounds, visitors pass through a dramatic monumental archway leading to sweeping views of white tombstones arranged in a stunning variety of geometric patterns among rolling hills.
Many discover this site by happenstance, just as my husband and I did while exploring the historic Marietta area upon moving to Cobb County. Our first view of the cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was from the sixth floor of a building across the street. The scene was eerily beckoning, and we couldn’t wait to explore it.
The rectangular property, sitting on almost 24 acres, was owned during the Civil War by a Union loyalist named Henry Greene Cole. The land at one time was considered for the location of a Confederate capitol building, but Cole refused a generous sum for the property in hopes of finding a better use for it. Cole ultimately donated the acreage for use as a national cemetery, where he and his family are buried in a special plot on the grounds.
One fascinating fact is that the cemetery was established in 1866, two years after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and one year after the war ended. The remains of Union soldiers were reinterred here after being removed from provisional plots near the Georgia battlefields on which they died. Unfortunately, over three thousand of the plots contain the remains of soldiers whose identities were never determined; their gravestones simply say “Unknown US Soldier.”
Another interesting piece of trivia is that, despite the designation as a national cemetery, only five Confederate soldiers, thought to be spies for the Union, are buried here (in unmarked graves to prevent the desecration of their remains). Additionally, Marietta National Cemetery is the final resting place of two veterans of the Revolutionary War, along with the fallen from conflicts through the Persian Gulf War. With over 17,000 graves, Marietta National Cemetery is now considered full and closed to new interments. The site contains numerous memorials and monuments, as well as a huge rostrum in the center of the property that hosts commemorative events on special occasions throughout the year.
According to Haunted Marietta, by Rhetta Akamatsu, some say the ghosts of dead soldiers haunt this graveyard, and create
sounds of “marching, drums and even gunshots” from within. Haunted or not, this quiet, reflective place is a soulful reminder of the many sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have defended our country.
Scoop Tip: Complement your visit to Marietta National Cemetery with a hike up Kennesaw Mountain and a lunch at Marietta Square. A visit any time of year is breathtaking, with every season offering a beautiful backdrop for visitors. History buffs and veterans are among the many who will appreciate this spot.
Note: Marietta National Cemetery, located at 500 Washington Avenue in Marietta, is open daily from sun up to sun down. While no staff members are on site, you can visit the website or contact the Georgia National Cemetery administrative office at 866-236-8159 for more information.
June Newton is a student in the Master of Arts in Professional Writing program at Kennesaw State University. As newcomers to the area, she and her husband enjoy exploring Cobb County and beyond with their curious dog, Oscar, and their sons, James and Thomas.