Wearing dark brown “widow’s weeds,” Sue Anne Boothe waited to place a long-stemmed red rose on the grave of a man who could have been her great-grandfather.
She was honoring one of 29 men who died in the fighting and are buried in graves that have been unmarked – until now – in Salem’s East Hill Cemetery.
Boothe, who is a member of the Hamilton Wade Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Christiansburg, knows where her own ancestor is buried, and how he served. Thomas L. Potterfield fought for the Confederacy in the War Between the States, as a member of the 7th Virginia Cavalry from Lovettsville, in Northern Virginia.
But on Sunday, she and others portraying Confederate widows, sisters, parents, children and grandchildren were, for the most part, remembering men they were not related to in Division 2, Division 3, Division 4 and Division 5.
When asked why she came out to stand in the sun dressed in a long hoop-skirted frock, starched petticoats, bonnet and string gloves, Boothe replied simply, “To honor them.”
Seven-year-old Cannon Tabor shifted from foot to foot in his pint-size grey uniform as he waited with his mother, Melinda Tabor, to place roses on mass marker commemorating Confederate dead in East Hill Cemetery. She is a member of the McComas Chapter of the UDC in Pearisburg. Her husband was part of the Flat Top Copperhead Sons of Confederate Veterans from Princeton, W. Va., who fired a 21-gun salute.
The family frequently takes part in Confederate events, and Cannon has been in several Civil War weddings, the Narrows Elementary Middle School first-grader said.
Participating in ancestor searching for her UDC activities has even helped Melinda find living family.
Margo Wolfe, a distant cousin from Roanoke, helped Melinda tie her wide-brimmed straw hat Sunday, as the two talked non-stop.
Melinda’s ancestor is John Jacob Harner of the 36th Virginia Infantry from Bland County. “I did an iron cross and grave marker for him,” she explained.
The Confederate dead in East Hill can rest a little easier now. Even though they are long gone, they are not forgotten.
EDITOR’S NOTE – The names of Melinda Tabor and Cannon Tabor have been corrected since the original posting, along with the spelling of John Jacob Harner’s name.