The Unknown Hero of the Battle of Allatoona Pass

© 2006 Bruce W. Burns, the Foundation for Paranormal Research

We at the FPR, and myself especially, have become very fond of the Allatoona Pass battlefield site. "The Pass", as we call it, has become one of our favorite places to visit not only because of its beauty, serenity, and rich history, but also because of its high level of activity of a paranormal nature. One of the most intriguing tales of this location is the facts and legends surrounding the grave of the unknown. Part of an article from the September, 1894 issue of The Confederate Veteran gives an appropriate introduction to the story of the unknown hero of Allatoona Pass...

"Reginald Roland, Washington, D.C., writes from the offices of the Southern Railroad Company:

Near Allatoona, GA, in what is known as Allatoona Pass, is a lone grave of an unknown soldier, which is of considerable interest to people along the Western and Atlantic railroad through that region of battlefields, and which is protected and cared for as sacred by the train men whenever their duty brings them in that vicinity.

As you approach the northwestern end of the Pass, immediately on the west side of the track may be seen this solitary grave. At the head of the mound is a marble slab inscribed thus:

"An Unknown Hero
He died for the Cause
He thought was right

Here rests the precious son of one of the many mothers whose darling "went forth never to return," but whose son he was and who watched for his return, only to be doomed to disappointment, is a question that will probably remain untold through eternity."

The Grave of the Unknown Hero is the most well known historical feature of the area. More accurately, from a factual standpoint, the graves of the THREE unknown heroes are of concern. The following notes illustrate conflicting opinions regarding the locations and occupants of the grave(s) of the "Unknown Hero" of Allatoona Pass Battlefield.

The first, and most widely accepted viewpoint, comes from a letter written by J.P. Abernathy of Sherman, Texas. It was originally published in The Cartersville Weekly Tribune-News on December 7, 1949. It is reproduced here with original sentence structure and spelling intact.


In the October 20, 1949, issue of your paper, I read, with interest, the article regarding the "Unknown Hero", at Allatoona, Georgia.

I hereby wish to give you my knowledge of this Unknown Soldier: A few days after the Battle of Allatoona, a body was shipped into Allatoona, via the W & A Railway Co. There was no record as to where he was shipped from. The body was held at the Railway Depot for two days and two nights. By this time the body was in bad state of decay. The only address used was "Allatoona, Ga."

There were four of my own first cousins, Marah Hite, Nancy Hite, Rebekah Summey and Mary Smith; one second cousin, Martha Crow, prized [sic] open the home-made box to see if the body could be identified.

The Soldier was dressed in a gray uniform. There were no means by which he could be identified. A broad-brimmed black hat was rolled up and in the box with the body.

The ladies mentioned above came to my home to get maddox and shovel to dig the grave. They carried the corpse by hand sticks, through the cut, to the West end of the cut and burried him about one foot from end of the cross ties, on South side of the W & A railroad track.

About 1880, a group of surveyors came in and found the grave and having no history of the person, bought and erected the tomb stone. Immediately after the tomb was placed, my cousin, George Hanson, of Allatoona, took a picture of the grave.

I am Journey Phillip Abernathy, son of Lintford Abernathy of Bartow County, Macedonia community, Ga. I was born in Bartow County, August 6, 1858, and clearly remember the struggle through the horrors of the Civil War.

Yours very truly,
418 S. Montgomery

Another viewpoint, as told by Joe F. Head, leads us to the realization that there were TWO graves, located directly across the tracks from one another, and that the soldier described by Mr. Abernathy still lies where he was buried in an unmarked grave:

"According to Mr. Robert White, former station master of the Cartersville Depot, and the late colonel Thomas Spencer, journalist and historian, there are actually two unknown graves in the Allatoona Pass area. Both were originally located by the former track bed, but on opposite sides and within the same vicinity. Each are thought to be confederate soldiers and have been a topic of documented confusion for a century regarding identity and location.

The less known grave lies within the pass on the east side of the original track bed and has no marker. It is assumed this confederate was buried a few days following the Battle of Allatoona. According to records, a body was shipped to the depot via the W&A R.R. and tagged "Allatoona, Georgia," but with no name or message regarding its origin of shipment. The body was not claimed and in a bad state of decay. After two days, six ladies from the community buried the body considerably north of the depot, about two-thirds of the pass distance off the east side of the tracks approximately 100 yards down a wide drainage ditch on the high southerly bank. The Abernathy family of Cartersville is credited with the lesser known burial. Unfortunatley, this grave has practically been lost to the countryside because it is not maintained by the railroad and has been repeatedly disturbed by relic hunters. (The author is a relative of the Abernathy family.)

The more visible grave was originally dug exactly where the soldier died, toward the northern entrance and a few feet west of the tracks. Local historians believe this is the gravesite of Private Andrew Jackson Houston of Co. 135th Mississippi Regiment, who fell during the Battle of Allatoona. In 1950, the railroad relocated and marked the grave approximately one-half mile south of the pass, a few yards west of the existing tracks. Relocation was considered necessary in anticipation of the lake construction. This grave is maintained by the railroad and is the best known of the two unknown heroes."

Lastly, an article in the August 1895 issue of The Confederate Veteran contains a frequently quoted story about another burial of an unknown soldier. This account is not in conflict with the above two, but instead shows that there was yet another "unknown hero" buried at Allatoona Pass. Review of maps and other geographical data shows that this grave is/was located near the vicinity of what is now the parking lot of the Allatoona Pass site, far removed from the other two graves.

This story is attributed to Mr. O. S. Crandall, 4th Minnesota regiment:

"On the day of the fight, Mr. Crandall was stationed in the trenches on Allatoona Mountain, with 2,000 other Union soldiers. Across the track at the foot of the mountain was located a large railroad wood-shed filled with provisions for the federal army. About three o'clock, after the battle was over, a soldier was seen emerging from the Confederate lines. In his hand he bore aloft a blazing pine knot torch. He started for the provision house with the intention of firing it. He hardly got in sight when Union soldiers opened fire on him, as he was in full view of them. On, he went with his flaming torch, until he had traversed about 1,500 feet, and was within a few rods of the provision house, when he fell dead beside the track. He was a member of General French's command. He was about thirty or thirty five years of age. The second day after the battle, Mr. Crandall assisted in making the box coffin and in burying him on the spot where he fell. The bravery and daring of this soldier in facing death in order to burn the provision house commanded the attention and respect of the thousands of Union soldiers who saw him and they gave him a special burial."

Most likely, if you're familiar at all with the Allatoona Pass battlefield site, you're aware of the burial of an unknown soldier. Few of the thousands of annual visitors realize that there are actually three such graves. So go to "The Pass" with our wishes for happy haunted hunting. But tread lightly... there are only three... that we know of.

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Allatoona Pass