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Honoring unknown soldiers
0418 echoes
Above is the monument in Guyton Cemetery to the unknown deceased soldiers of the War Between the States. - photo by Photo provided

Guyton Georgia Confederate Cemetery was established to bury the dead from the Guyton Confederate Hospital, including 26 unknown soldiers who had died of illness during the Civil War. Most died of chronic dysentery, pneumonia, typhoid and yellow fever.

Contagious diseases ran rampant in those days. Soldiers in war and training were subjected to crowded, cramped quarters and damp environments often in tents, if that lucky. Many were inadequately clothed for the cold in the northern campaigns.

By the time they arrived ill by train, some were too sick to identify themselves and thus with no one to claim their body, were buried in the cemetery.

In early 1862, the Confederate government established a general hospital at Guyton.  About three miles north of the hospital, a training camp for soldiers named “Camp Davis” was established. One of the main reasons the hospital was established here was the railroad, which was the principal means of transportation of war support materials and soldiers who were ill or injured. They brought the sick and wounded soldiers south to places which were safer.

Many who arrived in Guyton had become ill suddenly. The wounded whose condition forbade further travel were treated there. A second medical site near Springfield was established known as Springfield Convalescent Camp to handle those who were no longer acutely ill but not ready to return to duty.

The hospital in Guyton operated for two years and seven months and was located on nine acres of land in what was then known as the town of Whitesville (now Guyton). It was bound on the side by the Central Railroad (now Highway 17) from Claudette’s Bed and Breakfast to the former Thompson’s Hardware.

The hospital grounds were located from the present-day Lynn Bonds Avenue down to Pine Street and up to the present-day Highway 119. There was a total of 96 staff including surgeons who worked there with no more than 67 employed at one time. Bed numbers rose with as many as 219 permanent beds there in May 1863.

Permanent buildings were erected on this site including wards for patients, offices, kitchens, mess halls, barracks, stables and storage buildings. When the hospital was full, patients were housed in several private residences and the Guyton Methodist Church.

According to research of Norman Turner, there could have been thousands treated there, some only there for such a brief time that they never showed up on muster rolls. Many were examined and shipped over to Springfield Convalescent Camp or moved there as they recovered.

The Springfield Convalescent Camp (also known as Camp Wilson for Dr. W.W. Wilson, who contracted with the Confederate government to work there in July 1862) showed 107 patients in records of July 1862 and as many as 630 patients and staff in October 1862. The camp was located in the vicinity of the Effingham County Prison and the Sheriff’s Office and Jail. It closed sometime in early 1863.

The Guyton Confederate Cemetery is part of Guyton Cemetery, designated by a bricked border. A monument to the men who died in the Guyton Confederate Hospital stands guard over the crosses of the 26 unknown soldiers interred there.

Somewhere through the years, the top of the monument disappeared. The United Daughters of the Confederacy Effingham County Hussars Chapter No. 2285 has undertaken a restoration of the monument. The new top of the monument will be unveiled April 27, 2014 at 4:30 p.m. in their annual Confederate Memorial Day Service. There will be a 21-gun salute to the unknown soldiers by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.  The public is cordially invited to attend the event and reception under the majestic oaks.

The information above came from conversation with local historian Norman Turner and information he has published in historical pamphlets found in Effingham Museum. This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact her at 754-6681 or at