Civil War marker returns to Natchez after 65 years

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, December 9, 2017


NATCHEZ — A ceremony Monday will celebrate the return of a Civil War grave marker to Natchez after 65 years.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. at the Natchez National Cemetery.

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The more than 117-year-old memorial star grave marker, dedicated to an unknown Union soldier, is currently in the possession of author Diana Savastano, who found the marker in 1991 at a Florida antiques shop. She was looking for a Civil War piece and gravitated to the marker, a five-pointed star inscribed, “Our Comrade Soldier, 1861-1865.”

Though the exact origin of the marker is difficult to verify completely, Savastano claims a young boy took the marker from the cemetery in 1952, not knowing what it was. The boy, Savastano said, hid the marker in his parents’ suitcase and upon returning home, showed the marker to his father. The boy’s father, a shop owner, hid the marker away for decades out of fear of retribution.

Thirty-nine years later, Savastano worked to authenticate the memorial. With just the elderly shop-owner’s tale to go on, Savastano sought out the help the Natchez National Cemetery’s then-director, Alvin Sander.

Savastano said a worker at the cemetery remembered that a marker from the cemetery was reported missing in 1952.

“And there was the proof of its authenticity,” Savastano said.

The antique memorial inspired Savastano to write a novel, called “The Marker,” which she published in September after 26 years of work.

While the cemetery’s current assistant director, Skip Solomon, said he could not know for certain if the marker came from his cemetery, he was happy to take the marker as a donation.

“She was looking for a good, secure place to put it back in Natchez,” Solomon said. “We said, ‘Sure, we can accept it.’”

Savastano, an Atlanta novelist had never been to Natchez before, until she visited Natchez National Cemetery midway through writing her book.

“I made a trip out to Natchez a number of years ago,” she said. “It was rather an emotional thing to actually walk on the grounds of the cemetery, of that unknown soldier.”

Savastano said her ultimate goal was always to return the marker where it belongs upon completion of the novel.

When the memorial marker makes its return Monday, it will be cased for display with an account of where it was found and how it made its way back home.