Police are looking for vandals who trashed a Civil War cemetery in Georgia this week, ripping down the Confederate flag and toppling gravestones as they racked up thousands of dollars in damages.
“They messed up the Confederate flagpole,” said Ronald Eslinger, who oversees Nathan Anderson Cemetery in Ringgold for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “Somebody come up there and tore the latch off the pole and stole the flag. They broke monuments, turned over some stuff, and stole stick flags from graves. Around the flagpole is where they did all the damage.”
A $500 reward is offered for information leading to the capture of the vandals responsible for knocking over headstones and destroying American & confederate flags in the Nathan Anderson Cemetery in Ringgold pic.twitter.com/3b4Zt8PatR
— Allison Levine (@AllisonNC9) April 26, 2018
Eslinger told Northwest Georgia News he got a call around 10 a.m. Sunday when someone noticed the missing Confederate flag, and he later discovered the culprits broke two gravestones in half and kicked others over. They also shredded the mini American flags left by gravesites, and apparently left a trail in their wake.
“It looked like they dropped them as they were going to the motel,” Eslinger said. “I think it was somebody in the motel or somebody going across the parking lot to the cemetery.”
He said the vandalized flagpole will cost about $2,500 to fix and officials are still assessing the damage to the headstones, which cost at least $700 to replace. Eslinger told WRCB he’s reaching out to family members of the deceased to make sure they’re aware of the damage.
“This is somebody’s loved ones and it will break somebody’s heart,” he said. “I know it broke mine.”
Saw this flying over Confederate cemetery…Ringgold, Ga.
Hard to believe that war was only 152 years ago. pic.twitter.com/I4jSr2u5u1
— chronictown (@chronictown) March 14, 2017
WTVC reports the cemetery is home to Confederate and Union soldiers, as well as slaves, Native Americans and others. An archaeological survey four years ago discovered the unmarked graves of dozens of Union soldiers, which were marked by volunteers with American flags.
Those flags were destroyed by the vandals, as was the cemetery’s Confederate flag, which Eslinger said was “pulled down and ripped off the hinges.”
Eslinger said he can’t “understand anybody wanting to come in here and do this. It takes a very low moral person to do that.”
Ringgold Police Chief Dan Bilbrey told Northwest Georgia News officers are working with local businesses to review any surveillance footage in the area, while Eslinger is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
“The people who are buried here, this is a sacred place,” he said. “I was extremely angry, extremely angry that someone would come in here and vandalize this sacred place.”
Marshall Bandy, a volunteer at the cemetery since the 1970s, pointed out that the vandals targeted the graves of civilians as well as Civil War soldiers, and said he doesn’t believe the stunt was politically motivated, though the cemetery’s American flag was left untouched.
“What we’re talking about here is how important the military is to our freedom,” he said.