Alabama soldier rests on Secession Hill in Abbeville, South Carolina [video, music & photographs]

There is an unknown Confederate soldier from Alabama buried on Secession Hill. According to the South Carolina League of the South “The grave of an unknown Alabama soldier was located on the property and marked. This soldier had died on a train passing through Abbeville, his remains removed and buried on Secession Hill.”

The lyrics to this song written by Alan Peeler were inspired after Mr. Peeler visited the unknown Alabama soldier in Abbeville. It was sung and recorded by Deborah Brinson and is number six on her album, Let Dixie Remember

The Lyrics to the song tell his story:
While on a train in South Carolina I Stared out of the window
As the slow cold rain was coming down
And I’m trying to get home, the home Left so long ago
But I’m here, near Abbeville, near Abbeville town
It’s a Long, long way, to Alabama

They told me the war, the war was over. My soldier life was through,
My soldier life was through, and they said,
“Go home confederate soldier, for you have nothing left to prove
Go home confederate soldier, for you have nothing left to prove
It’s a long, long way to Alabama

Almost four years ago, I left my home
To stand for what was right, with a rifle in my hand, I fought
For my land against all the federal might
I fought for my land, against all the federal might
It’s a long, long way to Alabama

I joined the army, with my brother John
Two cousins and my neighbor Tom, my brother and cousins, and neighbor Tom
John died at Chickamauga, my cousins of them I don’t know
Tom died in Richmond, o’er two and half years ago
It’s a long, long way to Alabama

For the last two days, a fever’s been in my head
Sleep has not come, as on this train I make my bed, I wonder,
Will I ever see my home, my father and my mother dear?
Or if on this train ‘n tears the voice of my Savior I’ll hear?
It’s a long, long way to Alabama

I close my eyes now, for I feel I must sleep
I’ll pull my coat close as the train pulls to a creep, and they say,
“We’re in Abbeville” a small South Carolina town
But I dream of my old home, so far away in Alabam
But I dream of my old home, so far away in Alabam
It’s a long, long way to Alabama

3000 people gathered on Secession Hill

The property referred to in the quote is a 1.9-acre tract where Secession Hill was located. Secession Hill is named for the event of November 22, 1860, which took place there. On that date, over 3000 people gathered to hear what have become known as the secession speeches. Abbeville, South Carolina is given credit for holding the first of these meetings in front of the court-house. A speakers stand was set up three blocks away near the old town magazine.SecessionHillSign south carolina

Property fell into private hands

“Over the next one hundred and forty-four years, Secession Hill fell to private hands. A house of about 2000 square feet was built circa 1894 and a smaller house built later. The area was over-run with vines, underbrush, and thousands of glass bottles and cans littered the area. Secession Hill was simply a piece of forgotten property and had little or no historical significance to Abbeville. In fact, most residents of the area didn’t really know where Secession Hill was located in the town.”i

“In 2001, Robert Hayes moved to Abbeville and opened a shop called the “Southern Patriot Shop.” One day in November of 2001, he overheard a conversation between two men in his shop in which one man said he owned the tract of land known as Secession Hill. This man was Jack Mattison of Columbia. Mr. Hayes immediately began discussion and negotiation to purchase that land from Mr. Mattison. The property had been zoned for multi-housing by the city of Abbeville and Mr. Hayes and others feared that it could fall into the hands of a developer and be gone forever.”ii

Alabama unknown soldier’s grave found

“In April of 2004, Mr. Hayes and the Southern Cultural Centre purchased the 1.9-acre tract and began a journey of clearing and preparing the property for Secession Memorial Park. Thousands of man-hours went into the clearing of the two houses, vines, bottles, trees, debris and most of that work was done by Mr. Hayes himself.”iii

Proposed Park on Secession Hill Map Below


“The grave of an unknown Alabama soldier was located on the property and marked. This soldier had died on a train passing through Abbeville, his remains removed and buried on Secession Hill. In addition, “Secession Rock” which holds a bronze marker, placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy circa 1950, was moved across the line from the remaining private property and placed at the sight of the platform where the speeches were given. No specific date is on the plaque which simply reads “This stone marks the spot where the first secession speeches were made.” A beautiful flag pole also adorns the grounds of the Memorial Park.”iv

Secession Rock in Abbeville


Thanks to the song written by Alan Peeler and the Music by Deborah Brenson as well as Robert Hayes diligence in saving Secession Hill, the sacrifice of this Alabama unknown soldier in South Carolina has been remembered. The soundtrack is number six on Deborah (Brinson) Wilkie’s  album, Let Dixie Remember  recorded in 2006.

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  1. I have a question about the song. It is said that the soldier was an unknown yet in the song, several of the soldier’s relatives are named. Was this artistic license or was the soldier later identified? Is the date of his death known? I am curious because my gg grandfather never it made it home to Alabama. He spent time in Point Lookout Prison for Confederates in Maryland and was released on 6June1865. The last written record was that he was released as a “sick prisoner”. I have always felt he succumbed to his illness on his journey home and is, at best, buried in some “unknown” grave along his route back to Alabama. I know it would be impossible to ever establish his location but, if this soldier remains “unknown” then at least I would feel some connection to him. A response would be appreciated.

    1. Since he is unknown, I feel pretty sure artistic license was used. In the story about the grave, it was discovered while clearing the site.

  2. Many Alabama settlers came from Abbeville. My 3rd great grandfather was born there in 1809 and died 60 years later in Coosa County, Alabama.

  3. Mr. Creech, The best information we have, is that he died of smallpox in the last few days of April or sometime in May. He was said to be in his thirties. There were quite a number of Confederate soldiers in Abbeville who were on their way home when President Davis arrived mid-morning 2 May 1865, because there are reports that they lined the street and cheered President Davis. I am currently doing research for a book on the history of Secession Hill. In my research, I came across a memoir of a lady who states that the Alabama soldier died on the day that Davis was here; however, I do not know how much credence to give her statement, since the article was written by her in 1927 at the age of ninety-five. (She lived to be 104.) The Rev. Peeler did use artistic license in his poem.

    We have a tombstone for the soldier and will have a dedication of his grave on Saturday 16 May 2015 at 1:00 PM.

  4. My great great Grandfather, Frederic B. Creech, disappeared after being released after the war from Point Lookout Prison, MD. The last record I have of him was that he was being released as a “sick prisoner”. He never made it home either and I’ve never been able to find a trace of him. So this really touches me. How many other brave Confederates and Southerners died but are not listed as war dead?

  5. This is so sad. How many young men from both sides are in unmarked graves, their families never knowing what happened or where they are. There are several Union soldiers buried in a little cemetery in Hale County. Their graves are tended just as well as the Confederates as they should be.

  6. The song and video sent chills down my spine . I know that in this age of being ” politically Correct ” , we have so many politicians trying to erase every vestige of our history . The fact of the matter is that the Civil War DID happen and you can’t rewrite or change history to suit yourself. or to appease or please other people. I had folks that fought on both sides. These are my ancestors , the people I descend from and no amount of political correctness can take that away from me.

  7. Somebody has been working on stealing that bronze plaque. The fasteners need to be repaired, or it won’t be there much longer.

  8. How in the world can people be so heartless . they died for what was right and families never knew what happen to them. My great grand father fought in the war

  9. The United States should take care of all Confederate graves no matter what ! my ancestors all
    fought in that war they where from Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, they fought for
    what they thought was right States rights and for their Homelands not Slavery what most people
    think the War was about not one of my ancestor had any Slaves at All that took up arms to
    Fight Yes we should take care of all graves of the men who fought for the south it is part of History
    and my ancestors who died in that War will allways be Known to have died for what they thought
    was Right !!!

  10. I too had ancestors which fought on both sides. I too do not understand why history just can’t stay history; why must it be rewritten? The Civil War is American history, and all our ancestors had heartfelt reasons for fighting. Thanks for posting this touching piece of history, both in video and beautiful song!

  11. I agree thanks for the history I to had ancestors who fought on North and South.Some we’re p.o.w.s in New Orleans. The nation was torn apart it is history and should not be rewritten nor should it be removed from any school system.

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