Elizabethton officials say they want to avoid crossfire in cemetery skirmish

10:17 am | July 5, 2013

You could say the City of Elizabethton wants to remain “non-aligned.”

Photo by Brandon HicksTwo groups are at odds over the inclusion of Confederate battle flags at Elizabethton's Green Hill Cemetery.

Photo by Brandon Hicks
Two groups are at odds over the inclusion of Confederate battle flags at Elizabethton’s Green Hill Cemetery.

One hundred fifty years after a bloody war that divided the country into two uncompromising factions, battle lines are being drawn in a small Elizabethton cemetery where the bodies of some of its veterans are buried.

For years, the Watauga Historical Association and the Robert J. Tipton Camp No. 2083 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have each fired figurative volleys over the inclusion of Confederate memorial items in the Green Hill Cemetery in central Elizabethton, often seeking to recruit the Elizabethton Police Department as an ally.

City Manager Jerome Kitchens said the difference of opinion isn’t something the city wants to become embroiled in.

“We’ve tried not to take sides,” Kitchens said. “As long as none of them has violated city law, we don’t have any reason to be involved.”

He said local officials have attempted to mediate the conflict, but that peace talks have been unfruitful.

“The historical association is doing what they’re doing at the request of some relatives of people buried there, and the Confederate group is doing the same thing,” he said. “If there’s a violation we’ll tackle it, but a difference in opinions is not something we can tackle very well.”

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