Suffolk man honored for preservation

Published 10:45 pm Friday, November 28, 2014

By Allison T. Williams


Monument by monument, John A. Sharrett III is creating a lasting tribute to Civil War soldiers who fought in Virginia.

John A. Sharrett III is honored by fellow members of the Tom Smith Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans. (Allison T. Williams photo)

John A. Sharrett III is honored by fellow members of the Tom Smith Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans. (Allison T. Williams photo)

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The Suffolk history buff has logged thousands of miles visiting more than 300 Civil War monuments at cemeteries, courthouses and other sites around Virginia. There are 57 monuments in Hampton Roads alone, Sharrett said.

He photographs and documents the location and condition of each one, and plans to publish a book on Virginia’s monuments.

That project is just one reason Sharrett was recently awarded the Tom Smith Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans’ 19th annual Marion Joyner Watson award, said Commander Kevin Beale. The annual award, originally given as a recognition to one of Suffolk’s premier historians in 1995, honors individuals for their contributions to historic preservation and community service.

“That’s a huge undertaking,” said Beale.

For decades, Sharrett — who is both a member of the Tom Smith and Portsmouth’s Stonewall camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — has volunteered to help repair and preserve veterans’ tombstones in cemeteries in Portsmouth and Suffolk.

“We are preserving the heritage of people who fought for this country,” said Sharrett. “I think everyone understands what veterans went through, and we are honoring them by taking care of their graves.”

After the Civil War, many Confederate soldiers were broke and returned to find their homes had been burned to ground by Union forces, Sharrett said.

Lee Hart, a former commander of the Tom Smith Camp, said he and Sharrett have spent many hours working in Suffolk’s Cedar Hill Cemetery. This was particularly true in 2001, when the two helped return a restored sculpted Confederate soldier atop its monument in Cedar Hill.

“You don’t get too many volunteers wanting to come out and dig holes in a cemetery,” Hart said. “But John was always there offering assistance.

“A lot of hard work went into it. I don’t think about taking cameras but … John did and documented the whole thing. He is a recorder of history.”

Sharrett is also a past president of the North-South Skirmish Association, a national organization that promotes the shooting of Civil War firearms and artillery by conducting competitive skirmishes. He belongs to the Dismal Swamp Rangers, a local militia group that competes in shooting competitions.