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Marion Confederate Cemetery

A Lauderdale County Web Exclusive
by Bill White

The Confederate Cemetery at Marion, Mississippi stands as a silent tribute to many southern warriors who gave their lives for the vision. However, a few moments of reflection in the little cemetery at Marion is sufficient to remind us that no man is truly dead as long as he is remembered.

This small cemetery contains the memorial markers of 170 fallen Confederate soldiers, the names of some 47 of them have been extracted from the National Archives and are memorialized on a polished granite stone placed near the entrance to the cemetery by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, General Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp number 1649.

The cemetery, located north of Marion, near the intersection of Confederate Drive and Chunky Street, stands out for its' peaceful serenity in a busy residential section of this small Mississippi town. With large apartment houses to the south and private residences to the east and north, across Confederate Drive to the west is a large empty field, reminiscent of Marion's earlier days of sparse settlement and modest population.

Partially enclosed in an attractive brick and wood fence, the entrance to the cemetery includes a wrought iron arch into which the letters "Marion CSA Cemetery" have been artfully welded. Entering the cemetery, one passes the flagpole to the right of the arch, always flying the U.S. flag at the appropriate time and in suitable weather, and approaches the granite marker. Behind the memorial stone is a small bench upon which one can sit and contemplate the glorious dream that was not to be.

The memorial markers, one for each of the fallen, are of the standard type used for the confederate soldiers, a granite slab with two shallow angles meeting at top center in a point much like the markers at Lauderdale Springs. Each marker bears the identifying emblem of the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization and is inscribed with the words "Unknown Confederate Soldier." There are 170 individual markers arranged in 17 rows of 10 markers each.

Near the back of the cemetery is a single flat marker placed in memory of Pvt. George W. Glasscock (1841-1862). This individual, personal marker has been allowed to remain despite the concerns of the creators of the cemetery. Pvt. Glasscock has already been memorialized on the stone near the entrance and this additional marker in his name is believed to distract from the monument taken as a whole. The entire cemetery, grounds and fencing taken completely and not the individual markers, is intended to memorialize this group of individuals, for one to be singled out is, perhaps, seen as shifting the focus from the whole to the one. Even so, the marker has been allowed to stay and is cared for well.

It is important to remember that cemeteries like this one at Marion are intended only to be commemoratory. There are no graves here, there are no bodies beneath these markers, the forces of war prevented the digging of individual graves and most remains were interred in mass graves. This cemetery, it is said, is placed as near as possible to one of these burial sites, but the remains were not disinterred and reburied here. This hallowed place is a tribute not a grave yard.

The location of the Confederate hospital at Marion, Mississippi is said to be something of an enigma to some. Although the town of Marion was well suited as a hospital site, lying along the Mobile and Ohio (M&O) railroad north of Meridian and south of Lauderdale Springs, however, there were already two large, 2,500 to 3,000 bed hospitals in existence in the two nearby locations mentioned. [Moore, 484]  Perhaps the mystery lies in the inability of the contemporary mind to grasp the vast numbers of sick and wounded that passed through the two larger facilities.

The first know burial at Marion Confederate Cemetery appears to have been Charles Willis in June of 1862, the last, William Jones in 1864. These are not necessarily the actual first or last but only those of which we know at present. However, both Meridian and Lauderdale Springs record burials as early as August of 1861 and May of 1861 respectively. There are no recorded burials in Meridian after February of 1964, coinciding with the arrival of General Sherman's so-called Meridian Expedition, until October of 1864. In Lauderdale Springs burials ceased briefly in February of 1864 but began again in April of 1864 and continued until after the war.

It seems within reason that instead of being a "General Hospital" in the true sense of the term, that Marion served as an overflow hospital for the Meridian and Lauderdale Springs locales. This is, of course, not the final word, which may have been lost in years past, but only this writer's assumption.

It follows then, and appears to be supported in fact, that the doctors serving the patients at Marion were also, to some extent, those serving patients in Meridian and, perhaps Lauderdale Springs as well.  This makes them, their careers and backgrounds of some importance since so little information remains. Although research hasn't turned up a substantial amount of information regarding the doctors of Lauderdale Springs, that those doctors in Meridian were associated with treatment at Marion is evident in the discharge papers of at least one veteran released from service at the Marion hospital.

On 15 December 1862 a Private Joel M. Rivers applied for an honorable discharge for medical reasons from Marion hospital. His discharge indicates that he was released from service at Marion, Mississippi by Post Surgeon J. D. Caldwell (John Decatur Caldwell). The examining board consisted of surgeons G. A. Nott (Gustavus Adolphus Nott) and Walker Curry and assistant surgeon J. M. Hoyle (James M. Hoyle).

Before briefly taking a look at the careers of these surgeons, it is also noteworthy to observe that the discharge is written on a standard, preprinted form. Printed in the heading of the form are the following words: General Hospital "Okolona" (the quotes surrounding Okolona are printed on the form) and "At Meridian, Miss...". The actual physical location of the hospital, Marion, Miss., is handwritten at the bottom of the form. [CSA Honorable Discharge]

This preprinted information suggest that a relationship may have existed between the General Hospital at Okolona, Mississippi and the three hospitals, Lauderdale Springs, Marion and Meridian, to the south. Okolona was, at this time, a Confederate Division hospital and was about 130 miles north of Meridian on the M&O railroad. The precise nature of the relationship may have been lost to history but we can make a few, if somewhat tenuous, connections between two of the surgeons and the Okolona installation.

Dr. John D. Caldwell was appointed Surgeon in Charge for the 1st Alabama Regiment as the unit was formed. He, along with his comrades, was mustered into service for the Army of the Confederacy on 1 April 1861 when the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment became one of the first regiments to transfer to the Army of the Confederacy. His Assistant Surgeon was Dr. Walter Curry. [McMorries, 61]

Walter Curry was born in Lincoln County, Georgia on 24 October 1835. He moved with his parents to Talladega, Alabama in 1838 and, after attending school there, entered the University of Georgia about 1852 remaining for 2 years. He subsequently entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1854 and graduated from the Medical Department in 1857. [White, 217] At the outbreak of the war, he was appointed Assistant Surgeon of the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment serving under Dr. Caldwell.

The 1st Alabama Infantry served at Pensacola, Florida in November of 1861 during the bombardments and were then ordered to Tennessee where they served under GEN Albert S. Johnston at the battle of Shiloh in April, 1862, where Johnston, himself, was killed.

The 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment was reorganized in March 1862 as an artillery command. Although most officers and men surrendered at Island Ten on April 8, 1862, the service records of Surgeon Jackson Decatur Caldwell include an order reassigning him to Okolona MS on March 15, 1862. [Pitts, see below]

Dr. Caldwell next appears in the research in Meridian, Mississippi, perhaps now under the command of Lieutenant General Pemberton who is commanding the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana. He is listed in the records of the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County, Mississippi as the Surgeon in Charge of the Confederate Hospital at Marion, Mississippi. [Fairley, 56] Dr. Curry, who was promoted to surgeon on 1 September 1862, is also present, as are Drs. G. A. Nott and Assistant Surgeon J. M. Hoyle.

Dr. Curry later established a hospital for sick and wounded Federal prisoners at Jackson, Mississippi. On or about 13 May 1863, When Sherman entered Jackson Dr. Curry left the area with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's corps and, on 14 May 1863, was ordered by Dr. Yandell, General Johnston's medical director (and another quite well-known name in Confederate hospitals in Meridian), to go to Canton, Mississippi to notify the surgeon there to make preparations for the care of the wounded that would result from Gen. Pemberton's impending counter attack against Sherman. The battle, however, did not happen and Dr. Curry was ordered back to Jackson where he took charge of a general hospital until its capture by Sherman. Curry then received orders to remove the wounded and establish a hospital at Old Marion, Mississippi. [White, 217]

It is unlikely that Dr. Curry found it necessary to literally "establish" a hospital in Marion, since, based on the known casualty reports, it was already in existence. However, possibly, by this time the bulk of the casualties had been absorbed by the hospital at Meridian and the facilities, such as they were, at Marion, needed only to be reopened and occupied. Later in the war, Curry was the Surgeon-in-Charge of the hospital at Selma, Alabama. [U.S. War Dept. SGO Circular No.2]

Dr. Gustavus Adolphus Nott (1810-1875) became professor of anatomy in the University of Louisiana in 1839, and of materia medica and therapeutics in 1848. He became a surgeon in the Confederate army and in 1862 served in Meridian and/or Marion, Mississippi. [Crosby, 549] Nott was later the Surgeon-in-Charge of the Nott General Hospital in Mobile, Alabama.

James M. Hoyle was appointed Assistant Surgeon, State of Mississippi, on October 28, 1861. He was assigned to duty with 8th Regiment Georgia Infantry in November 20, 1861. He resigned February 3, 1862 but had accepted a position as assistant surgeon later that year and was serving in Meridian or Marion in December of 1862. He may have been a contract surgeon and not a formal member of the military or he may have accepted another commission, at the present, his military status is unclear. He was, nevertheless, present for duty as an assistant surgeon on 15 December 1862. [Henderson, 28] Hoyle was later the Surgeon-in-Charge of the Way Hospital in Guntown, Lee County, Mississippi. Guntown is also on the M&O road.

It is only through the efforts of these Surgeons that any records exist of the area hospitals. Clearly, more research is needed, not only for Marion but also on the other hospitals under this command. What relationship existed between the major hospitals and Marion is a topic that will continue to wait expansion. However, the focus of this article is those brave men who rest here and their surroundings.

Lastly, an interesting story has survived the passing of the Marion Confederate Hospital.  A confederate soldier, James Benson, was convalescing at the hospital.  The hospital food, then as always, left something to be desired and Benson, thinking that fresh fish would make better fare, with several of his companions from the hospital, went to a nearby millpond.  They broke the dam and drained the pond to collect the stranded fish for a sumptuous meal.  The owner of the millpond, however, was less than pleased and make his feelings in the matter well known about the community.

Despite the complaints of the millpond owner, no legal action was taken until after the war.  However, eventually Benson was arrested and indicted, and convicted of the crime.  Since all of the other participants were from other jurisdictions and had departed the area after their period of convalescing had ended, Benson, it turned out, was the only one available for prosecution.  He was charged with "Malicious Mischief" and sentenced to three months in the county jail.

After his conviction, a number of prominent citizens of the county petitioned Governor B. G. Humphreys for his release.  Signing the petition were the District Attorney C. A. Smith and county resident H. M. Whitaker among others.  What Governor Humphreys' final disposition of the case was is not known. [Edmiston, 239]


Webmaster's Note:

On the page linked below, is a list of the 47 deceased soldiers treated at Marion Confederate Hospital. The page is large and may take some time to fully load if you are visiting the web site using a dial-up connection.

Click to view a list of Causalities treated at Marion Confederate Hospital.


Works Cited:
 


Confederate States of America, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, Honorable Discharge of Private Joel M. Rivers, 27 December 1862.

Crosby, Howard. The American Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Vol 4. New York: Henry G. Allen Co., 1889.

Edmiston, Fred W.  Lauderdale, Mississippi's Empire County: Volume 1: The Early Years, 1830-1865, Meridian: Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Inc., 2005.

Fairley, Laura Nan and James T. Dawson. Paths to the Past, Meridian: Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Inc., 1988

Henderson, Lillian. Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia, 1861-1865. Vol 6. Spartanburg: Georgia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1982.

McMorries, Edward Young. History of the First Regiment Alabama Volunteer Infantry CSA, Montgomery: Brown Printing Company, 1904.

Moore, Frank. The Rebellion Record A Diary of American Events. 8 Volumes. New York; D. Van Nostrand, 1865

Pitts, Alan. The Lauderdale County Web site gratefully acknowledges the research efforts and knowledge of Allan Pitts, posting on the "The Mississippi in the Civil War Message Board" http://history-sites.com/mb/cw/mscwmb/ for this information and his assistance in obtaining the full names of the Surgeons and information relevant to the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment.

White, James Terry. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol 2. New York: James T. White and Company, 1895.

United States War Department Surgeon General's Office Circular Number 2, A Report on Excisions of the Head of the Femur for Gunshot Injury, 99, Washington GPO 1869


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