Many of you are aware that I have a new full-length book coming out later this year as the next installment of Ironclad‘s popular Discovering Civil War America series (forward by Eric J. Wittenberg). This covers John Gordon’s brigade in its trek from Virginia to the banks of the Susquehanna River, and thence to Gettysburg and destiny, where 500 men would become casualties. Obviously, thousands of Confederates were interred in Gettysburg (many of which were been removed to the South in the late 19th Century). However, not all of them were taken up and transported to Dixie.
Here in adjoining York County, Pennsylvania, a few members of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia still rest in Northern soil. A few are buried in York’s Prospect Hill Cemetery (these are believed to be men who perished of wounds after being transported to the local U.S. Military Hospital immediately following Lee’s retreat, or perhaps were sick men left behind when Jubal Early departed York on June 29, 1863). However, there are two other local burials of interest that I discuss in my upcoming book.
Along the banks of the Susquehanna River north of Wrightsville (and south of Harrisburg) is the solitary grave of an unknown Confederate soldier. His remains were found washed up on the western riverbank shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg. He was buried on the spot and, decades later, a local veterans descendant group erected a small stone headstone in his memory. The grave just a few yards from the river and is subject to occasional flooding. It is about a mile north of the popular Accomac Inn, one of this area’s most historic taverns, on River Road. Access is fairly easy from U.S. Route 30 (get off at the Wrightsville exit, head north, and follow the signs for the Inn. Then turn left along the river and drive about a mile. The marker will be on the right along the road).
The identity of the man is of course unknown, as no identification was found with the body. Speculation varies as to his regiment, or how he came to drown in the broad Susquehanna (which was running deep during the Gettysburg Campaign due to heavy rains). The general thought is that he was a cavalryman, perhaps from the 17th Virginia of Col. William French, sent to pick his way across the river on horseback to find a safe passage. The 17th had chased a large contingent of Federal militia across the river on June 27, and perhaps this man was searching for a way to cross the river to flank them. Another old local legend is that the man was a deserter from Early’s division (there were indeed several of them roaming York County; several made their escape to Canada, although most were picked up by roving Federal cavalry patrols from Bell’s Cavalry or the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry). One variant to the deserter story states that the man was on a raft that overturned. he could not swim and perished in the swirling water. His identity lost, he remains an enduring local mystery.
Another Confederate was buried in Big Mount, just inside the York County line from neighboring Adams County. He was a member of Early’s division who died of natural causes along the line of march. His comrades buried him near where he fell. No stone currently marks the spot.
Other Rebels died in various places in Fulton and Franklin counties and were buried in unmarked graves.
Of course, there are thousands of Confederate graves scattered throughout the North (most from vets who died long after the war, or of POWS who succumbed to illness or exposure during the war).
What Northern graves of Rebels who died during the war are you aware of? Please leave your comments and thoughts.