The First Confederate Memorial Day

From the Times-Dispatch

July 15, 1906.

100px-Warrenton-Seal

How many of our States claim the first memorial organization? What matters if there are no records to prove it? New Orleans claims it; Georgia claims it; Portsmouth, Va.; Richmond, Va., claim it. But the little village of Warrenton, Va., claims, and can prove it, the first Confederate Memorial Day.

Killed in skirmish at Fairfax Courthouse, June 1, 1861, Captain John Quincy Marr, Warrenton Rifles, 17th Virginia Regiment, buried in the little village graveyard, June 3rd, with military honors; wept over by the old and young; flowers strewn on his grave, and the first Confederate Memorial Day was observed. After the first battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861, the dead and mortally wounded, numbering many, were brought to this same little village, and again memorial day was observed by the women and children.

314pre_1fac571cc800529

Click image of women in Warrenton decorating graves to view source.

Was this, the women’s work, discontinued? No, organized; no, but the spontaneous outburst of the Rachels throughout the land weeping for her children and would not be comforted. The graves of these dead after the battle of Manassas were hastily marked on mere headboards. The living had to be cared for, and only a little band of women to do it. Women, tenderly raised and sheltered, went to the bedside of the wounded and with their own hands dressed the wounds, fed and cared for those men. There were no trained nurses, and only a very few doctors.

300px-Warrenton_va

Click image of street scene, Warrenton, Virginia, ca. 1862 to view source.

When the spirit left the body they were buried in the same little graveyard, and the memorial work went on. The names on the boards being almost obliterated, a band of children, none of them over sixteen, determined to replace these boards. A kind carpenter offered to give the smooth plank and make into markers. My mother’s long black porch became the paint shop. One of the boys, now an artist, Mr. Richard N. Brooke, of Washington, cut out letters, which we traced on the white headboards, and repainted as we finished them at the graves, and the memorial work went on. We felt very proud of our work, but in the winter of sixty-three, I think, the Yankees made a raid through our town and camping near the graveyard, they burned the headboards to make their camp fires; but as soon as the spring flowers came, we placed the blossoms on these graves, and each year continued our memorial work.

After the war the bones of these dead were placed in one common grave, and a beautiful monument erected, which bears this inscription: Virginia’s Daughters to Virginia’s Defenders. And so, I claim for Warrenton, Va., the first memorial day, dating it June 3, 1861, when we laid to rest the remains of Captain John Quincy Marr, killed by the invaders of our Southland, June 1st, Fairfax Courthouse, 1861.

R.

 

Where’s Walter?

I have sad news to relate, Walter I think is crippled for life.  These were the chilling words which Parham penned following the bloody Battle of Second Manassas.  Shot in both legs, Walter stayed behind in Warrenton, Virginia where the town’s women tenderly cared for his wounds.  Uncle Newton, Walter’s father, journeyed to Virginia to be with his wounded son.  However, the wounds were mortal, and Walter passed away in October of 1863.

Where do Walter’s remains lie?  There are two markers with his name on it, one at Warrenton Cemetery and another almost 900 miles away at College Hill Cemetery in Mississippi.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

According to the article “To Name the Fallen” Wall Dedicated in Warrenton Cemetery,

Six hundred Confederate soldiers who died in Warrenton field hospitals following the Battles of First and Second Manassas have rested in anonymity in the town’s cemetery since 1877, when their bodies were removed from their unmarked graves and reinterred beneath a granite shaft erected in their honor by the Ladies of the Memorial Association of Fauquier. Although each soldier had originally been identified by a wooden marker made by local schoolchildren, Union troops callously pulled up the makeshift headstones and burned them for firewood in the winter of 1863. The names of Warrenton’s Confederate dead were thus lost to history.

This was the case until, as the before mentioned article explains, 520 of 600 names were accidentally discovered in a misfiled box within the National Archives.  On May 24, 1998, the United Daughters of the Confederacy Black Horse Chapter #9 memorialized the names, Walter S. Buford among them, on a wall erected around the already existing granite shaft.

Did Uncle Newton arrive before or after Walter’s passing?

Though not impossible, it is unlikely Walter’s remains could have been easily transported from Northern Virginia to Mississippi in 1863.  Are conclusions made from National Archive records incorrect, and Uncle Newton arranged for Walter’s body to be transported back to Mississippi?

The wall in Warrenton indicates Walter died on October 1; the tombstone in College Hill shows October 2.  Which is correct?

Did Uncle Newton stay in Northern Virginia long enough to see or learn of what Union soldiers had done to the wooden markers in Warrenton Cemetery? Did he, as a result, choose to have a Memorial Service for Walter among family and friends back home?

Was it common for tombstones of fallen soldiers to be erected in family plots at cemeteries far from where they fell?

28th Letter: Fathers Visit Wounded Sons (October 8, 1862)

Oct8page1of2

October 8, 1862: page 1

Camp near Winchester Va, Oct 8th- 62

Dear Sister- Again I will avail myself of the present opportunity to send you a few lines- I am enjoying good health and hope this may find you all likewise-

I have no news of interest to communicate- I have never heard from Rufe Shaw yet, nor have I any chance. Old Man Houston came here two days ago to see his son- they are both together at Shephardstown just this side of the River- I expect to hear some thing from him when Houston returns-

Photo is of Walter Scott Buford.

Click image of Walter Scott Buford to view source.

Uncle Newton is with Walter at Warrenton or Richmond, and most all the boys rcd letters by him except me, I was sure you would send a letter- I rcd one from Aunt Polly last week, they were all well, but did not have much to eat, as well as myself.

We have been here two weeks and have not eaten any thing, but beef and bread, and hardly enough of that and haven’t draw did drawn bacon but once- nor can we forage any, for they won’t let us out of the lines- and it won’t pay to buy any thing that is brought in to sell- apples 50 cts pr dozen, honey 1$ per lb- and so on

Our Rgt had just 100 men on drill this morning and this time last year, we had 800- We have now just about 150 for duty- the result of 6 fights that we have been in- I suppose you have heard all the particulars of our last fight by this time, if not let me know in your next & I will particularize-

You may rest assured that I never want be in another battle, such as the last- I could tell you things I saw that would sicken you, but I refrain-  I have myself become some what used to such sights, which I thought I never could do-

Oct8page2of2068

October 8, 1862: pages 2 and 3

Some think that there will be another big fight soon, but there is no telling- I believe the Yankees here are as willing to rest awhile as we are- If they don’t fight in less than a month I don’t believe they will fight anymore this winter- You may rest assured that I never want be in another battle, such as the last- I could tell you things I saw that would sicken you, but I refrain- I have myself become some what used to such sights, which I thought I never could do-

I must close for the present, having nothing to interest you- Write me a long-long letter as soon as this is rcd. Give my love to all the family & servants – & to all enquiring friends- Wishing an immediate reply I remain your affectionate and ever faithful Brother

PM Buford


Blogger’s Notes:

  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned in this letter by Parham.
    • Rees A. Houston present at Sharpsburg, where he was severely wounded.  Although this letter does not specifically mention Rees by name, we know it is him that Parham writes of because he is the son of  Old Man Houston.
    • Rufus A. Shaw, Parham’s cousin, present at Boonsborough, Sharpsburg, where he was severely wounded and brought back to Shepherdstown, Va.  He was retired July, 1864 by reason of wound through left lung.  Parham described the wound in a previous letter as being a ball which entered the left shoulder and came lodged just under the skin and under the shoulder blade.  Although eventually retiring almost two years later, Rufus is not cited as having served in any battles following Sharspburg.
    • Walter S. Buford, Parham’s cousin, present at Second Manassas, where on the second day he was mortally wounded, August 30, 1862; was taken to the hospital, where he died on the 15th of September.  […as gallant a soldier as ever stood before an enemy.  The record the Company shows that he was present at every battle in which the Company was engaged until he was mortally wounded.  Such records made the imperishable names of Lee and Jackson.  Our independence would have been assured could we have recruited our army with such material.  We would have been invincible. – A COMRAD.]  
  • Thomas Newton Buford, referred to as Uncle Newton by Parham, is mentioned in this letter as visiting with his son, Walter, in either Richmond or Warrenton.  What Parham does not yet know when writing this letter on October 8th is that Walter passed away 23 days earlier on September 15th.  Parham will soon learn of this tragic turn of events and write of it in his next letter.
  • It is assumed that both Old Man Houston and Uncle Newton have traveled from Mississippi to Virginia to visit their wounded sons.
  • Mary Polly Buford, referred to as Aunt Polly by Parham, is indicated to have written a letter about her side of the family not having much food to eat.  Aunt Polly and Parham’s biological father, though not siblings, share a grandfather who was an American Revolutionary War veteran.
  • Parham mentioned there is a shortage of food provisions and that he and his comrades are not permitted to forage for food.  Why was this?  Could it be that the army could not afford to have its dwindling numbers picketed off?  In one year’s time, their numbers dropped from about 800 to 15o as a result of six engagements with the Yankees.
  • Parham referred to the last battle at Sharpsburg, known as Antietam by the Federals, indicating that he never wants to be in such a battle again and that he will refrain from mentioning the horrors he has grown accustomed to witnessing.

10th Letter: Shoot a Deserter, Hire a Negro, Hang a Spy (November 14, 1861)

Camp Fisher. Nov 14th 1861

Dear Mother

I rcd yours of the 1st two days ago, which afforded me great pleasure, as it had been nearly a month scince I had heard from any of you.  As this leaves me in good health I hope it will find you + family enjoying the same blessing.  There is but very little sickness in camps at present.

Our Col came back about a week ago – stayed only two or three days – returned on leave of absence for two months and a half.  He was wounded at the battle of Mannassu in the foot, He is still lame and I think it doubtful about it ever getting well. On his way here – he took up a man that had deserted from this Regt and brought him here in chains.  He is now handcuffed and is in the Guard House.  The penalty is death but his case has not been settled yet.

676pre_98e5f5bb2bd3c27-1

Click image to learn more.

Last week a man was drummed out of a company in this Regt for ungentlemanly conduct.  They give him 25$, and told him to trot.

The weather has been very pleasant for the last two or three days –  but up to that time we had some very cold days.

November 14, 1861: page 1

November 14, 1861: page 1

Some one has hit upon a plan to make a fire place in tents and nearly all this Regt has caught the fever and gone to work at it.  It is a simple and I think a good institution.  The most that I have seen are made by digging the tent out inside about 2 ft deep, and digging out a square  hole for the fireplace within in a corner or side.  the hole is then slanted upwards through the bank of waste dirt on the top of which is sit a barrel for the top of the chimney. By digging the dirt out of the tent – it gives more room and eight men can sleep in it with all ease. The beds are made by sitting up forks and laying poles on them. By that means they can have one under another. We have not made one yet – waiting for colder weather.

MSH2345-linephpThumb_generated_thumbnailI rcd yesterday a bundle from home, which was certainly very acceptable. There was [was corrected with pencil to were] two shirts – home made Linsey I suppose – two pr drawers – two pr socks and a vest.  I also rcd a pr socks that came in a bundle for Walter about 3 weeks ago. That is all I have ever got, with my Over Coat. You can tell Uncle Newton I would like to have my boots as soon as possible – for I don’t think my shoes will last more than 3 weeks longer and I don’t want to buy another pair.  I took the cloth that was around the clothes and made a haversack and fixed it so as to have my name on it.

UnknownWe have hired a negro to do our cooking and washing for 12$ per month. There was another boy came into Tom Bufords mess that had a negro and he does the cooking for both Missrs.  It is only 2$ per month for each of us –  which I think is cheap enough.  Our Regt drew their pay last week for the month of July + August. Those of us that came in August drew 28$. I have only 15$ left, but I have got 10 owing to me – Which is good – I know. So that leaves me with 25$ which will do me for a while.

November 14, 1861: page 2

November 14, 1861: page 2

There has been nothing exciting in camps for a month nearly until day before yesterday. It was my day to cook. We had done with [done with scratched-out with pencil and replaced with finisheddinner and I was just taking my water off the fire to wash the dishes – when I saw a courier going toward the Col’s tent with all possible speed.  In less than two minutes I heard the order – “Turn out your companies immediately with their guns and cartridge boxes.”  In less than half an hour – we were on the march. The Yankees were supposed to be landing near Occoquan creek about 10 miles above us.

November 14, 1861: page 3

November 14, 1861: page 3

We went about 3 miles and stopped in an old field. As soon as we stopped in line, one company was detailed to throw down a fence near us – You could see couriers going in every direction. The cannon were roaring like thunder – but three times as fast as you ever heard it. Our Col rode out in front of the Regt, and told us it was his opinion that we were going to have a little fight – to obey our officers.  keep cool and if we meet the enemy to stand firm and aim low.  I was certain then that we would have a pull at them, from all I could see and hear. We stood in line of battle for half an hour.  We then left there and went 1/2 mile farther where we staid until nearly sundown.  The Yankees did not show themselves.

November 14, 1861: page 4

November 14, 1861: page 4

We the started back to camp – arriving here about 8 O’clock.  We made some coffee and fried beef liver – and with some cold-hard crackers. we had a good supper for hungry chaps.  About the time we had finished supper another order came to cook up two days rations. As we did not know when we might be called on to march, we had to go to cooking immediately. Cooked two ovens of biscuits – and put on some beef to boil. That was night before last, and we have rcd no marching orders yet, but not more than two minutes ago, we had another order to cook up all the provisions we had. Some think we will have a fight before many days.  Though I won’t believe it until I can see the white of a Yankees, eyes, as we have been fooled so often.

November 14, 1861: page 5

November 14, 1861: page 5

So you can see what a life a soldier leads. For weeks at a time he has nothing to do but cook and eat and drill about 3 hours in the day. And next week he does harder work than any negro in Miss. Running about over these rocky hills from one place to another – without sleep and a great many times nothing to eat. He is always in suspense, for he never knows, what he is going to do until he right at it. nor where he is going, until he is there, for there is [pencil correction of areno Sign Boards in this country. We may have to march from here to day and we may not go at all – no one knows.

November 14, 1861: page 6

November 14, 1861: page 6

I heard from Walter yesterday. He is still in Warrenton – and improving – he says he is going to the country in a few days.

I rcd a letter from Cousin Sarah last week.  They are all well.  She said John Toney had joined a company and would start for Mobile in a week.

I forgot to mention at the first – that you might send me a pr of pants – when Uncle Newton sent my boots. Also one flannel undershirt.  All of these and the Blankets might be sent in one box.

I must close for the present. Tell Mary Jane I will answer her letter next – at the first opportunity. Give all my love to all the family and best respects to all enquiring friends.  I remain your devoted son,

P M Buford

Click image to learn more.

Click image to learn more.

P.S. I would like for you to send me a pocket Bible as I have none, though there is [pencil correction of are] three in our mess – but I had rather have one of my own.

Click image of Sickles to learn more.

Click image of USA Major General Daniel Edgar Sickles to learn more.

N. B. While I was looking over this letter I heard that our pickets had brought in two Yankees, who said that they had deserted from Sickels Brigade which is on the other side of the River. opposite our Batteries one of our boys has seen them. I think I will go up directly and take a look at the gents.  I believe they are spies and ought to be hung