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America's Civil War: Where Does Private Jemison Rest

By Alexandra Filipowski and Hugh T. Harrington 
Originally published by America's Civil War magazine. Published Online: March 16, 2007 
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In a quiet cemetery in the center of what was once Georgia's capital, a monument has stood for more than a hundred years commemorating the life of Private Edwin F. Jemison, a young Confederate soldier killed in battle. To honor his memory, his parents erected the monument at Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia. Most people have long believed this to be Private Jemison's final resting place. Clues found at the cemetery plot itself, however, as well as in his obituary, seem to indicate that Memory Hill is not actually the burial place of the soldier with the famous youthful face.

Private Jemison came from a long line of distinguished ancestors. His mother, Sarah Stubbs Jemison, was the daughter of a merchant and justice of the peace, and the granddaughter of a Revolutionary War hero. His father, Robert, was a man of means, a landowner, lawyer and newspaper editor. His line included a Revolutionary War hero, a Georgia congressman, and prominent doctors and lawyers. In fact, both the Jemisons and the Stubbs were among Georgia's founding families. Shortly after the birth of their third child, Robert and Sarah moved their family from Georgia to Monroe, La.

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With the secession of Louisiana on Janu-ary 26, 1861, and the subsequent fall of Fort Sumter on April 14, young Edwin enlisted in the 2nd Louisiana. Shortly after he signed on, his regiment was transported from New Orleans to Richmond, where it came under the command of Maj. Gen. John Bankhead Magruder. Other than an encounter in April 1862 at the Battle of Dam No. 1 along Virginia's Warwick River, the 2nd Louisiana did not see action until Malvern Hill.

The July 1, 1862, Battle of Malvern Hill was one of the bloodiest up to that point in the war; 5,500 Confederate soldiers became casualties, nearly twice the Union losses. One of those soldiers was Private Jemison, who lost his life to a cannonball. On July 2, the Confederates buried their dead on the field.

Even though Jemison was undoubtedly buried with his comrades on the field of battle, it was not unusual for Confederate soldiers to be exhumed and sent home for reburial. Milledgeville's first battle casualty of the war, who had been killed at Pensacola, Fla., was returned to his hometown and buried on November 30, 1861. After the war, more bodies were disinterred and brought back to the town. In March 1866, the remains of a soldier who had been killed at Knoxville, Tenn., in 1863 were returned to Milledgeville. In November 1866, the remains of a soldier killed at Sharpsburg on September 17, 1862, were also returned to the town.

An article titled "Disinterment of Dead Bodies" in the August 13, 1862, issue of the Georgia Journal & Messenger</i> vividly described the problems involved in shipping bodies home during wartime: "Our attention was called particularly to this subject, while on a visit to our Cemetery one day last week. A body had been brought here by railroad, we believe, from Atlanta, on its way to Dooly County, and had become so offensive that further transportation was refused. After remaining at the depot some time, a guard was detailed from Col. Brown's encampment for that purpose and the body buried."

The article went on to further elaborate on the topic by quoting from the Richmond Dispatch "We daily observe at the railway stations boxes containing the bodies of deceased soldiers, which have been disinterred by their friends, under the belief that they can be sent off without delay either by mail train or express. This, however, is an error. Freight trains only carry them, and the detention frequently causes the bodies to become offensive, when their immediate burial by the wayside is a matter of necessity. It would be better to postpone disinterment until cold weather, when it can be accomplished with less trouble and more certainty of getting the remains of the departed to their destination. Metallic coffins are difficult to obtain, and wooden ones can only be procured by the payment of a large sum. In these the dead bodies are packed with sawdust, and in warm weather their transportation to a distant point is uncertain, if not absolutely impossible."

The Journal & Messenge editors weighed in on the depressing topic and claimed to offer a simple solution to the problem of transporting dead soldiers: "To the above we have to add (and that from personal knowledge), that nothing is more easy, convenient, or cheap than transporting bodies at any season of the year, to any distance. Any common coffin will answer. Have a piece of cotton osnaburg or other cloth of the necessary size — dip it in boiling tar, and wrap the coffin in it and it is sealed tighter than it can be done in a metallic case. Place it in a box with some kind of packing to keep it from moving, and the work is complete. No charcoal, or disinfectant is necessary."

Assuming those directions were followed, Private Jemison's body could have been taken from a burial site on the Malvern Hill battlefield to Milledgeville after several years, even if it was not moved directly from the battlefield. The question remains, however, whether either of those steps was taken — and if Edwin Jemison's body is actually under the obelisk on Memory Hill. That obelisk stands over a single grave and carries the name of Edwin's older brother, Henry, who died in 1859, carved into the north side, while Edwin's name is carved into the south side.

While it is not known exactly when the monument was erected, a rough idea of when it was put up can be gained from the inscription of the stone carver's name on its base, "J. Artope & Son, Macon." The Macon City Directory listed the company as using that name between 1860 and 1872, and the other monuments in Memory Hill that carry that same name have death dates from the 1860s. Burials from the 1840s and 1850s have monuments that bear the company name "J. Artope, Macon, Ga." By 1877, the company was listed as "Tom B. Artope," and the monuments in Memory Hill erected after that year reflect that name change. It can therefore be assumed that the obelisk was erected between 1860 and 1877.

In 1896, Milledgeville had Confederate soldier markers placed on appropriate gravesites, and one such stone bearing the inscription "E.F. Jemison" is set in the ground west of the main obelisk. The main obelisk stands on top of a stone slab that covers the grave and measures 3 l/2 feet wide by just over 6 l/2 feet long. Like many in Memory Hill, the grave consists of an underground brick vault the length of the grave and about 3 feet wide, big enough to hold one coffin. The vault's arched roof comes almost to the surface of the ground, and the stone slab that forms the base of the monument rests on the top of the vault much like a capstone. A coffin would be lowered into the ground after the vaults were built. A brick mason then would construct the vaulted roof and seal the entire underground structure with brick and mortar, leaving no door or opening. The tops of the vaults are so near the surface that their dimensions can be determined by inserting a thin metal probe into the ground and maneuvering it around the structure, and the vault under the Edwin and Henry Jemison obelisk appears to be of normal size for one burial.

Since Henry died first, it would appear that only his body is in the vault. The possibility, however, of Private Jemison's remains being placed in a grave alongside the vault or nearby is worth consideration. The grave to the north side of the Jemison monument is that of Robert Small Pratt, who died in 1857 and was the first burial on the lot. To the west is a pallbearers' path containing no graves. On the south side is the grave of W.B. Stubbs, who died in 1864. To the east is the grave of Robert W. Jemison, who died in 1879.

Each burial spot surrounding the obelisk, therefore, is occupied, and there is only one other possible place for Edwin to be buried adjacent to the Jemison obelisk. That is an unmarked grave to the north of Robert Small Pratt, covered with bricks that today are barely visible above the soil. In the 1930s, however, when the cemetery was first indexed, the bricks were thought to cover an infant's grave.

In all likelihood, if Private Jemison was buried at Memory Hill in his own grave, his family would have given him a monument separate from his brother Henry's. The obelisk dedicated to the brothers has loving inscriptions to Private Jemison carved on it from his mother and father. The one from his father states in Latin, "It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country," while the one from his mother says: "A more dutiful son never lived. A braver soldier never died. Peace to his ashes." If Private Jemison was buried in the unmarked grave to the north of Robert Small Pratt, or in any other plot for that matter, it is quite probable that those loving words would be placed on top of that grave, and not the one for Henry.

Another piece of evidence that indicates Private Jemison's body remains elsewhere is his obituary. During the Civil War, the newspapers of Milledgeville printed few obituaries, and the ones that were printed were very short, mostly for officers. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, to find a long obituary for Private Jemison. Regarding his burial, the obituary states, "May He who maketh wars to cease, comfort the sorrowing parents whose boy lies, buried by loving hands, on the battle field near Richmond," making it clear that at the time of his death, Private Jemison was buried with his fellow soldiers.

The obituary in itself is not conclusive evidence of the private's remains not being in Memory Hill. As mentioned, some bodies, even several years after the war, were disinterred and shipped home. No record, however, of such a shipment or reburial has been discovered in the Milledgeville newspapers. Such events were unusual, and several cases were mentioned in the local newspapers.

In addition, the Richmond National Battlefield Park, the national park that includes Malvern Hill, has no records of Confederate soldiers being systematically removed from their graves on that battlefield, although it is known that Union soldiers were removed for reburial between 1865 and 1866. While some Southern troops may have been individually relocated, it is doubtful that there were more than a few.

That fact, in conjunction with the lack of newspaper coverage in Milledgeville for a burial at Memory Hill, the lack of space in the cemetery plot and a single monument dedicated to both Jemison brothers, strongly suggests that Private Edwin Francis Jemison is, in all probability, buried under an "unknown" marker still on the "battle field near Richmond."


This article was written by Alexandra Filipowski and Hugh T. Harrington and published in the May 2004 issue of America's Civil War magazine.For more great articles be sure to subscribe to America's Civil War magazine today!


43 Responses to “America's Civil War: Where Does Private Jemison Rest”


  1. 1
    Carol High says:

    I have been interested in the soldiers of the War between the States since I first heard of it in the 5th grade. When I was 14 yrs old, I traveled with my church to Gettysburg to see the battle grounds there, as well as relics at their museums. There, I first saw the picure of Private Edwin Jemison. I remember standing and looking at it for a very long time, in fact to the point of losing time to see other things. I came home and told my mother about it. When she asked who he was, I told her that there was no name set to his picture. We, my mother and I went back about 10 yrs later. That is when I showed her the picture. She felt the same about it as I. Since then we have gone to the Museum of the Confederacy and seen so much more than I was ever taught about in school. Now, I'm 57 yrs. old and I'm a librarian in a little town in Ohio called "Malvern". Always, I am looking for that young man in civil war books, with no luck of finding out who he is, until about a month ago. I found him in an old National Geographic Magaine. They gave a very short story about his age and his death. I was dumbfounded, to look after all of these years, only to find out that he had been killed. I guess that looking into those eyes after almost 40 yrs., I had hoped that he had made it home and had a future with a family and a job. I can't tell you, how upset that I was and still am. I actually carry his picture with me and I can't explain why, but now that I know, perhaps I can put him to rest, but he will always be in my heart. Thank you for hearing me out, and I appreciate your website that allows people to comment on such matters. God Bless America and God Bless Private Jemison for his service to his cause.
    Sincerely, Carol

    • 1.1
      Aubrey says:

      Hi carol, I just wanted to say that I carry his picture around, too. I'm glad I wasn't the only one!

      Aubrey

  2. 2
    Nancy Armstrong says:

    I would like to hear from Carol, regarding her posting. I want to share the story of my dear friend, JoAnn, who spent years researching Edwin Jemison and his family. She was also fascinated with his photo, and spent over 25 years trying to learn more about Edwin. Please feel free to email me.

    Nancy Armstrong

  3. 3
    Jon-David Wiley says:

    This may sound beyond odd, but i look very much like Edwin F. Jemison. I'm a civil war renactor and disoveried him in an article. After showing my family they all agreed that we did look very alike. I'm from Alabama . I'm 17 . And just thought it would be nice to share this strange account.

    • 3.1
      Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

      I would sure love to see a picture of you if you don't mind sending one to me,I'd reaaly appreciate it Thank-You in advance Sincerely Leslie-Jo

    • 3.2
      River says:

      Very odd indeed.Perhaps you were in Edwin F.Jemison in a previous life!As Leslie-Jo says,it'd be good to see a picture!l have his picture myself,given to me by an old friend.

      Best wishes from England,

      River.

    • 3.3
      Mackenzie Parker says:

      Would you mind sending me your picture also?
      Perhaps in reenactment attire?
      Don't worry, I'm not an old lady creeper. Promise.
      I just want to judge for myself how close the likeness is.
      Thanks!
      nanipark50@gmail.com

    • 3.4
      Aubrey says:

      Wow, That is bazaar, but I, too, would love to see a picture of you, if you wouldn't mind. My e-mail is aubxcelli@yahoo.com . I would really appreciate it!

      Aubrey

  4. 4
    John W. Jemison says:

    I'm John W. Jemison–I live in Texas but from the Jemison family of Alabama and Georgia—The Jemison family of Alabama have been business leaders of Alabama for 190 years. Four brothers came from Georgia to Alabama around 1830s. We are blood cousins to Private Edwin F. Jemison–hope this help some –we ahve lot of information about the Jemison family –My address is 2206 Bluff Creek Drive, Kingwood, Texas 77345—phone no. 281-361-7354

    • 4.1
      Mackenzie Parker says:

      I would love to know more about your family!
      (well, the old civil-war era Jemisons.
      What was their life like?
      My email is nanipark50@gmail.com
      I'd love to know all about it!

    • 4.2
      Aubrey says:

      I would also like to learn about the Jemison family, I research as much as I can on that subject but I seem to just find the same information wherever I go. If you would like, please e-mail me at aubxcelli@yahoo.com . I would love to hear about it! I know I'm a teenager, but my favorite thing in the world to do is to learn and research. I hope to hear from you!

      Aubrey

    • 4.3
      Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

      I too would love to hear about your family, and more on Private Edwin Jemison, this may sound strange but I've adoped Edwin as my on son; and hang his picture along my other three children's pictures.

    • 4.4
      River says:

      That's very interesting you can go back that far.l understood the Jemisons were fairly big figures in the local community around Monroe.

    • 4.5
      Katy says:

      Sir, dont think im weird but do you have any information on his personal of his life? Iv always had a huge interest in him and everywhere i go his picture shows up and hes in my dreams and stuff. I know what ur thinking,"gurl u crazy!" But it wood really help if u did! That way i could die peacefully! Haha! If you have anything email beachgirl162000@yahoo.com. Thanks!

  5. 5
    Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

    To Robert Jemison please contact me I would love to learn that you have concerning Edwin Jemison.I've been researching him for more than 20 rs and what I have is very limited. Contact me @1137 Fremont St. Cheboygan Mi 49721 Thank-you in advance Leslie-Jo

  6. 6
    Aubrey says:

    It seems that most people who see Edwin Jemison's photo wants to learn more about him. This also happened to me, about 3 weeks ago. I saw him in a history book at my school and i kept turning back to that page and just sat there and stared at it! I was scaring myself at first because I really didn't know what or why I was doing this but then i decided to look up his name and now I can't stop learning about him and I want to learn more. I'm only 16, and that picture is constantly in my head. When it seems as if I'm not thinking of anything, I'm thinking of that picture. It's pretty wierd but I'm happy I'm not the only one who feels this way! He was only my age when he passed away, and that makes me really sad. Not only was he still a kid, but he died in war which makes it that much worse ): . Well, he's in a better place now and he probably has an amazing life somewhere else now.

    • 6.1
      Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

      Your not alone I first seen his picture on a website,copied it and had it ever since I framed it and hung it on my wall,needless to say I've gotten a lot of responses to it and some strange looks from family members when I tell them he's my unoffically my adopted son. His picture stills haunts me to this day.

      • 6.1.1
        Aubrey says:

        Well I personally don't think it's that strange because I do something similar to that. His picture is saved in my phone and I look at it every once in a while, and when someone sees him in there they ask me why and I tell him he's my best friend. I wonder if I'm a little crazy at times, but I feel like I know him very well. At least I'm not alone!

  7. 7
    Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

    I onder if maybe we could devote a website on Edwin jemison. Mr Robert Jemison would you be interested in doing a site on your cousin? I have a gut feeling that there alot of people who would love to learn who he and is family were like.please e-mail me if your interested in such a project.e-mail me lesliejostyk@yahoo.com.

    • 7.1
      Aubrey says:

      If you ended up making a website, I would love to visit it! I don't think there is one specific website dedicated just to him, but that would be awesome if there was.

  8. 8
    River says:

    lt'd be very interesting indeed to see a website for this poor kid.l have his picture on my wall,and strange though it sounds,there are times when l'm sure he looks sadder and more haunted than usual.
    What'd be reall y something would be to time travel and meet him,and perhaps warn him of what was coming too.

    • 8.1
      Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

      Yes I see it to he does appear sadder and more haunting, your no alone there.I put his picture on my desktop and sometimes I swear his eyes follow me whereever I go.
      To go back in time I think I would have had a long talk with his folks about him enlisting in the first place he had no businesson that battle field.

      • 8.1.1
        River says:

        l find his eyes follow me round the room also.l don't get that from any other pics l have on my walls or computer.
        l think your idea of having a long talk about him enlisting in the first place would've been a good one.l wonder if he was one of those kids who wrote the number 18 on the sole of his foot,then when they asked him if he was "over 18" he could honestly say he was.My grandad told me about them doing that trick!
        Did you ever have any luck with a pic of the young Edwin lookalike?

      • 8.1.2
        Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

        No not yet. But your thought about him lying about his age is probly true, I had heard about that too. By the way where are you from? I live in Northern Michigan.

      • 8.1.3
        River says:

        That's a shame. l think he probably did lie about his age too,but you'd think they'd have sniffed that one out by his appearance!
        l live over the pond in England,and first saw his picture at school years ago.But recently he came into my life again,as l had to repair a picture of him my neighbour had which had fallen off the wall and broken its frame.

    • 8.2
      Aubrey says:

      Wow, I always think that! I wish If I could have one thing, I'd go back and try to save him. Maybe his picture affects everyone the same.

      • 8.2.1
        River says:

        lt makes you wish you could.Mind you if someone had,l don't suppose we'd know anything about him now.

      • 8.2.2
        Aubrey says:

        Yes that's true, but maybe it would have been worth him not being known today if he could actually fulfill his hopes and dreams, and not die at the age of 17 in war :(

      • 8.2.3
        River says:

        From what l understand of it,Edwin died a pretty gruesome death,if you believe the accounts of the time,so maybe you're right about him fulfilling his hopes and dreams,rather than what happened :-(

      • 8.2.4
        Aubrey says:

        Yeah, if he really did die that way and since we can't change what happened to him, let's hope he didn't feel much pain…I feel so bad for him, it would be like me dying in a year!

      • 8.2.5
        River says:

        You can only hope he never knew what hit him,that's for sure.

  9. 9
    Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

    From what I've been able to research he died by by cannon fire to the head, I the wrote to the historial battle field in Malvern Hill. For a long time his family knew he had died but didn't know how; his younger brother Robert W, Jemison heard about quite by chance.

  10. 10
    River says:

    Horrible way to go,but that seems to be the general consensus of how he met he premature end.Must've been awful for Robert hearing the account of that.

    • 10.1
      Leslie-Jo /Stoyk says:

      Robert Jemison was in the crowd when Moseby was telling about a battle in Malvern Hill.Robert stepped forward a told Moseby that the man he was talking about Edwin Franis Jemison. You will find the entire quote in the book VOICES OF THE CIVIL WAR THE SEVEN DAYS BATTLE on page 143.
      River here's my e-mail address lesliejostyk@yahoo.com.

  11. 11
    Hugh Harrington says:

    Alexa Filipowski and I are working on the definitive story of Edwin Jemison. We've spent years researching, using primary sources including family documents. We hope to have the book available in the Spring of 2012. From reading the comments here it is clear that there is a lot of misinformation about a great number of things. I'm sorry that I can't clear up some of the more flagrant mistakes now but when the book comes out I am quite sure that you will be interested. It will be properly footnoted, too.

    • 11.1
      John Jemison Dayton says:

      Hugh, Please let me know when the book is released. I have been also trying to find family documents. Thanks

    • 11.2
      Susanna says:

      Dear Hugh,
      Nice to hear from you again. Do you know the exact date of when your book will be out in the spring.
      At the moment I'm in England visiting River. Do give my best to Miss Susan.

    • 11.3
      Katy says:

      Dear hugh harrington,
      Hi well first of all i ran into you at memory hill cemetary like a week ago at Edwin Jemisons memorial. My dad os the one that was attempting the grave rubbing thing. Anyway id luv to help you with researching him! Its hard to explain but im sooo obsessed with the civil war and Edwin Jemison! Dont think im crazy! (Ps my real names Emma) Thank u soo much! Contact me soon! Id love to hear from you!

  12. 12
    Katy says:

    EDWIN JEMISON!!!!!! wow! i had to portray this young man i a game at a civil war FIELD trip about 2 months ago and now hes been in all of my dreams and is pretty much haunting me. Milledgeville is actually about less than an hour away from my house! i am convinced i have seen his ghost. Everywhere i go his picture is there i was reading a book when hiis picture appeared then i was reading a book and his name appeared. i know everything about him! ive just starred at his picture for about 3 hours straight. i feel like hes trying to tell me something! i feel like i know him like i met him. i feel like hes my brother. or something… anyway i hav these weird experiences where i hear gunshots like civil war gunshots and civil war cannons shooting! and i hear a young man calli.g my name alllllll the time but of course no one believes me… but hes truly an amazing boy. i just wish his life wasnt cut short so soon! oh well…..

  13. 13
    Katy says:

    his picture is always in my head he wont leave. i have dreams and day dreams about him all the time! dumbly (and i know this wont happen) but i have day dreams about him showing up and talking to me and stuff i hav daydreams about the civil war and being a drummer boy(even though imma girl) on the confederate side….. i hav tons of relatives who wer in this particular war and i may just be related to Edwin himself!!!!!!!

  14. 14
    Renee says:

    Hi my name is renee i live in N.C most wouldn't and don't belive me but edwins ghost lives in my home and stays with me always this exsperience has and is strang but true i have pictures I've. captured in my home its the same picture all of you speak of the last picture of edwin before his death

  15. 15
    Renee says:

    Hi I'm renee and it breaks my heart to find out how edwin died and soo young i wish him to rest at peace and i still ask why did edwin. my soldier boy as i call him. choose me out of anyone why me? edwin wants me to finish his story whatever that ending is and i will do so I'm not a writer nor do i plaine a book but i am writing my own story about edwin and my exsperience with him he's awsome

  16. 16
    Hugh Harrington says:

    My apologies for not giving an update on the Jemison research and book. It seems that the more Alexa Filipowski and I dig the more we discover about Edwin. And, each discovery leads to more questions and areas to research. Since we want this book to be as complete and definitive as possible….we keep on "turning over rocks to see what's under them." But – one day we'll declare the quest over and publish.



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