Southerners at Rest: Confederate Dead at Hollywood Cemetery
by Chris L. Ferguson, Angle Valley Press
Not long after the Civil War ended, leaving 620,000 Union and Confederate dead in its wake, the federal government instituted a national cemetery system to care for those who had fallen while wearing the Federal uniform. About 40 percent of the war dead were Southerners, however, and the government was not the least bit interested in the well-being of ex-Confederates, dead or alive. That burden fell to local groups across the South, almost always organized by women, who diligently searched hundreds of battlefields and hospitals in every community to properly bury the Confederate dead and mark their graves. The most renowned result of their labors was Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
In 1869 the Hollywood Ladies Memorial Association published a book that listed 7,104 burials with dates, units and grave locations. Their admirable efforts, however, ran afoul of the vagaries of record keeping and 19th-century penmanship. Countless hospital orderlies had recorded the deaths in scribbled longhand. The women did their best to transcribe the data into new handwritten lists. Working from those lists, type setters prepared the printed book.
The three stages of preparation offered three separate chances for mistakes, and nearly every printed entry wobbled as a result. Upon closer examination, more than 100 of the listings proved to be duplicates.
Chris Ferguson has long been recognized as an authority on Hollywood Cemetery (he is in fact routinely referred to as “Hollywood” Ferguson in Civil War circles). His excellent 2001 book Hollywood Cemetery: Her Forgotten Soldiers covered the field officers, those who held the rank of major or higher, who are buried at the site. Ferguson included dozens of previously unpublished photos in that effort.
Now, in Southerners at Rest, he has applied the same relentless and comprehensive research to the rest of the Confederates buried at the cemetery. Amazingly, Ferguson managed to clarify the identities of nearly 90 percent of the men who had been listed incompletely in the 1869 book. He has also uncovered the precise dates of birth for many of the men, and the book includes more than 100 photos—many depicting soldiers in uniform.
Records for members of one family buried in Hollywood reveal the complexity of the material that Ferguson has unsnarled. Their story also illustrates the war’s dreadful impact. The 1869 published register listed burials for A.S. Bagat, W.N. Bowett, and F.M. Bogat. In fact, brothers William N. and Francis M. Boyet, both of the 50th Georgia Infantry, died within a few weeks of each other. Their father, John Ashley Boyet, died a month before Appomattox. The boys and their dad are buried close to each other, although not in adjacent graves. No one knew of their relationship at the time, nor did anyone since—until Hollywood Ferguson methodically unraveled their identities.
Southerners at Rest will likely be of immense use to anyone keeping track of the Army of Northern Virginia, and it should become a classic reference work of lasting value.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.