Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond Va.

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Nearly everyone interested in Confederate history has heard of Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Hollywood is the largest Confederate burial ground in Richmond, containing the remains of over 18,000 Confederate soldiers, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 25 Confederate General officers, and two Presidents of the United States. The second largest Confederate Cemetery in Richmond is Oakwood Cemetery.

During the War Between the States, over 16,000 Confederate soldiers died at Richmond, Virginia, and were buried there at Oakwood Cemetery. Chimborazo Confederate Hospital , the largest Confederate hospital complex in Ricmond, was located a short distance from Oakwood Cemetery and most of the soldiers who died there, and at other nearby hospitals, were buried at Oakwood Cemetery.

Another huge hospital complex in Richmond was Winder General Hospital, located on the West side of the city. Soldiers who died at Winder and hospitals near there were buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

The number of burials at Oakwood increased to approximately 17,200 after the war, as the Confederate dead were gathered from the battlefields surrounding Richmond. About half the Confederate soldiers buried at Oakwood are unknown.

Today Oakwood Cemetery presents a tranquil scene as shown in the below photograph.

The scene was not so tranquil during June of 1864. General Grant's overland campaign had commenced and Confederate wounded again flooded into Richmond by the thousands. Cannon fire could be heard on the grounds of Oakwood Cemetery on June 3rd, 1864, when Gen. Grant hurled his entire army against Gen. Lee's veteran army at Cold Harbor, just a few miles Northeast of Oakwood.

Oakwood Cemetery, April 1865, from the Library of Congress

A little over one week after this battle, on June 11th, the Richmond Enquirer newspaper described a ghastly scene at Oakwood Cemetery:

"We regret that the gentleman in charge of this place (Oakwood Cemetery) is not allowed, during such times as the present, sufficient auxiliaries so that he can satisfactorily discharge the duty with which he is entrusted. Frequently of late, as we understand, have there been such an accumulation of bodies in the evening that no chance was afforded of their having immediately the rights of sepulture. In consequence of this the bodies lie exposed all night, without any protection save that afforded by the rough and generally green pine coffins in which they are brought to the ground. The pine being unseasoned the effect of the hot sun upon them and the fast decomposing bodies within may be imagined. Frequently the coffin lids, that are only fastened by one nail in each end, burst open, or shrink and curl up so as to expose the body for whose protection it was made.

Several ladies who went to the cemetery, a few mornings since, to mark the grave of a deceased soldier, saw twenty-five coffins, with their ghastly contents, lying on the ground, unburied, and fast decaying under the rays of a burning sun. Myriads of flies were attracted to the spot, and the air was filled with the odors of putrescent flesh. A view of many of the poor fellows was obtained, the lids of the coffins having come off. None of them appeared to have been cleansed and properly prepared for the grave, but thrust in the coffins just as they died. This latter was the fault of the hospital from which they came. The fact that the superintendent of the grounds is only allowed four hands (not half enough) is somebody elses fault. The bodies of our dead soldiers should be decently buried. You may use a man and be just, but after using him, you cannot abuse him and be just."

Many of the dead men mentioned in this article were probably killed or mortally wounded during the Battle of Cold Harbor the week previous.

Go back and look again at the modern day photo of Oakwood Cemetery. It would be a great American tragedy if each small stone in this photograph represented the grave of one Confederate soldier. However, the true cost of Confederate lives lost is only clear once it is revealed that each and every stone in this photograph, thousands of stones stretching nearly as far as the eye can see, represents the graves of three Confederate soldiers.

This small stone with three numbers represents the burial of three Confederate soldiers. Looking over the thousands of small stones and realizing the immense numbers of dead is amazing, but there is anonymity in the masses. To realize the true scope of this tragedy, we must look more closely at the lives of the individual soldiers. The #25 etched on this small granite stone in the photograph represents the grave of 4th Sergeant Reuben Benjamin Thornton of Company F, 38th Georgia Regiment, from McCurry District, Hart County, Georgia. Pvt. Thornton enlisted on May 10th, 1862, he was appointed 5th Sgt. February 10, 1863 and then 4th Sgt. March 1863. He fell sick with what Confederate doctors diagnosed as "chronic bronchitis" and was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital on May 1st, 1863. He died there on May 30th, 1863 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond, Va. Cemetery records read: R.B. Thornton, Co. H, 38th Ga, buried in section Division D, Row 40, Grave #25. Reuben died at age 32 and left behind a wife and three small children. Multiply this heartbreaking tale by over 17,000 and you have some sense of the true scope of this great American tragedy. Beloved grandfathers, fathers, brothers, nephews, cousins, fiances, and dear friends, all rest at Oakwood Cemetery.

Twenty-two members of the 38th Ga. are listed as being buried at Oakwood Cemetery, according to the records I researched at the the Oakwood Cemetery Office. This list is recorded by name, Division (or burial section), row, and grave number:

1. William Y. Allen - Company C, Milton County, Pvt. May 8, 1862. Wounded at Gaines Mill, Va. 6/27/1862. Captured at Gettysburg, Pa. 7/3/1863. Paroled at Point Lookout, Md. April 27, 1864. Received at City Point, Va. for exchange April 30, 1864. Died of disease at Richmond, Va. May 1864. Buried in Division F, Row L, Grave #10.

2. Anderson, R. N. - Company I, Dawson County, Pvt. (Robert Newton Anderson) 5/15/1862. Deserted in 1863. Official records state he was absent, sick furlough Oct 1862, he then listed as absent without leave, March 1863, listed as sick in hospital in Richmond, Jan 1864, the entry reads “Supposed to be dead.” Entry in records for May 1864 reads “deserted sometime in 1863.” One of the last entries in his CSA service records reveals he appears on a register of Wayside Hospital or General Hospital # 9 in Richmond, Va., and was diagnosed with typhoid fever, dying on April 19th, 1863. His widow, Eliza C. Anderson, maiden name unknown, filed a CSA pension application in Dawson County in 1891. She stated they were married in 1858 and she had been a resident of Ga. since 4 Oct 1834. Pension applications states he fell sick while in winter quarters at Hamilton’s Crossing, Fredericksburg, Va., and was sent to hospital sick with fever. States he died in Richmond Hospital of brain fever 1 Feb, 1863. Brother of James P. Anderson of same company. He was born in Ga. about 1837. Buried at Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond Virginia, in Division D, Row 24, Grave 33, cemetery records show R. M. Anderson, 38th Ga., Co H.

3. Jackson Britton - 2nd Company I, Blount County, Alabama. Pvt. April 20, 1862. Died in Richmond, Va. hospital July 31, 1862. Cemetery records show J. J. Britton, no unit or state listed. Buried in Division A, Row M, Grave 64.

4. James P. Crook - Company H, Elbert County,(listed in cemetery records as J. P. Crook, no unit or state listed) Died in 2d Georgia Hospital at Richmond, Va. on Sept. 8th, 1862, of typhoid fever. He was born in Georgia about 1845, single, living with parents in Elbert Co., Ga. in 1860 census. He and his father, William R. Crook, enlisted together in Co. H. His father, was discharged for disability on May 5th, 1862, while the regiment was at Savannah, Ga. James was born in Ga. about 1845, single, living with parents William R. & N. Crook. James Crook is buried in Division B, Grave 4.

5. William H. Ellis - Company K, DeKalb County, Pvt. 5/15/1862. Died of measles in general Hospital #16, at Richmond, Va. 6/14/1863. Cemetery records read Ellis, William H, Co. K, 38th Ga. buried in Division D, Row 39, Grave #17.

6. John Gaines - Company G, Jefferson County, Pvt. 5/15/1862. Died of diphtheria in General Hospital #25, at Richmond, Va. 12/24/1862. Buried at Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond, Va., records read John Gaines, Co. G, 38th Ga, buried in Division A, Row N, Grave #146.

7. Monroe M. Green - Company I, Dawson County, 1st Corporal, 5/6/1862. Died of rheumatism of the heart in Howard's' Grove Hospital at Richmond, Va., 11/16/1862. Cemetery records read: Monore M. Green, 38th Ga, Co I, buried in section Division B, Row L, Grave #78.

8. James Gunn - Company G, Jefferson County, 1st Corporal 10/1/1861. Appointed 2d Sgt. June 1, 1862. Died at Richmond, Va. Mortally wounded in the battle of Gaines Mill, died July 1st, 1862. Son of John Gunn, his father filed claim for unclaimed pay due, March 1863. Cemetery records read Jas. Gunn, Co. C, 38th Ga. buried in Division C, Row A, Grave #6. The marker for this grave has sunk into the ground until only the top of the marker is visible.

9. Robert C. Hambrick - Company D, DeKalb County, Pvt. 9/26/1861. Transferred to Co. D, and appointed 1st Sgt. 4/1/1862. Wounded at Gaines Mill, Va. 6/27/1862. Died of wounds at Richmond, Va. July 14, 1862. Born in Ga. about 1840, living with parents, James and H. E. Hambrick, along with seven siblings. Brother of James F. Hambrick of same company, source: 1860 census for Evans District, Dekalb, Georgia. Cemetery records read Robert C. Hambrick, Co D, 38th Ga. buried in Divison C, Row Q, Grave #120.

10. Robert A. Harmon - Company A, DeKalb County, Pvt. 9/26/1861. Died at Richmond, Va. July 18, 1862. Son of Samuel Harmon of DeKalb County. His father filed a claim for any pay due his son, on Sept. 12th, 1862. Cemetery records read A. R. Harmon, buried in Division C, Row N, Grave# 128.

11. T. J. Henderson, Not found in the official rosters of 38th Ga., nor in CSA service records. Cemetery records read: T. J. Henderson, 38th Ga., Company G. Buried in Division A, Row K, Grave 158.

12. William Jackson - This is possibly John W. Jackson of Company E, Oglethorpe County. John W. Jackson - Pvt. 9/29/1861. Killed at Gaines Mill, Va. 6/27/1862. Listed among seven member of Co. E. as “left dead on the field” at the battle of Gaines Mill. Son of Edward and Louisa Jackson of Oglethorpe Co. Cemetery records read: Wm. Jackson, 38th Ga., no company listed, buried in Division A, Row J, Grave 11.

13. Captain George Washington McCleskey - Company commander of company B, from Milton County, Ga. Capt. 10/6/1861. Wounded at Gaines Mill, Va. 6/27/1862. Died from wounds July 17th, 1862. Cemetery records read: George W. McCleskey, 38th Ga., Company B, buried in Divison C, Row Q, grave #71. Father of Sgt Francis C. McCleskey of Co. B. Born in Ga. about 1820. Living in Milton Co. in 1860 with wife, Angeline Bell McCleskey, and seven children, ranging in age from 2 – 18 years old. On July 17th, nearly three weeks after being wounded in action, Capt. McCleskey died and his son, Private Francis McCleskey also on Company B, wrote a letter to his mother telling her of his father's death. Dear Mother, resolving time permits me to drop you a few lines it is with a sad heart that I write you these lines. Mother, Father departed this life last night at half past 12 O’clock. I know this is heart breaking news to you, but dear Mother there is great consolation he is gone he is in heaven. He said his way was clear, it filled my heart with joy to know he has gone to rest. Dear Mother you must not take it too hard. Contend your self to meet him in a better world. He is done with this war he was a great and good Soldier he died in defence of you and your dear little Children.

14. S. Owens, or T. Owens – Company H, Elbert County, Pvt. Listed on a register of Wayside Receiving Hospital or General Hospt. #9, Richmond, Va., for the month of Sept. 1864, died there of acute dysentery Sept. 24, 1864. Not listed in Henderson’s roster, but S. Owens is found assigned to the 38th Georgia in official CSA records. Buried in Division G, Row H, Grave 103.

15. George L. Peterman - Company E, Oglethorpe County, George enlisted in Company E, of the 38th Georgia Regiment, on April 28th, 1862, at Lexington, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. He fell ill with typhoid fever during March of 1863, while the regiment was in Virginia. He was sent to Chimborazo Hospital #2, at Richmond, Virginia. He died there on March 19th, 1863. His modern grave marker reads GEORGE L. PETERMAN, PVT, CO. E, 38TH GA., 1835-1863, and has a Christian cross on marker. George Peterman is the only known member of the 38th Ga. buried at Oakwood Cemetery who has a personalized grave marker. Cemetery records read: G. L. Peterman, no unit or company identified, he is buried in Division B, Row L, Grave #51.

16. J. H. Pettelf - Not found in official roster of the 38th Georgia and not found in official CSA records. Buried in Division A, Row I, Grave 22.

17. Alfred C. Reese - or Alfred C. Reece, Company B, Milton County, Ga. PPvt. 10/6/1861. Captured at Spotsylvania, Va. May 20, 1864. Paroled at Elmira, N. Y. March 2, 1865. Official records show he appeared on a register of Wayside Receiving Hospt. Or General Hosptial # 9, Richmond, Va. on March 10th, 1865 and died there on March 11th, 1865, of chronic diarrhea. Cemetery records read: Pvt. Alfred C. Reese, Co. B., 38th Ga. Regt, buried in section Division G, Row K, Grave #66.

18. A. M. Shaw - Lt. Augustus Shaw was the adjutant of the 38th Georgia Regiment during the battle of Gaines Mill, fought on June 27th, 1862. After the battle, members of the 38th Georgia reportedly discovered his remains among the battle dead, "shot to pieces" and buried his remains, marking his grave. It was later discovered to be a case of mistaken identity, as Shaw had been captured during the battle and was soon exchanged. He lived to a ripe old age. This grave is possibly the remains of an unknown Confederate soldier, mistakenly identified as Augustus Shaw and buried at Gaines Mill on the battlefield on June 28th, 1862. Buried in Division C, Div. C Row, Q Grave 75. No other person named A. Shaw has been discovered in the rolls, or official CSA records, for the 38th Georgia Regt.

19. R. Stephens, - No conclusive match found in official rosters or CSA records for the 38th Ga., buried in Division A, Row I, Grave 69.

20. Reuben Benjamin Thornton - Company F, Hart County, Pvt. 5/10/1862. Appointed 5th Sgt. February 10, 1863; 4th Sgt. March 1863. Died in Chimborazo Hospital at Richmond, Va. May 29, 1863. Admitted to the hospital May 1st with chronic bronchitis and died May 30th. Buried at Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond, Va., records read R.B. Thornton, Co. H, 38th Ga, buried in section Division D, Row 40, G #25.

21. John J. Williams - Company E, Oglethorpe County, Pvt. May 2, 1862. Died of measles at Richmond, Va. July 21, 1862. Widow, Mrs Adaline Williams filed a CSA pension application in 1891 in Madison Co. Ga. Witnesses for pensioner: E. F. Hardman, R. G. Williams, L. S. Williams. Cemetery records read: J. J. Williams, Co. E, 38th Ga. Regt., buried in Division C. Row Q, Grave #41.

22. John D. Woods - Company C, Bulloch & Emanuel Counties, Pvt. 10/1/1861. Died of tuberculosis in General Hospital #25, at Richmond, Va., December 20, 1862. Cemetery records show J. D. Woods, Co. C, 38th Ga. Regt, buried in Division A, Row M, Grave #158.

If you plan to visit Oakwood Cemetery. I would strongly recommend going to the main entrance of the cemetery, located at 3101 Nine Mile Road, Richmond, Va. Enter the cemetery grounds and stop at the cemetery office on the right. If you tell the cemetery care takers which grave you would like to visit, they will confirm the burial location and direct you to the Confederate burial section, which is about 1 mile distant from the main gate. During my visit, they were very nice people, and even took me directly to the grave.

Below is a map of the Confederate Section only. The CSA section is divided into sections called "Divisions" and they range from A - G. Within each Division, rows are either numbered or listed by alphabetic letters, then the grave stones are numbered, with three numbers on each stone. Specific graves are not easy to find without being shown the layout by the cemetery care takers. Trust me, you will save much and frustration by going to the office first during their business hours. The office phone number is contained on the map below. The Cemetery is owned and managed by the City of Richmond and the care takes are city employees.

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