OH. MY. GOSH!!! I’ve been waiting on this post for a while. It’s hard to keep your mouth shut about something exciting! I am so proud and excited to have a guest blogger writing this post today- my cousin, Troy Bates! Not to mention, I was green with envy over the trip he took with his family that led to this post. I hope Troy, Co, and Gus enjoyed the trip and I hope you enjoy the blog post and Troy’s pictures. There’s some exciting news at the end so don’t stop reading!!!! While you’re at the end- show Troy some love in the comments. America loves her vets! (A nod to Johnny Horton for the great song that gave me the title for this blog post.)
I want to thank my cousin, Lisa, for allowing me to write this guest post and who wrote a blog article earlier this year about one of our ancestors, John C. Bates.
I always enjoy reading her posts, especially about our common ancestors! This one caught my attention for several reasons. As a veteran, I often wonder if any of my ancestors served in the military. In Lisa’s research it appears that John was a veteran. It appears that he served on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Her research indicates that he was captured and subsequently may have died as a Prisoner of War at a POW camp located at Rock Island, Illinois. Rock Island is located about 70 miles from where I currently live. It was exciting to know that it’s just a short trip to Rock Island and the Confederate Cemetery located there. It would be easy to see if we could find his final resting place. Oddly enough, my wife, son and I have adopted a tradition that on Memorial Day we visit nearby cemeteries and honor military veterans resting there even if we don’t know them or their families. What better way could there be than to spend this Memorial Day than visiting a distant ancestor’s possible resting place?
Once we made the decision to visit the cemetery I tried doing some online research to see if I could locate his gravesite. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to locate any information on him (or that I could even possibly link to him). Undaunted we made the short trip over to the cemetery on Memorial Day.
Once we located the cemetery we were pleasantly surprised to discover there would be a memorial service held at the Confederate Cemetery which was arranged by the Iowa Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). They had placed confederate flags at each headstone and arranged a beautiful tribute using reenactors from the Scotts Battery, of the Iowa Division of the SCV, the Confederate Orphan Kentucky Band (using period musical instruments and music) and the Order of Confederate Rose, amongst others.
We spent an hour or more walking amongst the headstones, hoping to come across John’s headstone, even though he wasn’t listed in the directory. While most stones had names and units some had less information. We saw representation of units from all over the south; Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida and, I am sure, others. In all, they have 1,950 graves in a beautifully maintained 3 acre site. If you’re able to visit, I would recommend it! I’m sure that cemetery doesn’t get a lot of visitors.
I was able to talk to several of the reenactors, folks dressed in Confederate uniforms and clothing, and learned more about this cemetery and Confederate POWs. All of the bodies in this cemetery have been moved at least twice since the Civil War ended. While some care was made in tracking names and headstones, the SCV continues to find discrepancies in lists, even now.
I learned that if a prisoner died during travel to the camp, their body was unceremoniously dumped off the train. One gentleman said many communities along the train tracks would bury the bodies as unknown Confederate soldiers. You can find lonely headstones in far corners of many cemeteries along these train tracks which lead to a POW camp.
This Confederate POW camp was located at Rock Island, which is an actual island in the Mississippi River between the states of Iowa and Illinois. Many prisoners were killed trying to escape, if they were at or in the river, their bodies were usually left where they fell. What I took from several of my conversations with the members of SCV was that there is a substantial number of prisoners who died and have no marked gravesite. Nor is there a solid, reliable record of when or how they perished. There were also an undetermined number of deceased soldiers whose families were able to, after the war, retrieve their bodies and move them to a final resting place closer to home and no records kept of these movements.
In the end, we were unable to finds John’s final resting place but were honored to visit this Confederate Cemetery, witness the memorial ceremony and offer our prayers to the men buried there.
As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy Lisa’s posts and I know there is considerable work that goes into the research of each post. However, there’s a difference between knowing and KNOWING what that work is like. While I know I only did some minor research, it gave me a small taste of the work that she does and how frustrating it can be. I’m sure that makes breakthroughs that much more enjoyable.
My thanks to Lisa again for all of her work and for letting me share my experience with her and her blog visitors!!
I Wish I Was in Dixie
“Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”
– Last words of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
(Quote found at American Civil War Story.)
(A nod to Daniel Decatur Emmett for the song he copyrighted that gave me the title to this closing section.)
So I’m sitting here with goosebumps as I read Troy’s story. Some of my daily inconveniences are trivial in comparison to what these men went through to maintain freedom for every American. Even things I view as “problems” are still nothing in comparison to some of what Troy described. THANK YOU, Troy! Both for your service and for this story. You have a unique perspective about John that I will never have.
As I was preparing my intro to Troy’s story I went off on a research tangent. (It’s an addiction. #SorryNotSorry) I found a very brief mention of John BATES on a website that I hadn’t seen before. The information comes from someone who is researching Company E, 3rd Confederate, Army of Tennessee. John BATES was in Company F. According to George Martin’s research, our John BATES was actually a Captain of Company F but resigned. (Accessed here on 14 June 2016.) I tried to find more information- even a regimental history but have not been successful in finding more than what was in my previous post and in this one. If you’re interested in military history- start researching and help us! Also, on a personal note, I would dearly love to know if any of John BATES’ units had a battle flag- in case you want to focus your research on a thing or event instead of a person.
Please take the time to visit Troy’s videos at the following Google links:
Once again, thanks Troy for this wonderful blog post! I learned a lot.
Until next time,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog