Friday, February 04, 2011

Camp Alcorn Memorials in Hopkinsville, KY

Graves of Confederate soldiers in Riverside Cemetery

Cemetery and census records at the Christian County library

Recently, I received an email from a gentleman with Christian County (KY) roots who works at a Hong Kong university. He asked some questions about the Camp Alcorn Confederate graves in Hopkinsville, which he is researching. I didn't know the answers, but I looked up some things at the Christian County library and sent him the information that I was able to find.

Two memorials to Confederate soldiers

While finding the information this gentleman wanted and corresponding with him, I learned more about the two Confederate memorials at Riverside Cemetery. Those memorials are:
   1) The Latham Confederate Monument to unknown Confederate soldiers, erected during the 1880s by John C. Latham, a wealthy New York banker and Hopkinsville native, and
   2)The Camp Alcorn Cemetery, where 293 Confederate soldiers are memorialized with individual gravestones.

Latham Confederate Monument imagined and realized

The Latham Confederate Monument has an interesting history. Mr. John C. Latham was a Hopkinsville boy who went to New York and became wealthy but never forgot his hometown. He gave many donations of land and money to make Hopkinsville a better place, even though he no longer lived here.

The booklet, The Story of a Monument: Memorial of the Unveiling of the Monument to the Unknown Confederate Dead, May 19, 1887, at Hopkinsville, Ky, tells the story of the Latham Confederate Monument. In 1886, John C. Latham visited his father's grave at Riverside Cemetery. A friend pointed out an overgrown area in the old part of the cemetery where the Camp Alcorn soldiers were buried.  Mr. Latham, a Confederate Army veteran and a good-hearted man, was troubled that their graves were unmarked and untended.

The Latham Confederate Monument
With an admirable spirit of reconciliation, Latham proposed to donate a monument honoring all unknown Civil War soldiers buried at Riverside Cemetery. However, the unknown Union soldiers had already been moved to the military cemetery at Fort Donelson. Thus, Latham dedicated the monument to unknown Confederate soldiers.

Latham bought a large triangular site, on a high spot in the new part of the cemetery. The graves of the Camp Alcorn soldiers were opened, and such remains as could be found were moved to the new site. A large granite monument with four bronze plaques was made in Maine and shipped to Hopkinsville. It was dedicated and presented to the City of Hopkinsville on May, 19, 1887.

Discovery of the notebook

Another decade went by. Then, in 1899, Mr. Harry C. Gant, president of the Bank of Hopkinsville, was going through an old desk at the bank. In it, he discovered a notebook that had belonged to George K. Anderson, a Confederate soldier from Cotton Gin, Texas. It contained 213 deceased soldiers' names, and for each, the location in the cemetery where he was buried. Also, the record included 15 unnamed soldiers of Camp Alcorn and their final resting places. Apparently when Anderson's unit left Hopkinsville, the notebook was placed at the bank for safekeeping -- and there it stayed, forgotten for almost 40 years.

Of course, by the time the notebook was found in 1899, the remains of the soldiers had already been moved from their original graves. They had been reburied together in a circle around the Latham Confederate Monument, making it impossible to assign a name to any gravesite or set of bones.

Tombstones erected by Sons of Confederate Veterans

John C. Latham's goal of giving these fallen soldiers the dignity that they deserve was completed by the Camp Alcorn Cemetery memorial, erected by a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It honors 293 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Alcorn with individual markers that give their names, military information, and dates of death if known.

Gravestones at the Camp Alcorn cemetery memorial

I don't know all of the sources the Sons of Confederate Veterans used in ascertaining the names of the 293 soldiers. (According to a newspaper report at the time of the discovery of the notebook, it revealed the identities of 101 men. This report seems to be in error because the notebook actually contained the names and burial sites of 227 men.) I also don't know if the tombstones were erected on the site of the original cemetery.

When I looked through the Camp Alcorn information in the Riverside Cemetery book. I was saddened to see that many of the dead Kentucky soldiers had enlisted in Hopkinsville. I suppose they were local fellows who came to town and signed up with the Confederate Army. They moved into the camp, and soon thereafter, fell ill and died from one of the several deadly diseases that were circulating through the troops that winter.

Note: On 3/15/2011, corrections were made, regarding the number of names in the notebook.

If you're interested in Camp Alcorn, you might want to look back at these Prairie Bluestem posts:


Bill Harper said...

I used to visit that monument all the time when I was a boy but never knew the history except that Confederate dead were buried there. That was a very interesting read, Genevieve. Thank you for doing the research and sharing it in your blog.

Genevieve said...

Hi, Bill. I must credit the gentleman in Hong Kong for being the real researcher here. He is the one who knew enough about the subject to ask questions. I just helped look for some of the answers. He is still researching the camp and the cemetery.

ganana said...

Very nice blog. I believe an uncle is buried at this cemetery; his name was Jesse Samuel (J.S. on his records) Goodwin, 8th Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Any info about this soldier is appreciated.

GM Patton

Genevieve said...

I don't own a copy of the cemetery book, so all I can tell you is that I don't see his name in the Camp Alcorn info that I have.

Probably the best thing would be for you to call the folks at Riverside Cemetery and just ask if J.S. Goodwin is buried there. The telephone number, according to the City of Hopkinsville website, is (270) 887-4071.

If that doesn't work out, try writing to:
Supervisor, Riverside Cemetery
Hopkinsville Public Works Department
705 North Main Street
Hopkinsville, KY 42240

Or email Mike Perry, City Grounds Maintenance Supervisor:

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