Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Identifying the mysterious "Prof"

Typical brass band member during the Civil War

       I've recently been working hard writing a script for a Civil War documentary for the Colbert County Tourism Association. I've borrowed notes from several local historians to assist me in my work. Although I'm a Civil War historian, I've never really focused on the small local skirmishes, etc. On prowling through Lanny Perry's notes I found an email exchange between he and Sheffield City Historian Richard Sheridan. They are discussing a man killed in Tuscumbia in the fall of 1864. The man was a band leader for Cantey's brigade. He was a member of Hood's army preparing for the fateful invasion of Tennessee. The only thing known about the man was his nickname "Prof." He was killed by a falling tree on 11 November 1864 and his funeral was so large it was led by two brass bands. 
       My wife says when I want to learn something I'm like a bulldog. That is exactly what happened when I found this email. The downfall of being this way is I'm often on a wild goose chase when I could be better using my time writing. I've written blogs before about finding something long forgotten, but for every one I've solved there are probably ten more I couldn't. I set off on this goose chase that night and surprisingly, without too much frustration (I did get a bit aggravated a couple of times) I found the mysterious "Prof." 
       Prof was Asa Ross of Butler County, Alabama. He enlisted in Mobile, Alabama on 9 March 1863 as the band leader of the 17th Alabama Infantry. He was born in North Carolina, but had moved to Butler Springs, Butler County, Alabama. When the war began, Asa was 34 years old with a 24 year old wife, a two year old daughter and a ten month old daughter. A school teacher by trade, he was nicknamed "Prof" (short for Professor) when he joined the army. He had to have been a well liked man to have been mentioned having such a large funeral. 

Could "Prof" be buried in one of these graves today

       My publisher Angela Broyles loved this story so much, she insisted I write a blog about the mysterious "Prof." I sent the information to Lanny and Richard Sheridan and Richard now wants me to attempt to find if Asa is still buried here or possibly removed to Butler County following the war. I'm not sure I will ever be able to answer that question, but I intend to attempt it. He may still be buried in an unknown grave in Tuscumbia's Oakwood Cemetery.  


1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog. The nine you don't solve are always frustrating, but the one you do is always rewarding beyond words. Your blog posts will be here for future generations long after all of us are gone.