Friday, March 16, 2012

Solving another long lost mystery

Confederate graves from one of the hospitals in Forsyth, Georgia

       Since I've been travelling from place to place signing books and doing talks on the War Between the States, I've met a lot of interesting people. In Troy, Alabama on Tuesday, I met Jonathan Richard who presented me with a question I couldn't answer. He said his ancestor was  William Richard, a private in Company H, 46th Alabama Infantry. The man had died in a Confederate hospital in Gilmer, Georgia on 1 August 1864. He wondered how his ancestor could have died so far behind Sherman's lines at this stage of the war. 
       I love a good mystery and immediately went to work to solve this riddle. Gilmer County, Georgia is in the north-central part of the state. By the time William died, Sherman was on the verge of taking Atlanta. I found William's records and discovered that he died at Gilmer Hospital. That's all the records state. I began to think about other Confederate Hospitals and discovered that although they were typically named Confederate Hospital #1, etc, they also had another name. These names ranged from the location to being named after an actual person. There was a Hardee Hospital in Georgia at the time. I remembered that there was a Confederate major general named Jeremy Francis Gilmer, so I set out to find if there was a Confederate hospital named after him. That is where I got my break in the case. 
       There was actually a Confederate hospital in Marietta, Georgia named Gilmer Hospital until the middle of June, 1864. Sherman's Army began to threaten Marietta at this time and Gilmer Hospital was moved to Forsyth, Georgia along with two other hospitals. That was my break in the case. I notified Jonathan that his ancestor didn't die in Gilmer County, Georgia, but in Gilmer Hospital, Forsyth, Georgia which is south of Atlanta. Things began to make more sense. William Richards doesn't have a cause of death or the reason he was hospitalized in his records, but I would be willing to bet quite a sum of money that he was mortally wounded in one of the battles around Atlanta in June of 1864.
       Here is the reply I received upon delivering the news to Jonathan. 

       Wow! My family is excited about this new revelation that you've opened up for us! I had always just assumed it was named for the county! This makes more sense as it's apparently closer to Atlanta and further into the Confederacy.  We appreciate this help so much!! Thank you!!!!

God bless!
Jonathan P. Richard

       It's nearly impossible for me to say how much those few lines make one feel when he is able to solve a 150 mystery for a family that has been wondering what went on during those final days of their loved ones life so long ago. It is very possible that Jonathan's ancestor is buried in one of these small cemetery spots in Forsyth, Georgia in an unknown grave. If he is lucky, which I've never been, he may travel to Forsyth and it just might be marked.