Runaway slave's records honor Confederate dead

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Belle Montgomery

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,466
Location
44022
5cea94ef3b404.image.jpg

Provided by Chemung County Historical SocietySpectators on a raised walkway view the Confederate POWs at Elmira Prison during the Civil War. Almost 3,000 died, and despite their Southern affiliation, former slave John W. Jones gave each a proper burial and carefully recorded who they were and where they were interred.

ELMIRA — It sounds like a Believe-It-or-Not scenario: Confederate soldiers who died as prisoners of war buried in a Yankee graveyard by a runaway slave.

But it’s true. And it happened here.

On this Memorial Day, 154 years after the end of the Civil War, graves of Confederate soldiers are still well-kept at Elmira’s Woodlawn National Cemetery.


And descendants of those soldiers who died in Elmira can find their graves thanks to John W. Jones, a former slave who escaped from Virginia to Elmira via the Underground Railroad.

PROPER BURIAL

Jones marked each soldier's coffin with his name, rank, regiment and date of death.

He buried or supervised the burial of each Confederate soldier who died in Elmira’s prison of war camp.

Marty Chalk, president and board chairman of the Friends of Elmira Civil War Prison Camp, called him an extraordinary man.

“He took time to ensure that each soldier received a proper burial, and also took time to ensure that the information was correctly documented,” Chalk said. “As a former slave, he certainly could have been apathetic toward his duties.”

One of the stories regarding Jones involves...

Rest of Article: https://www.pressrepublican.com/news/local_news/runaway-slave-s-records-honor-confederate-dead/article_8590b749-3ec7-5cf1-8640-aabee2057cce.html
 
Joined
May 29, 2019
Messages
12
I don't know who captioned the photo, but the walkway you see is for the sentry guards, not the general public. There were however, two observation towers across the street from which local citizens could see into the camp. The army ultimately tore one down and closed access to the other tower, which the military retained control of.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
18,967
Location
Central Pennsylvania
It's a little hard interpreting actions like these through 2019 eyes. IMO because we insist on confining ourselves behind barriers based on terms like Yankee, Confederate and runaway slave these can seem baffling. Isn't that awful? Like why would anyone extend themselves to that degree? We were also still extremely based in church, any church, all religions. The Golden Rule ( remember? ) came up in school for Heaven's sake. Do unto others. John Jones did.

What a lovely story about a compassionate man.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

sailorjoe

Private
Joined
May 17, 2019
Messages
57
The story about Jones is interesting and thanks for providing the link. I am particularly interested because I had four ancestors that were captured and imprisoned in Yankee camps. Two of them died, one almost died and another was exchanged. The one that was exchanged was at Point Lookout. Good for him, he could have died earlier in life had he been sent to Elmira.The article well illustrates the horrible conditions that existed in POW camps in the North. The South had some bad ones, too. Camp Douglas at Chicago where two of my ancestors were kept and where one was buried was just as bad as Elmira, maybe worse. As far as Jones is concerned: I'm glad he got a job after he attained his freedom. I see nothing special about a man trying to do an "honest days work for an honest day's pay." Outwardly, to some folks, his particular job might be considered somewhat ironical considering that he was a runaway slave. But there is a whole lot more to any man's story than that one aspect of his life. It could be ironical that the dumbest kid in my high school class would eventually attain the Nobel Prize in physics. (I'm joking, of course; but you see my point.) Questions I would ask Mr. Jones if he were alive today would be such as the following: When did you get into the business of burying people? (i.e., what prior experience did you have?) Are you employed by the Government or are you a civilian contractor? If employed, are you the boss or are you following instructions from a superior? Are you a single or married man? I would be interested in knowing about his life as a slave but answers to those questions may or may not have any bearing as to his motivation for doing a great job. How long has it been since you attained your freedom? How old were you when you escaped? Did you escape by yourself or with a family? When and how did you come to be literate? How long were you a slave before you escaped? My take on his purpose in doing a great job after reading the article in the link is that Jones was highly motivated to do the very best work he could lest he lose that highly lucrative job. At a salary of approximately $230,000 in today's money, the guy was "making a killing" (lol, pun intended) from burying soldiers. No wonder he accumulated enough money to become the wealthiest black man in that part of the state. He was probably one of the richest of any race in that part of the state. And of course, like most all of us, we like to take pride in a job well done.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Joined
May 29, 2019
Messages
12
Most of your questions can be answered by the good folks at the John W Jones Museum

https://www.johnwjonesmuseum.org/the-john-w-jones-story

Since this article was written, there have been some significant things happening in Elmira. A dedicated group has reconstructed a period era structure that had been in storage, built a fullsize replica barrack building and are currently compiling a research library. You can follow them at www.elmiraprisoncamp.com and FB @ElmiraCivilWar

For additional reading, the first history of the camp by Clay Holmes is on line for free and the most recent, extremely well researched history of the camp, by Michael Gray can be found on Amazon.

Holmes

https://books.google.cat/books?id=fWOGNjFfXbcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:holmes+inauthor:clayton&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjxl-apq-rOAhXGKh4KHX0XAzMQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

GRAY
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1606352660/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

If it has been more than 4 years since you visited, it is worthwhile planning a return trip.

If you are a descendent Confederate or Union who spent time in Elmira, please contact the Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp via their FB page @ElmiraCivilWar.
 
Joined
May 29, 2019
Messages
12
Most of your questions can be answered by the good folks at the John W Jones Museum

https://www.johnwjonesmuseum.org/the-john-w-jones-story

Since this article was written, there have been some significant things happening in Elmira. A dedicated group has reconstructed a period era structure that had been in storage, built a fullsize replica barrack building and are currently compiling a research library. You can follow them at www.elmiraprisoncamp.com and FB @ElmiraCivilWar

For additional reading, the first history of the camp by Clay Holmes is on line for free and the most recent, extremely well researched history of the camp, by Michael Gray can be found on Amazon.

Holmes

https://books.google.cat/books?id=fWOGNjFfXbcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:holmes+inauthor:clayton&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjxl-apq-rOAhXGKh4KHX0XAzMQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

GRAY
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1606352660/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

If it has been more than 4 years since you visited, it is worthwhile planning a return trip.

If you are a descendent Confederate or Union who spent time in Elmira, please contact the Friends of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp via their FB page @ElmiraCivilWar.
 

sailorjoe

Private
Joined
May 17, 2019
Messages
57
Most of your questions can be answered by the good folks at the John W Jones Museum
Hi Elmira CW. Many thanks for the link which, indeed, answered the questions I had about his earlier life. Looks like your city is doing a lot to preserve its history and that's a good thing.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top