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.
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...
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