Bleached Bones from Shiloh to Corinth

As the Civil War progressed, the Union army picked up a new innovation, burying the bodies after a battle. During prior wars, the European armies did what armies had done forever, they focused on the moment and left their dead behind. But, as the civil war commenced in 1861, the Federal government issued an order that each commander would be responsible for burying his dead. Even with this order, the Union forces often buried their dead quickly in graves which were quickly undone.

The Confederate Army issued no such order. Even if they had issued such an order, it is unlikely the Confederates had the resources to bury their dead. After the Battle of Antietam, Matthew Brady took pictures of the dead soldiers. Most of the dead soldiers we see today in his pictures are Confederates. The Northerners had already buried their dead by the time Brady took his pictures. Historian Katherine Jeffrey recounts the story that the retreating Confederate army had rescued the body of one young officer from behind enemy lines, only to leave it lying by the road along with other officers. This occurred during the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and the army was hastily pulling back to Virginia. They Confederate army lacked the wagons necessary to transport even the dead officers to a proper burial.

So, after the war, there were tens of thousands of Southern bones left lying beneath the sun unburied and unremembered. In the North, the federal government had started collecting and burying veterans in 1862. In that year, the federals set up the first veteran burial ground. Prior to 1861, fallen soldiers would have been buried at the post cemetery or in some quick grave on the prairie. But, by 1862, that simple system was quickly overwhelmed. The federal government responded by creating what we know today as national cemeteries for veterans. By 1865, there were some 30 national cemeteries for federal veterans. See National Park Service website here.

After the end of the war. The federal army started the pains-taking laborious process of re-burying the fallen in these new national cemeteries. They did not bury the Confederate dead. The Confederate dead served a different government.

Gettysburg Battlefield

At the Battle of Gettysburg, 5,500 Southern boys were killed or suffered mortal wounds. Some 16,000 were wounded. In the ensuing retreat, hundreds of the wounded were left behind to die a slow, lingering death. Many of the dead lay in the open, to be feasted on by maggots and hogs. Those who received a shallow burial were uncovered by the heavy rains that fell soon after the battle. Two weeks after the battle, Southern bodies could be seen lying all over the battlefield out in the open, under the gray skies. One correspondent wrote:

“Day and night, rain or shine, cold or hot, there they lie. Hour by hour they die off, are carried to the trenches, a foot or two deep, in which they are to lie … and to remain there in continually increasing groups until the parties whose duty it is to come around to tend to their internment. It is awful, it is terrible, it is horrible beyond expression”

The Confederate dead at Gettysburg received a shallow burial or burial in trenches. None were buried in the national cemetery at Gettysburg. See NPS blog entry here.

“In the spring of 1864, there had been scattered calls in the Gettysburg Sentinel to collect the “Rebel remains,” in the name of “a common humanity,” but the pressures and politics of war-time had forestalled such.”

In 1869, at a dedication of a monument at Gettysburg to the Federal dead, Gen. George Meade called for a more respectful burial for the Rebel dead.  As he said, it is usual after a battle to afford the dead, even the enemy dead, a respectful burial. In the end, the different Southern ladies groups managed to re-inter some 3,200 remains to four cemeteries in Southern states from the Gettysburg battle field.

And, what of the other battles? There were dozens of major battles from Virginia to the Red River in Texas to upper Missouri to Southwest Louisiana. Some 450,000 Confederate soldiers died during the war. See Ohio State University eHistory website here.

Wake County, North Carolina

There is no known figure for which or how many of the Confederate dead received a decent burial. Whatever burial the Confederate soldier received was ad hoc. For example, the ladies of Wake County, North Carolina first started making an effort to re-bury the Battle of Gettysburg dead Confederates in 1874. That means, nine years after the war, one group of women in one county made an effort to bury North Carolina bodies which had received a shallow burial at one battle. See University of North Carolina science website here.

Other groups from other states also started making an effort to bury the Gettysburg dead years after the war had ended. But, as the Park Service explains, many farmers did not maintain those shallow graves.  Doubtless, many of those shallow graves had washed away. And, that was just the Gettysburg dead.

Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell conveyed this profound longing in her book, Gone with the Wind. The women of Atlanta fussed vehemently about whether to remove the weeds form the graves of Yankee soldiers, as they did the Southern graves. The two groups were set to engage in open warfare over this issue. Until, the respected Melanie Wilkes spoke up. Melanie exhorted that many women in post-war Atlanta did not know where their boys were buried. Mitchell cited a few examples of one mother who had traveled to Gettysburg to search for her son’s grave and found nothing. Another mother knew nothing more than her son had died somewhere in Ohio. And other mothers who knew nothing other than their sons were listed as missing.

These mothers turned on the esteemed Melanie. They were cut to the core. Ms. Mitchell spoke for Southern mothers everywhere when she wrote, “[t]heir eyes said, “Why do you open these wounds again? These are the wounds that never heal – the wounds of not knowing where they lie.” Melanie won the day. The two groups agreed to beautify the graves of Union soldiers, as they did Confederate soldiers. Melanie reasoned that it was likely Yankee women up north were doing the same with the graves of Confederate soldiers.

Shiloh Battlefield

Confederate dead were left where they fell. The remains might be moved aside to gather the remains of a federal soldier, but not buried. So, advertisements appeared in the newspapers of the day seeking funds for recovering the bones of their deceased loved ones, like this ad:

“The Shiloh Burial Association, formed for the purpose of purchasing a portion of the field, where the gallant Johnson fell, for interring the Confederate dead, whose bones lie bleaching from Shiloh to Corinth, have issued an appeal to the people. The object is to obtain two hundred acres of this sacred soil, fell the timber, make a fence, and plant Osage Orange for a hedge. Contributions may be sent to S.D. Lee at Columbus, or Maj. Upshaw at Holly Springs.”

S.D. Lee was Stephen D. Lee, who served in the Confederate Army. He graduated from West Point. He was not related to Gen. Robert E. Lee. He lived in Columbus, Mississippi after the war. The statement about the bones refers to the thousands of dead from the many battles up and down the Mississippi River valley, from Shiloh, Tennessee down to Corinth, Mississippi and still further south. Mr. Lee helped create the Vicksburg National Park Association which later lead to the creation of the Vicksburg Battlefield Park. Stephen D. Lee died after giving a talk to Union veterans from Wisconsin and Iowa, regiments which he faced during the war. He was very active in planning and organizing veteran reunions.

Only in the early 1950’s, when the number of remaining Confederate veterans could be counted on one hand, were national cemeteries opened to Confederate veterans. Most Southern boys, especially in the western theater were simply left where they fell. So, in the South, those Confederate memorials took on added importance.


West Baton Rouge Sugar Planter, Nov. 24, 1866, p. 2, col. 5

Katherine B. Jeffrey, First Chaplain of the Confederacy, (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2020), p. 57, 75

The Harts of San Patricio

John Hart and Felix Hart settled in the San Patricio colony before 1832. They were not directly related, but likely came from the same extended clan in Ireland. We do not know where in Ireland they originated. But, in 1820, most Harts were in County Sligo. According to the Tithe Applotment Books, completed in 1824, there was one Luke Hart in County Sligo, in Calry civil parish. Luke was not a common Irish name, so there may be a connection.

John first came to New York city, where his first two sons, John, Jr. and Luke were born. John, Jr. was born in New York in 1827 and Luke was born in 1829. John, Sr. was not literate. But, coming to the San Patricio colony, John and his wife, Bridget, received a league of land (4428 acres) and a labor (177 acres) in 1831. That land was part of a different colony. John later renounced the grant, as too far up the Nueces river in Lipan Apache country.

Even so, John and Bridget built a picket cabin which was typical of the time period. The cabin was located in what became known as the town of San Patricio. A portion of his property became known as Hart Place, a place where neighbors would gather on the Nueces River, which had no alligators. The neighbors came to Hart Place to do their wash and play hurley. Later, John’s three sons, John, Jr., Luke, applied for grants from the Refugio colony as close to San Patricio as they could manage. [1]


Early in the Texas Revolution, John espoused the cause of the rebels. He hosted some of the rebel leaders at his home. Local Mexicans assassinated John on a lonely road leading to the town of San Patricio in early 1836. He was shot several times and stabbed repeatedly, suggesting a great deal of anger.

By the late 1850’s, frame houses began to replace the picket cabins of the pioneer days. Luke Hart married Ann Hart, daughter of Felix Hart on July 19, 1853. Luke Hart then lived with Ann on Papalote Creek, near what would become the town of Papalote. [2]


By 1860, there were a good many Harts who mostly lived in San Patricio County. In the 1860 census, there is a Patrick Hart married to Anna with a son named Luke. But, this was  probably a different Luke Hart. The San Patricio Irish retained the custom of re-using first names. Patrick Hart was listed as a stockman in the 1860 census. Most of the San Patricio settlers engaged in raising cattle from the outset. The grass land in the area was suited to ranching, not farming. Patrick claimed $4,000 in personal assets and $5,000 on real estate. He was doing very well for the time. Generally, any value above $4,000 would place a person in the upper class for the time.

Locating any of the San Patricio settlers in the 1850 and 1860 censuses is difficult. During times of danger, the families often re-located to Matamoros, Mexico. Matamoros was about 200 miles from San Patricio. During the 1840’s and 1850’s, raids by Mexican bandits and Comanches occurred with some frequency. Luke and his wife, Ann do not appear in the 1860 census. But, they do appear in the 1870 census. In 1870, Luke claims personal assets of $2,000 and $1500 in real estate. For the depressed economy of 1870 Texas, Luke was doing very well. In 1870, he was listed as a merchant. He had a store in Papalote for many years, in addition to his extensive ranch.

We get some idea of the serious depression in 1870 when we look at Patrick’s assets. In 1860, he claimed personal assets of $4,000 and $5,000 in real estate. Those numbers decreased to $500 and $1000 respectively in the 1870 census.


In 1860, San Patricio County was ranch country. The terrain was dominated by the scrub brush it has today, but by grassland. They had very few slaves, only 77 persons enslaved in the then very large county. None of the many Harts owned slaves, like most of their Irish neighbors. In 1850, San Patricio County had no slaves. But, in 1850, the county was still largely not inhabited. Most of the residents had evacuated to Matamoros. In 1860, there were only seven slaves in the town of San Patricio. The largest number of slaves were found in the town of Ingleside, a town located on the bay, which accounted for 46 of the 77 slaves in San Patricio County. [3]

Civil War

In July, 1861, Luke enlisted in Capt. William Miller’s Home Guards Company. William Miller was a resident of San Patricio himself. This appears to have been a militia for home defense. Luke enlisted with one six-shooter, one rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition. [4]

Hobby’s Battalion

In 1862, Luke Hart enlisted in the 8th Texas Infantry, commanded by William P. Hobby. The unit was sometimes known as Hobby’s Battalion or as Hobby’s Regiment. Luke was in Capt. P.H. Breeden’s company, Co. C. He enlisted at Goliad, Texas in May, 1862. He did not join during those first, heady days of April and May, 1861. That suggests he was not an ardent secessionist. He was 34 years old at the time. Hobby’s Battalion saw action at the Battle of Corpus Christi in the summer and Fall of 1862 and the Battle of St. Joseph’s Island in May, 1863.

In November, 1863, Luke was marked as AWOL. By the standards of the time if had just left to go take care of business at the ranch, he would not have been designated as AWOL. In January, 1864, he was marked as AWOL in San Patricio County. So, he appears to have gone home to take of business. Hobby’s Regiment was ordered to Galveston in December, 1863. He may have left the Battalion, to avoid leaving his home so far away. [5]

Yet, sometime after this point, Luke Hart raised his own troop of calvary and traveled as far as Louisiana when the Civil War ended. Luke Hart was long known to his family as Capt. Hart, apparently due to this troop of cavalry. [6]

In 1871, Luke Hart and two other Hart families sold land to Bishop C.M. DuBuis for a Catholic church. Most of the residents in that part of Papalote were Catholic.ry. [6]

Luke Hart would eventually own some 10,000 acres in and around Papalote. He served as Bee County Clerk. He was elected one of five County Commissioners for Bee County in 1880. Luke died Dec. 6, 1883 in Papalote. [7]


An old story told about the Harts concerned a son of David Craven. David married Catherine Hart. When WW I first started, Great Britain sent thousands of soldiers to Europe. Britain had trouble feeding its troops. So, U.S. Pres. Wilson asked Americans to eat less wheat and eat more cornbread. He hoped to send the wheat to Britain. The son of David Craven lived  in Bee County, in South Texas. He ate cornbread every day at each meal. The son loved cornbread. When he heard Pres. Wilson’s request to help Britain, he announced to his family that from now on, they would eat wheat bread at every meal every day. David Craven was not Irish. It is likely that the anti-British sentiment originated with the Harts.

[1] Rachel Bluntzer Hebert, The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press 1981), pp. 171-182.

[2] The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia, pp. 171-182.

[3] 1860 Slave Schedule

[4] Civil War Muster Rolls Index Cards, 1838-1900.

[5] Service Records, Confederate States of America

[6] Notes of discussion with Alfred T. Otto, this author’s grandfather, in the author’s possession.

[7] Galveston Weekly News, Nov. 25, 1880, p. 7; Old Papalote Cemetery, grave markers

He Served His Country Faithfully

Every successful army needs them, the dedicated few soldiers who will undergo any sacrifice to make the unit work. Audie Murphy said in his book, To Hell and Back, that every platoon needed three to four soldiers ready to kill without flinching. That is what he meant, that every military unit relied on those few who were very good at their craft and were ruthless in the execution of that craft.

Virginius “Jinny” Petty was one such soldier. At the Second Battle of Manassas, he was First Sergeant of Co. E, Fifth Texas Infantry Regiment. The Fifth Texas Infantry was known as  the “Bloody Fifth,” because of its high casualties at the Second Battle of Manassas. Jinny Petty was shot in the bowels and mortally wounded. Then as now, that was the worst wound, because death was certain and it would come slow. He was said to be the most dedicated man in Co. E. He had promised he would “go naked and eat dirt” before he would fall out of line on the march.

His messmate was W.H. McCalister. Mr. McCalister did not lie to 1SGT Petty’s family, as most soldiers did. He told the family that the First Sergeant died a slow death. “He suffered a great deal before he died,” W.H. wrote to the Petty’s family. But, his last request, wrote W.H., was to tell his friends that he “died for a good cause and that he was perfectly willing to die for he had served his country faithfully.” No soldier can hope for more than that.


Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), p. 112.

Stealing the Crops, A Yankee Tradition

Reports have emerged from the Ukraine War that Russians have been stealing stored grain from individual farms and grain silos. They even stole some 27 tractors and combines form a Deere dealership. That is reprehensible conduct. It amounts to war crimes. But, is that conduct new? No, I am afraid not. During the Federal occupation of New Orleans, Benjamin Butler and his brother, Andrew, profited mightily. Even before the occupation, Gen. Butler somehow came to own stores of cotton and turpentine. While still biding his time at Ship Island, he shipped the cotton and turpentine on a Union ship to his agent in Boston as “ballast” with instructions to sell the commodities. But, the Federal Quartermaster in Boston could not understand how this cargo could constitute private property of Gen. Butler if it was shipped on a government-owned ship.

Before Butler’s Boston agent could straighten this out with the U.S. government, a second shipment of cotton and sugar arrived, also from Gen. Butler. The Assistant Quartermaster, Capt. William W. McKim, resolved the issue by selling the two shipments and depositing the money in favor of the U.S. government. The Quartermaster and Secretary of Treasury Chase both then censured Gen. Butler while also noting he must be protected.

Having learned his lesson, from then on, Gen. Butler would confiscate cotton and other crops under the Confiscation Act and skim from the profits, with the aid of his staff. He avoided direct shipments in his own name.

“Colonel” Andrew Butler

Andrew Butler, a colonel for all of two months, came to New Orleans soon after his brother, Ben, occupied the city. Andrew was denied a permanent rank as colonel, so he came as a civilian. But, with his brother, the two brothers embarked upon various schemes to profit from this occupation. In a time when cotton was virtually worthless in the South because it could not be shipped, it nevertheless held great value if it could be shipped. Sugar sold for three cents per pound in New Orleans, but for six cents in New York. Turpentine sold for $38 per barrel in the North, but could be found for three dollars on the Mississippi river. Dry goods could be purchased in New York and sold for several times that price in New Orleans. Flour sold for six dollars a barrel in New York, but for twice that amount in New Orleans.

Liquor Monopoly

Gen. Butler issued an order that liquor could not be sold, after another general complained that his men were getting drunk every pay day. Andrew then bought up all the liquor supplies in the City at bottom prices. Soon, Gen. Butler then rescinded the no-liquor order and Andrew sold his liquor supplies at a large profit.

When Gen. Butler learned the blockade of the New Orleans port would be lifted on June 1, 1862, he sent Andrew $60,000 of sugar packed in hogsheads. Gen. Butler assured his superiors in Washington that he purchased the sugar to stabilize the price of sugar and demonstrate the good will of the U.S. government to the local planters. But, in reality, Andrew bought it for a pittance because the planters believed they would not be able to sell the sugar. In his communication to Secretary of War Stanton Gen. Butler also did not mention that his brother made the actual purchase and that Andrew pocketed $5 per hogshead as a carrying charge

After the blockade was lifted, some of the pre-war commerce resumed with farmers and planters sending their goods down river to be sold to U.S. and European buyers. But, many shops and stores in New Orleans remained shuttered. One Daily Picayune edition reported that tens of thousands of merchants had been ruined by the blockade.  


But, not the Butler brothers. They were doing just fine. In September, Pres. Lincoln signed the second Confiscation Act. This act provided that unless every Confederate soldier put down his weapon and swore an oath of allegiance to the United Stats, then his property was subject to confiscation. Gen. Butler pressed all New Orleans citizens to swear the oath to the U.S. When some 4,000 refused the oath, Gen. Butler published their names and evicted them from the city. He allowed them to take only personal possessions. He seized their real property and sold it. He sequestered the property of thousands of Confederate soldiers who had homes in the Crescent City, but were off somewhere fighting. Thousands of New Orleanians were hundreds of miles from their homes fighting for the Confederacy. Beast Butler sold much of that property at auction.

“Colonel” Andrew Butler sent notices to the sugar growers telling them they needed his permission to sell their sugar. Otherwise, his brother would seize their sugar crop. Andrew then hired two New Orleans firms who employed only white workers to go and seize their product. According to at least one account, Andrew’s raiders also took the wife’s wardrobe and jewels. Andrew charged farmers and planters a fee to avoid confiscation. If an important person was imprisoned, Andrew would secure their freedom for the right price. Andrew would buy at auction seized sugar and cotton in New Orleans. He would then sell it in New York for three or four times what he paid for it.

After the lifting of the blockade, Andrew started importing flour from New York and selling it at great profit in New Orleans. That led to a monopoly on grocery items, medicines and staples in New Orleans. He also came to control the bakeries. As one lady commented at the time, both brothers engaged in illicit enterprises, but Andrew was the front man.

No Tow Boats for the Navy

The Butlers’ control of so much commerce attracted the ire of Commander Porter. In mid-June, 1862, Porter needed tow boats to help move his fleet. But, the nine steamers used for towing were too busy collecting medicines, sugar, salt, and cotton for transport to New Orleans for auction. The officers and crew on these tow boats were not happy either. They did not enlist to help two brothers profit from speculation. Andrew would collect this material and then send it on to New York or Boston for sale. Andrew and Ben had secured these networks all within two months. The Federals occupation only started in late April, 1862.

In Late June, Secretary of the Treasury Chase, a close friend of Benjamin Butler, warned the general that his activities were attracting negative attention. Secretary Chase then sent two agents to investigate these claims. One of the agents, George Denison, was  also a friend of Benjamin Butler. He reported that “everyone” from U.S. government officials to rebels believed the two brothers were acting in concert with Andrew as the front man. Denison reported that Andrew had profited by some one to two million dollars in the past two months. One million dollars in 1862 would be worth about 28 million dollars, today.

Denison wrote to Chase that Andrew was not an employee of the government. He was only in the city to make money, he reported. It looks bad, he said, because the only authority he would have would be through his brother. Yet, at the same time, in a letter to his wife, Denison praised Andrew because he had sent some thousands hogsheads of sugar up North which was prime quality and will pay very well.

Trading with the Enemy

Denison soon changed his view of the general when he located a schooner laden with salt on Lake Pontchartrain. It was destined for the north shore of the inland bay. The north part of the bay was held by the Confederates. Denison told the customs officer to seize it. To Denison, Butler acted surprised someone would ship salt to the enemy. Yet, later that day, Denison learned that Gen. Butler had countermanded the seizure and had released the vessel to continue its journey. Gen. Butler noted the military governor, Col. George F. Shepley had approved the shipment.

But, noted Denison, Gen. Butler did not have lawful authority to countermand a customs officer seizure. Denison later learned that 600 sacks of salt had been transported: 400 sacks were sold to the Confederate army at $25 a sack and 200 were sold to civilians for $36 per sack. Denison later discovered many other shipments of salt, medicines and other supplies across Lake Pontchartrain apparently with Gen. Butler’s blessing  – and more likely originating with “Colonel” Andrew Butler.  

About the time of Denison’s report to Secy. Chase, Commander Porter returned to Washington. Porter informed the Secretary that for a price, Gen. Butler was supplying the rebels with salt, shoes, blankets, flour, etc. These actions, if taken by a Confederate sympathizer, would carry a ten year prison sentence.

In September, Denison confronted Gen. Butler directly. The general simply responded that the government directed that cotton should be shipped from this port. Denison assumed this meant Washington, but his boss, Secy. Chase, neither confirmed or denied Butler’s assertion. Denison admitted in his reports that he had no solid proof that “Colonel” Andrew Butler was behind this trade across the lake.

Again approaching Gen. Butler, Denison persuaded the general that trade with the enemy degraded the character of the government. Gen. Butler said he would talk to Col. Shepley, the military governor of the city about the permits which he had been issuing for this trade. It was Col. Shepley who had been issuing the permits for the trading with the Confederates.

A week later, both Gen. Butler and Col. Shepley agreed with Denison that they would stop the trade after two last shipments.

Bayou Lafourche

But, about this time, Union forces seized control of the parishes across the Mississippi River, known as Bayou Lafourche country. “Colonel” Andrew Butler soon moved in with other speculators and began to seize property owned by Confederate soldiers across the river – just as they had already done in New Orleans. Col. James M. McMillan of the 21st Indiana worked for Andrew Butler and served as his military attaché. The network seized more cotton and sugar which they auctioned at rigged prices in New Orleans and then re-sold at large profits. 

By November, Gen. Butler had persuaded Denison that Andrew Butler was simply acting as a patriot in taking control of plantations and nurturing reconstruction and producing bountiful sugar and cotton crops while employing black labor.

But, the soldiers saw and followed these examples. One company seized a plantation across the river. They stole the silver, whiskey and the ladies’ clothing. A Navy commander saw the theft and reported it up the chain of command to Gen. Butler. Butler threatened to take action against the soldiers, but he also expressed resentment at this “bombastic,” junior Naval officer intruding on Army business.

In December, 1862, Beast Butler was replaced. He had incurred the wrath of some 20 consuls in New Orleans who then complained loudly to their respective governments. How much money did the Butlers profit in New Orleans? They covered their tracks well. But, historians know that Andrew came to New Orleans with little money and no rank in the army. Benjamin came with $150,000. While by 1868, Benjamin claimed assets of $3 million. Andrew died that year and left his sizeable estate to Benjamin. This at a time when assets of more than $4,000 generally placed a person in the upper class of American society.

See more about Gen. Benjamin Butler here.


Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 181-196