Who Is/Was Buried In Grave #63 At Camp Chase Cemetary

By Dennis Ranney of the SCV and Joanie Jackson of the UDC

Recently, a routine ancestral inquiry was posed by a member of the Hilltop Historical Society to a member of SCV Camp #1535. A descendant wanted to know more information about her Confederate ancestor who had died and had been buried at the Camp Chase Cemetery. The soldier’s name was listed as H. A. Adkins of Company E of the 16th Regiment Virginia Cavalry. However Private Adkins of the 16th Virginia Cavalry does not have a headstone with an inscription at the Camp Chase Cemetery. So where is Private Adkins? The answer to this riddle would prove to be more than just routine and added just one more layer to the never-ending discovery that is the captivating history of the Camp Chase Cemetery near Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio.

For more than two decades the compiler has been working on the Camp Chase soldiers’ biographies, with the compilation currently approaching three million words. The biographies include those soldiers at the Camp Chase Cemetery who have tombstones with inscriptions (and remember, H.A. Adkins does not have an inscribed headstone at Camp Chase). Because the wealth of information contained within the biographies is so vast and comprehensive, the biographies provide not only beginning leads for those doing primary research, but also contributes the kind of much needed raw data (unlike data found for other prison camps of the period) for in-depth research. The research material, collected over the span of years, is constantly being reviewed and revised as new knowledge is found. One factor in the effort to make the information as accurate as possible has historically included many trips to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C.

Sites such as Find A Grave can provide useful information for individuals; however, the accuracy of the information is dependent upon the contributor of the information for the memorial. Unfortunately, one such disappointing entry, in the opinion of the compiler, at Find A Grave was for Henry A. Adkins. The memorial composition was supposedly created by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, but the specific affiliated camp was not listed. The original contributor is also thought to have posted incorrect information for the soldier’s memorial. The Find A Grave memorial listed the soldier, H. A. Adkins, in the wrong unit, wrong birth year, and incorrect name and also claimed the soldier’s body was reinterred in 1876 to Fairfax County, Virginia (from Adkins’ home area of Wayne County to Fairfax County is currently a distance of more than 425 miles, an great distance in the 1860’s for people to bury a relative). Also shared on the site was a statement that a cenotaph (a site/memorial headstone in memory of someone who’s body is not actually buried at that particular grave) is located at the Camp Chase Cemetery. The compiler knows this to be incorrect as the National Cemetery Administration does not place cenotaphs in national cemeteries. The only correct information found on the site was the date of death, November 11, 1863.

Applying a much-used methodological format to the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) and the Federal United States censuses (conducted every 10 years by the Federal government), research was begun to try and find Private Adkins. The 1850 United States census (collected on July 11, 1850) listed (spelled as) Hezekiah A. Adkins, born about 1834 in Virginia and noted his occupation as a farmer and living in the household of Hezekiah Adkins, born about 1795 in Virginia and noted his occupation to also be a farmer and living with what appears to be the elder Hezekiah’s wife, Sarah Adkins, born about 1799 in North Carolina. Other family household members were: (spelled as) Theddore (corrected to “Theodore” by an ancestry transcriber) Adkins, born about 1825 in Virginia; (spelled as) Evermont (a male) Adkins, born about 1827 in Virginia; Elijah M. Adkins, born about 1828 in Virginia; (spelled as) Ginnett C. (a female) Adkins, born about 1830 in Virginia; Thomas J. Adkins, born about 1832 in Virginia; and (spelled as) Mary E. J. (but corrected by an ancestry transcriber to Mary E. S) Adkins, born about 1836 in Virginia. The family household was living in District 66 in Wayne County, Virginia (what is today known as West Virginia).

The 1860 census (collected on June 15, 1860) listed (spelled as) Hezekiah Adkins, born about 1834 in Virginia and listed as the head of the household and by occupation was a farmer with a real estate value of $500.00 and a personal estate value of $300.00; living with what appears to be his wife Rachel Adkins, born about 1840 in Virginia. Another family household member was (spelled as) Elba M. (a male) Adkins, born about 1859 in Virginia. The family household was living in Wayne County, Virginia (today known as West Virginia) with the nearest Post Office reported as Adkinsville. When reviewing the censuses and seeing the name of the nearest Post Office as Adkinsville, the compiler noted the prevalence of the surname of “Adkins” in both Wayne and Cabell Counties in Virginia (today known as West Virginia).

Federal prisoner of war records listed Private (spelled as) Hezekiah Adkins of Company E of the 16th Regiment Virginia Cavalry on a register of prisoners confined in the Military Prison at Wheeling, Virginia (also known as the Athenaeum Prison – a four story structure built in the mid-1850s at the corner of John and Market Streets; also referred to as “Lincoln’s Bastille; the holding facility housed Confederate prisoners, rebel spies, court martialed soldiers, and “bushwhackers” among others). A physical description of the soldier was made on September 16, 1863 as – age 29; height six feet and one-half inches (somewhat taller than the average five foot seven inches for Civil War soldiers); complexion dark (understandably so since he was a farmer and was out in the sun plying his profession) ; eyes grey (the compiler notes that many, many soldiers’ eye color was listed as “grey”); hair dark, and by occupation had been a farmer. On another description, notation was made that the soldier had “red whiskers”. The soldier’s residence was noted to be Wayne County, Virginia (today’s West Virginia). He had been captured by United States troops in his home area of Wayne County on September 6, 1863. The compiler notes many of the soldiers who served in Company E of the 16th Regiment Virginia Cavalry came from the Wayne County, (West) Virginia area.

On the records for Private Adkins was included the notation “sent to Camp Chase on September 17, 1863”. The compiler notes the train ride from Wheeling, West Virginia to Columbus, Ohio on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was a one-day ride. Private (spelled as) H. A. Adkins of Company E of the 16th Virginia Cavalry was listed as dying of chronic dysentery (a common cause of death during the Civil War for both Union and Confederate soldiers) on November 11, 1863 at Camp Chase and buried in grave #63 (remember that number).

Using the website, Campchase.us, there is a section called “Historical Documents & Records” and within the section, there is a 1907 listing of the Camp Chase graves at that time. Between graves #62 and #63 was the notation of a soldier, H. A. Adkins of Company E of the 16th Virginia Cavalry, with the word “Removed” in the margin beside his name.  The compiler concluded the soldier could not have been interred in grave #62, as the November 9, 1863 death date for the soldier buried in #62, A. J. Russell of Company D, 11th Tennessee Cavalry, was prior to the date of death for Private Adkins. However, it might have been grave 62 ½, as sometimes there was “½” numbers for tombstone enumeration at Camp Chase. To strive for a more complete answer, the compiler looked at the so-called “Book of Confederate Dead”. Based on the compiler’s prior experience, there was a good possibility that Private Adkins’ grave number would be listed. It was listed as grave #63 and to the side of the listing was the date December 23rd (the compiler assumed that the complete date was December 23, 1863).

If the assumptions are correct, the current soldier “occupant” of grave #63 would have been buried on or after December 23, 1863. W. B. Wright of Company E, 5th Kentucky Cavalry was buried on December 24, 1863 in grave number 63! From the gleaned information, it appears the grave was not even filled in with dirt after they removed the body of Hezekiah A. Adkins. The grave didn’t even get “cold” before it was occupied again. IF the correct death/burial ordering of graves had been followed, W. B. Wright should have been buried in grave #88 and not #63. However, Private Wright was placed almost immediately upon his death in Private Adkins’ old grave of #63 at Camp Chase Cemetery. Also using this same information, it can be assumed that during the war, the soldiers at Camp Chase were not buried as mass graves in trenches as has been a supposition of some. How else would those who disinterred Mr. Adkins know to go exactly to grave #63? If a mass trench burial has taken place, it would have been impossible to extract only Mr. Adkins’ remains. First hand testimony from a Confederate prisoner at Camp Chase in 1864 relates that he saw bodies of dead comrades placed in pine coffins and with chalk, the prisoner’s name and unit was denoted on the coffin lid. It is thought that after the end of the war in 1869 when remains of Confederate prisoners buried in Ohio were gathered and brought to either Camp Chase Cemetery or Johnson’s Island Cemetery from East City Cemetery, Cincinnati cemeteries, and other cemeteries that those soldiers were likely reburied in trenches of mass burial.    

So who actually was buried in grave #63? Depends on what time frame to which a person is referring. Grave #63 had been the grave of two different soldiers. Because Hezekiah A. Adkins’ wife, Rachel, and two of his three sons are buried in Wayne County, West Virginia, it is believed that he too was disinterred from Camp Chase grave #63 and taken back home, likely arriving around Christmas of 1863, using the one-day rail time referenced earlier.

The compiler notes many the marble tombstones were installed at the Camp Chase Cemetery in the spring of 1908 and made by the Blue Ridge Marble Company in Nelson, Georgia at a charge of $2.90 per tombstone. A Mr. Smalley installed the permanent headstones at a cost of 15 cents per tombstone. There are two registers for the Confederate dead and one of those listings, already mentioned, was the 1907 register. The other register was the 1912 register, which to date has not been posted on the Campchase.us site yet.

This journey is exemplary of how one single thread leads in so many directions. Twists and turns which do not always arrive at a definitive or desired conclusion. A fact which makes Civil War research so fascinating, but yet so difficult at times.

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