Confederate Burial Ground at Hopkinsville

Identification of the Confederate Burial Ground at Hopkinsville, Kentucky, 2014 and 2015

William Meacham

This excavation was the culmination of a project to locate the Confederate burial ground that began in 2004 when I came across an account of the 1899 discovery of the “old notebook.” Written in 1862, its record of the 227 graves and precise description of the burial layout together with the names of the soldiers row-by-row intrigued and challenged me as an archaeologist. It seemed a large and easy archaeological target in the roughly two acres comprising the northern end of the old Potter’s Field in the city cemetery.

The ealry work involved research on the epidemic of 1861-62 that killed these soldiers, and the deed of 1854 showing the land purchased by the city for the cemetery. This was followed by a ground penetrating radar study that did not produce any evidence of graves.

An excavation proposal received unanimous support of the Christian County Historical Society and the City Council. A permit was obtained from the Kentucky Office of State Archaeology, and phase I (trial trenching) was conducted in October 2014. After 10 days of digging in the low-lying areas and finding not a single grave, a trial trench on the slightly higher ground revealed two small graves, probably children’s, and three large ones. The trenching made it very clear that burials were to be found in the higher ground, not in the “valley” as had been mentioned in a newspaper report in 1886. This was a crucial discovery. [trenching in progress]

[trenching in progress]

In 2015, approval was obtained from the cemetery manager for a backhoe to open several large pits of 6 to 8 m in length and 4.5 to 6 m width to a depth of about 1m. Work began on Oct. 12, 2015. These pits were opened up skillfully by the machine operator in under two hours.

Very fine and precise scraping with a mini-hoe enabled us to reveal 30 Confederate grave shafts in the main pit (CD). However, the soil was different in the nearby pit XY, the gravecuts there much less visible against the matrix and standard troweling techniques were necessary to reveal them. In sum, graves in rows 1-5, 8, and 9 were exposed, and the location of rows 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12 could be confidently predicted. [scraping by minihoe]

[pit CD and environs]

Pit CD under excavation

[graves in XY]

Grave cuts outlined in pit XY

An aerial view of the excavation can be seen currently on Google Earth by entering "Riverside Cemetery, Hopkinsville, KY" in the search box.

[aerial view of excavation]

The unexpected highlight of the excavation was the discovery of a cast iron coffin with a nameplate identifying the soldier buried within. The nameplate reads: "W.H.Pate, Tippa county Mississippi, 3rd Regiment"

[cast iron coffin]

A great debt of gratitude is owed to certain individuals whose strong support over the last few years made this project possible: Councilwoman Marby Schlegel, county historian William Turner, cemetery manager Mike Perry, city administrative officer Nate Pagan, and Sons of Confederate Veterans local camp leader Larry Walston. A generous grant was provided to the project from a foundation directed by Gene Cravens of Lexington.


L to R: William Turner, Nate Pagan, Mayor Carter Hendricks, William Meacham

[SCV national director]

Col. Mike Landree (ret.), national director of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, drove up from Columbia, Tennessee to see the excavation in progress

The Burial Layout

One of the unique things about this Civil War burial ground is the fact that a precise burial layout with names existed in the 1862 record. The large-scale excavation we did provided a clear picture of the layout of the graves, notably the spacing between rows and individual graves, allowing at least rows 1 to 12 to be projected. The nameplate on the iron coffin in row 4 confirmed the precise recording in the 1862 notebook.

Rows 13-18 were probably exhumed in 1886 and the remains of those men placed under a monument to the Confederate Dead. Recent graves now occupy the area where those rows would have been.

[burial plan revealed by excavation]

The names of the soldiers buried in rows 1 to 12 as recorded in the 1862 notebook are listed below, in order from south to north for each row. The dotted lines in the burial layout represent the estimated location of the graves in each row; solid lines are those that are confirmed. (Small graves are of children).

More information on this work can be obtained from the author at (NB: remove "not" for the correct address).

Row 1

E. Jett, 8th KY
Jesse Knight, 8th KY
E.W. Humphreys, 8th KY
N.J. Bracken, Forest’s Cavalry
Robert E. Breckinridge, 8th KY
F.M. Erson, 8th KY
Edward Vaughan, 8th KY
Michael Gamarton, 8th KY
Ferris E. McDowell, 8th KY
Claiborne Sandafur, 8th KY
Charles Hughes, 8th KY
(Captain) P.E. Ross, 8th KY
W.W. Fortune , no unit given
F.J. Vincent, 1st Miss.
Semple Davis, 1st Miss.
Hiram Gish, 1st Miss.
J.W. Whaleer, 1st Miss.
J.A. Birger, 1st Miss.
John Brogan, 1st Miss.
J.E. Huggins, 8th KY
John Buntin, 8th KY
George Cannon, 8th KY cavalry
German Baker, 8th KY
J.T. Whitlow, 8th KY

Row 2

Daniel Seymore, Forest’s Cavalry
F.M. Smith, Forest’s Cavalry
M. Winner, 3rd Miss.
J.W. Wilkinson, 3rd Miss.
John Gray, 8th KY
Sgt. W.D. McCloud, 3rd Miss.
James Bolivar, no unit given
W.E. Wincham, 3rd Miss.
J.B. Ferril, 3rd Miss.
James M. Carpenter, 3rd Miss.
Samuel Barkley, 3rd Miss.
J.J. Henderson, 1st Miss.
David J. McCraw, 3rd Miss.
George W. Chinn, 3rd Miss.
H.J. Hill, 3rd Miss.
George P. Green, 3rd Miss.
J.O. Steel , 2nd Miss.
W.J. Bottoms, 3rd Miss.
J.H. Bacon, 8th KY
Edmund Morgan, 3rd Miss.
Joel O. Hall, 3rd Miss.

Row 3

W.P. Mosely, 7th TX
W.T. Christian, 7th TX
J.T. Hall, no unit given
C.C. Singleton, 1st Miss.
W.G. McGlenan, 8th KY
Young Asher, 8th KY
P.L. Tippet, 8th KY
Ira Rualis, no unit given
A. Combs, 8th KY
W. Todd, 8th KY

Row 4

R.T. McAnulty, 1st Miss.
W. Singleton, 3rd Miss.
W.H. Late, 3rd Miss. [Pate on the coffin nameplate]
James W. Hines, 3rd Miss.
James Palmer, 3rd Miss.
J.W. Northlott, 1st Miss.

Row 5

Peter A. Sewant, 3rd Miss.
Joseph Baxter, 3rd Miss.
W.J. Haister, 1st Miss.
John West, 3rd Miss.
E.W. Smith, 3rd Miss.
B. Adare, no unit given

Row 6

Phil Wilkerson, 3rd Miss.
William Utely, 8th KY
W.W. Crow, 3rd Miss.
John Farney, 3rd Miss.
J.W. Burton, 3rd Miss.
Harmon Newson, 3rd Miss.
T.F. Davenport, no unit given
J.W. Lawler, 3rd Miss.
Calvin Maffitte, 3rd Miss.
J.M. Reed, 1st Miss.
J.H. Williams, Miss. Vol.
J.O. Reece, Miss. Vol.
T. Perkins, 3rd Miss.
Lewellyn Bryan "aged 18--good boy" no unit given

Row 7

A.J. Lucas, 1st Miss.
J.B. Morgan, 3rd Miss.
J.F. McBride, 3rd Miss.
V.D. Roney, 3rd Miss.
R.J. Southerland, 3rd Miss.
Isaah W. James, 3rd Miss.
Joel Cooper, 3rd Miss.
J. Davis, 3rd Miss.

Row 8

William Tumblin, 3rd Miss.
Hugh M. Crowell, 1st KY Cavalry
Nicholas Bennet, 1st KY Cavalry
William A. Abner, 1st KY Cavalry

Row 9

N. Davis, Forest’s Cavalry
R.J. Dyer, Forest’s Cavalry
John Young, Forest’s Cavalry
Henry Moore, Forest’s Cavalry
William T. Henry, Forest’s Cavalry

Row 10

O.C. McKinney, 8th KY
Thomas M. McIntyre, 8th KY
Henry Oldham, 8th KY

Row 11

L.G. Williams, Green's Artillery
George Rice, no unit given
Daniel Todd, no unit given
John Robert, no unit given
W. Bradford, no unit given
W. Mathings , no unit given
W.G.G. Whitney, 7th TX
John W. Long, 3rd Miss.
G.C. Harelson, 8th KY

Row 12

Washington Hall, “man of col; Hill’s company, Griggs’ regiment, [7th] Texas. No date. This old man was a faithful servant to his master and died much beloved by his company.”
F.F. Vandersyice, 7th Texas
F.H.Smith, 7th Texas
John F. Oliver, 7th Texas
J.J. George, 7th Texas
R.G. Dunbar, 7th Texas
James Robinson, 7th Texas
H.M. Story, 7th Texas
Thomas Clanton, 7th Texas
John R. Williams, 7th Texas
J. Hardin, 7th Texas
H.W. Spade, 7th Texas
R.W. sparks, 7th Texas
Robert Craney, 7th Texas
Miles Howell, 8th KY
John Dunning, 8th KY

It is highly probable that the exhumation of 1886 and reburial of remains under the Confederate monument involved only rows 13 to 18. There were 101 men buried in those rows, and 101 sets of skeletal remains were exhumed. It is difficult to ascribe that to coincidence. But until confirmed by further excavation, it remains possible that Rows 11 and 12 were also involved. If so, some of the burials may have been missed, or retrieved by family members during or right after the war. It is also possible that some in Row 12 were disturbed afterwards by new burial activity if it does not survive intact next to the road. The remains of most or all of the men named below (from Rows 13 to 18) were re-buried under the monument in 1886. All are from the 7th Texas except where noted.

R. F. Allen
J. R. Ballinger
J. N. Barnwell
John K. Bledsoe
Lieut. I. P. Bassett
E. A. Beaver
W. H. J. Burke
Wallis Beard
John W. Cross
M. J. Clough
Ben Carr.
D. B. Dawson, Forest's Cavalry
J. W. Davis
William L. Everette
M. J. Elkin
W. B. Ely
Isaac Ferguson
B. F. Fambraough
M. A. Feathers
Thomas Funcker
A. L. Goff.
L. L. Holloway
E. Hooper [unit not given]
R. Hudson
M. N. Howe
J. N. Hayes
T. J. Harper
Job Johnson, Forest's Cavalry
J. T. Jones
Robert Jarmen
James Kelew, 3rd Miss.
I.M. Knowle
Henry J. Lard, 3rd Miss.
William Letty
W. W. Lewis
B. F. Lambeth
W. B. Membranie
William Murray
Newton Melton
P. K. Murray
John W. McClary
John Mills
W. B. Middleton
L. Martin
P. B. Martin
C.N. Mc, Huey's Ky Cavalry
P. J. Naylor
W. W. Naylor
John F. Oliver.
James Palmer, 3rd Miss.
William Palmer
J. L. Payneto
S. U. Peiry
George W. Pegues
A. W. Pearson
John M. Payne
I. Percival
Cicero M. Potts, "age 18" 3rd Miss.
J. T. Potts, 3rd Miss.
William Roe, Forest's Cavalry
W. W. Rozell
W. J. Roberts
E. T. Stephens
Bailey Sypert
J. A. Strain
George W. Stewart
Henry Sordon
C. F. Scarborough
W. Sansbaugh
John Scott
J. Shelbourn
John D. Trice
J.W. Taylor
W.F. Thompson
James Thomas
James L. Traitor, Huey’s Ky Cavalry
Matthew Tyner, 3rd Miss.
Thos. J. Teyner, 3rd Miss.
F. Utzman
L.H. Vercher
John C. Wallace
J.T. Waller
W.M. Webster
D.B. Webster
J. Wilson
James E. Watson
G.H. Wilson
J.A. Youngblood

14 burials were listed as "unknown"