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Private Edwin Jemison

The Final Resting Place of Edwin Jemison

Hugh T. Harrington

©2004 Hugh T. Harrington
                Published: The Baldwin Bulletin, April 1, 2004
 
 

        My wife Sue and I spend a lot of time working with cemeteries.  Sue is the creator and webmaster of the Baldwin/Hancock/Jones Counties cemetery website www.friendsofcems.org which brings us frequent inquiries from all over the world about the cemeteries and the people in them.

        In the early fall of 2001 we received an inquiry from a woman in New York City.  Sue forwarded it to me as I handle many of the historical questions.  The woman wanted an opinion as to whether or not Edwin Jemison, the Confederate soldier with the famous photograph, was actually buried in Memory Hill.  I replied to the inquiry saying I didn’t think that despite his name being on a gravestone he was buried here.  I suspected that he was buried at Malvern Hill, in Virginia, where he was killed in 1862.  However, I did not have any proof.

        That exchange of emails was the start of a flood of correspondence between us.  I discovered that this woman is an historian named Alexandra Filipowski who had studied the prominent families of Milledgeville in astonishing detail.  She knew not only their genealogies but their business relationships and property ownership for generations all over central Georgia.

        We decided that it would be worthwhile to determine just where Jemison was buried, if we could.  Even though Jemison was only a private in a Louisiana regiment we thought that, as he was the grandson of Milledgeville’s prominent Baradell Stubbs, he might have been given an obituary in the Milledgeville newspapers.  I went to the library and started looking in the old newspapers on microfilm.  Within 15 minutes I had a copy of his obituary in hand.  The obituary says, in part, “May He who maketh wars to cease, comfort the sorrowing parents whose boy lies, buried by loving hands, on the battle field near Richmond,” making it clear that at the time of his death in 1862 he was buried with other fallen soldiers.  I phoned Alexa at her office in New York with this exciting news and read the obituary to her.

        I then went down to Memory Hill Cemetery and analyzed the lot where Jemison’s monument stands.  There was space for Jemison to be buried there in 1862.  However, if he had been buried there, then there would not have been room for all the people that are now buried there.  There simply is not enough space.  Another clue that Jemison is not buried in Memory Hill.

        Alexa and I  looked into the possibility of the body being returned to Milledgeville for burial after the war, but determined that it was not brought back.  We decided that as Edwin Jemison is a face known everywhere we would write a magazine article on his burial.  We wrote the article together, passing revised and re-revised versions of it back and forth by email until we had an article we were satisfied with.  We then sent it to a magazine for publication.

        Alexa’s interest in Milledgeville led me to doing the unthinkable.  I invited my co-author, a woman I had never met, to visit Sue and me.  I should hasten to point out that I had Sue’s approval.  Alexa then did the unthinkable; she accepted.

        She visited here in April 2002.  I was continually amazed at the knowledge she has of Milledgeville and the people who lived here.  She was charming and enthusiastic as we went about doing research and visiting places she had located, most of which I was totally unaware even existed.  We drove all over central Georgia visiting in homes, and inspecting ruins of foundations of homes, where prominent people connected with Milledgeville had once lived.  We visited with wonderful people both in Milledgeville and elsewhere who invited us into their homes and shared history with us.  Alexa took copious notes and also tape recorded interviews.

        On April 26 we went to Memory Hill for Confederate Memorial Day.  To our utter astonishment a memorial to Edwin Jemison was unveiled.  To our way of thinking this Memorial to the memory of Edwin Jemison is a great idea.  Thomas Jefferson has a wonderful Memorial in Washington, D.C., yet he’s not buried there; he’s buried at Monticello.  Same for Edwin Jemison, he’s not buried here, he’s at Malvern Hill.  People will remember Jemison for a long time; his photograph is responsible for that.  It may be that Private Edwin Jemison is the only Private in either army who has a monument in his honor.

        People come here and stand before that Monument, as I have often witnessed, for a moment of silence or thought or prayer for a man whom many see as representing the  soldiers of the Confederacy.  I would suspect that those standing by that monument find that it is a place to focus remembrance and mourning for those who died in all wars and are buried here, and everywhere else far from home.  It might be that those, like Edwin Jemison, who lie in unmarked graves are also remembered.

        The article my friend Alexa Filipowski and I wrote, “Where Does Private Edwin Jemison Rest?,” is published in the May issue of America’s Civil War.
 

submitted by Hugh Harrington, Milledgeville, Ga