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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

George Stokes - Died in Civil War

Contributed by Betty Tripp

Site visitor Betty Tripp is researching the Stokes family as they married into her line. She has discovered the following information on Private George Stokes of Springfield, Erie, PA. Both his parents are buried at East Springfield Cemetery and share a grave marker with Silas and Hannah Greene.

George Stokes of Erie, Pennsylvania

Born 1841 Erie, Pennsylvania; Died 23 Jan 1865 at Confederate Prison, Salisbury, NC. His parents were William P. and Mary Stokes of Springfield, Erie, PA. William is the son of John Stokes and Margaret Peters.

William and Mary Stokes had three children: George born in 1841; Sarah Caroline born in 1843 and Eva Viola 1855. The 1850 Federal Census for McKean, Erie, PA shows them with George and Sarah. The 1860 Federal Census for Conneaut, Erie, PA shows George at home at the age of twenty and Eva V. age 5. Sarah C. had left home.

On 29 February 1864 George was mustered into the 63rd Co C Pennsylvania Volunteers. The Company was recruited in Beaver County. He proceeded to James City where the body of troops was encamped.

The 63rd was involved in many battles during the 1864 Campaign. On the 9th of September 1864 the enlistments for many expired. George was transferred to the Ninety-ninth, and by 19 September 1864 was transferred to the One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania. Later he was captured and sent to a Confederate prison in the North Carolina.

The only Confederate Prison in North Carolina was located in small town Salisbury. The prison was a three-story cotton factory on 16 acres. The empty twenty-year-old building was of red brick and was located near the railroad. The prisoners would arrive every day by boxcars. The compound also included six brick tenements, a superintendent's house, a smith shop and other buildings. A wooden stockade was later added. Inside this wall was a trench about 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep called the "deadline." One would be shot without question if found in this area.


The prison compound was designed for 2,500 men, but by the fall of 1864 there were 5,000 prisoners. The buildings by this time were taken over for hospital use causing the men to seek shelter outside in overcrowded tents during the winter. The death rate increased. Many men died of starvation or disease. Burials had been in coffins and separate graves. After October 1864 due to the high death rate, the prison resorted to a "mass burial system." The bodies were collected daily, counted in the death house (the old blacksmith shop) and loaded on a wagon "hatless, shoeless and coatless." At 2:00 PM each day this wagon went to an abandoned cornfield where they were buried.

That burial ground consisted of eighteen trenches 240 feet long later marked with headstones and footstones. There are no records of the soldiers who were buried in these mass graves. The estimate of those buried there run from 5,000 - 11,700 Union soldiers. The cemetery is today called the Salisbury National Cemetery.

Colonel Oscar A. Mack, the inspector of cemeteries, said in his report of 1870-71, "The bodies were placed one above the other, and mostly without coffins. From the number of bodies exhumed from a given space it was estimated that the number buried in these trenches was 11,700. The number of burials from the prison pen cannot be accurately known."

George Stokes was among the soldiers not identified on the roster of this prison. Army records show that he is buried among the many men that Pennsylvania lost here.

Sources: Louis A Brown, The Salisbury Confederate Prison
The Historic Salisbury National Cemetery website
Army Roster records for PA 63rd Regiment and PA 105th Regiment also found online in the book by Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5; Vol III; Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1870; pp. 526 and 806.

This page was last updated on  Saturday, November 1, 2008 .

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