My Confederate in the Graveyard
I have a cemetery out back of my house. I think of it as "mine" even though it's not technically on my property; it's an old family graveyard of people who came here long before I knew the place existed. People stop by occasionally, genealogists mostly, looking for the final resting place of some distant kinfolk. We did a big cleanup on it this last spring; this stopped after the ticks came out and by now you again wouldn't know anybody had walked there in a hundred years.
There are at least four Civil War veterans buried there. Three of them have "stock" Union headstones, the marble rounded-top rectangles you see in any national cemetery. Then there's the other boy. My Confederate in the graveyard.
There's nothing to denote his affiliation on the stone; I had tolook up his name on the net to find out he served in Company C of the 55th Infantry, CSA. Here's what it says:
ANDREW J I
SON OF JR & G MURPHEY
BORN NOV. 10 1838
D. MAY 8, 1862
Died on the field of battle
twas noble thus to die
God smiles on valiant soldiers
his record is on high
What field did he die on? Well, May 8 1862 was a month after the Battle of Shiloh, which took place about 50 miles south of here. Then again it was just three months after the battles around Fort Donelson, which is about 50 miles northeastish of here. Much digging in local libraries has failed to turn up any mention of Andy Jackson Murphy (that's how the records show the spelling; then again stonecutters usually charge by the letter so I doubt his kinfolk would have paid for an unnecessary "e" in his last name unless they thought it was supposed to be there. And where the I came from, or what it stood for, is likewise a mystery.)
The stone now sits up against a tree; it's been broken off from its base for a good long time judging by the condition of the rock. It is extremely rare to find Union and Confederate soldiers in the same burying ground; maybe a little less so in Tennessee. Thomas Belew, my highest-ranking Unionist as a captain with the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, didn't seem to have any problem sharing burial turf with a secessionist, so I can't see how anybody else has a right to object either.
Nov. 11 has always had a different meaning to me than it did for most people because it was my grandmother's birthday. In fact *the* Nov. 11, that became Armistice Day, was the day she turned 18. I always thought, and still do, that it was entirely a great idea that her birthday be a national holiday. The last couple of years--she died Nov. 22 2002--I was kinda bummed out on this night, but make a little more peace with it every time it comes around.
But since I've gotten to know the folks out in my graveyard, I try to spend a little time on this evening with them. Sort of a Day of the Dead a couple weeks late. Pour a little bit out of the wineglass as libation--if any of them were Temperance, they have yet to raise any objection, so I intend to keep on with this habit.
This was supposed to be some sort of deep and profound post on whether or not to "die on the field of battle" is indeed anything that can be regarded as "noble thus to die," but in the end I don't suppose that's any of my business to judge, or yours for that matter.
Would Andy J. Murphey rather have lived to 102 and died of pneumonia in a nursing home in Iowa? Considering that I don't even believe in an afterlife, I still have a perverse hope that someday I would get to ask him this question.