Since I first became interested in Ouachita parish history, I have heard the local story that the Confederate monument in Monroe’s Old City cemetery sits on top of the burials of Confederate soldiers. Most of them would have come from the Confederate Hospital that was set up in Monroe during the Civil War. I have even seen an early postcard photo of the monument where someone drew an arrow to the mound and made the notation that Confederate dead were there. I had never found anything to prove that legend other than oral history. As a matter of fact, there was more to disprove it than to prove it! Sometime in the recent past, someone ran ground penetrating radar over the mound and found no burials. That was that. It was settled then. No bodies were buried under the mound. How wrong we were.
A patron came into the Genealogy department in June, asking about the history of the monument. I had previously found a few articles for another patron several years ago in a free database of digitized newspapers called Chronicling America. From them I had found that the United Confederate Veterans had funded most of the monument and had it built in 1896. The UCV soon ran into financial difficulties. The United Daughters of the Confederacy stepped in, helped finish building the monument and finished paying it off. Monroe area newspapers are missing from the 1890’s so these articles about Monroe from other newspapers were treasures.
As I was about to start helping this new patron, the thought struck me that I now had access to the newspapers.com database. I had never searched for information on the monument in the state newspapers found there. I started in 1897 and worked my way back to 1895, which was the year it was decided to build the monument. Lo and behold, I hit pay dirt in the Shreveport Times newspaper of December 16, 1896 with the following article headlined Monroe. Removing the Confederate Dead.:
Special to the Times.
The work of removing the bones of the one hundren [sic] and twenty-six Confederates from the southeast corner of the city cemetery to the base of the Confederate monument has been completed. A mound will be built over them and this will be sodded – a fitting resting place for all that is left of the brave dead. The removal was done by “Uncle” John Fullam.
As a side note, Mr. Fullam, who moved the bodies, was a wounded Confederate veteran himself. He came from County Dublin, Ireland in 1852 and served with the 31st Louisiana Regiment. John and a possible brother Richard Fullam were sextons of the cemetery.
Another article from the Shreveport Times added a little more data. The newspaper, dated December 10, 1896 states, “…most of them were men who belonged to Texas regiments[.]” Local researchers have told me that John G. Walker’s Texas Division came through Monroe with their wounded after the battle of Milliken’s Bend. A good chunk of the men may have come from this Division.
Here was proof of the old legend, right there in black and white computer pixels! I was blown away! I would venture to guess the previous efforts with the radar equipment did not peer far enough down to see the disturbed earth. The bodies are under the mound, not in it!