|Find A Grave Photo/Donald Carson|
I've been soldiering away this week on that roster of Lucas County's war dead --- Civil War through Somalia --- that I'm aiming to finish up and pass on by mid-February. This project has been going on off and on for several years, but has to be finished up now so that the names can be inscribed and placed in Veterans Memorial Park.
I've accumulated the names over the years, but now each --- about 260 total --- has to be double-checked and details confirmed. That's a major challenge when it comes to the Civil War. Lucas County sent some 700 young men off to fight; 150 of them didn't come home. Curiosity gets the best of me when I'm working on this, so I spend too much time figuring out family relationships, looking up unit histories, trying to figure out why soldiers died where they did and, in several instances, trying to determine a burial place. When all I really have to do is come up with an accurate list of names and make sure all are spelled correctly.
Harvey L. Carson's burial place is one of those puzzles. The bones of this young man almost undoubtedly rest among the "unknowns" at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, near St. Louis, relocated there once the war had ended. His tombstones (two of them, one old and the other newer) are located in the Monmouth, Illinois, cemetery, however, east of Burlington, Iowa, and a considerable distance from St. Louis. These almost certainly are cenotaphs, but why Monmouth, Illinois?
Harvey, whose parents were Franklin and Sarah (Hines) Carson, was born 19 September 1841 in Harrison County, Ohio, and reportedly was visiting his older brother, John B. Carson, in Lucas County, Iowa, when --- overcome by the excitement of war as young men sometimes are --- he enlisted at Chariton on 3 August 1862 in Company K, 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Two other Carson brothers, William F. and Isaac Newton, also would locate in Lucas County and raise their families here.
The 34th Iowa mustered in Burlington on 15 October 1862 and, during November, set off downriver for Arkansas where its men participated in a number of engagements, including the Union Victory at Arkansas Post on the 10th and 11th of January, 1863, that resulted in the capture of more than 4,000 Confederate troops.
The men of the 34th were assigned to escort these prisoners of war upriver to Camp Douglas, Chicago, where they were to be interned.
The journey turned into a nightmare --- some 5,000 men both Union and Confederate crammed onto three riverboats. Diseases of all sorts spread like wildfire because of unsanitary conditions and close quarters. It took two weeks to reach St. Louis after stops in Memphis and elsewhere where the sick, dying and dead were removed.
Harvey became ill as St. Louis neared and apparently was among the 100 or so men put ashore at Arsenal Island to receive treatment. He died on 15 February of pneumonia at New House of Refuge General Hospital and reportedly was buried at Christ Church Cemetery, a burial ground that had been closed to civilians prior to the war and was emptied of military graves after the war ended. Military burials were relocated to Jefferson Barracks, but in many instances were by now unidentifiable if no longer associated with the wooden markers erected when they were first buried. This apparently is what happened to Harvey's remains.
Harvey had an uncle, Walter Carson, who lived near Monmouth, Illinois, so he probably would have been the one responsible for placing that first cenotaph --- now badly weathered --- in the Monmouth Cemetery. Perhaps uncle and nephew were especially close. Who knows?
During 1937 an effort was underway in Monmouth to ensure that the graves of all Civil War veterans were appropriately marked and a new government-issue stone was ordered and placed to supplement the original deteriorated stone.
But there still are puzzling aspects to this --- a young man born in Ohio who enlisted and served officially from Lucas County then died and was buried in St. Louis, whose only memorial is located in the middle of Illinois.