If You Died in the Civil War, Your Enemies Would Loot Your Corpse of Everything—Including Your Underwear


On a misty Kentucky morning, Accomplice Brig. Gen. Felix Kirk Zollicoffer’s physique lay on the muddy floor surrounded by gawking Union Military troopers. “What in hell are you doing right here?” a Federal officer shouted on the males because the Battle of Mill Springs swirled on January 19, 1862. “Why are you not on the stretchers bringing within the wounded?”

“That is Zollicoffer,” one in all them replied, gesturing towards the corpse.

“I do know that,” the officer mentioned. “He’s useless and couldn’t be despatched to hell by a greater man, for Col. [Speed] Fry shot him; depart him and go to your work!”

Felix Zollicoffer, who was 49 when he was killed at Mill Springs, served briefly within the
U.S. Military in his youthful days, nevertheless it was as a newspaper editor and politician that the native of Maury County, Tenn., had established his lofty status earlier than the warfare. (PMAF Assortment/Alamy Inventory Picture)

Earlier that wintry day, Zollicoffer—a former Tennessee congressman and newspaper editor from Nashville—had by accident ridden his horse into Union strains. After a volley or two, he fell from his mount, fatally shot within the chest. Fry might have fired the bullet that killed the 49-year-old commander, derisively referred to as “Snollegoster” and an “outdated he-devil” by the Yankees, however nobody actually is aware of for positive.

Even after his demise, Union troopers and others focused Zollicoffer, whose physique was looted of outer put on, buttons, hair and even (gasp!) items of his underwear. “Previous Zolly,” although, was not the one fallen commander handled disrespectfully through the Civil Warfare.

Fiends, ghouls, and memento hunters have looted fallen troopers because the daybreak of warfare 1000’s of years in the past. Following the famed remaining showdown between Napoleon and Wellington on the June 1815 Battle of Waterloo, locals and troopers reportedly yanked enamel with pliers from the fallen. However the grotesque act was not some bizarre type of vengeance. Early dental technicians boiled the enamel, chopped off the ends, and positioned them onto ivory dentures. In accordance with the British Dental Affiliation, “Waterloo Enamel” appeared in dental provide catalogs nicely into the 1860s.

At Gettysburg in July 1863, troopers from each side grabbed trophies from the useless. When a 14th Connecticut soldier stooped to look at a fallen Accomplice, a Pickett’s Cost sufferer, he seen the curly-haired, younger man held one thing in his hand, close to his left breast. The soldier broke the Insurgent’s demise grip and examined the article, a daguerreotype of a younger girl in her late teenagers or early 20s. “I prize it as probably the most useful relic of my warfare expertise,” he recalled years later.

Civilians recovered souvenirs from Gettysburg’s fallen, too. Abby Howland Woolsey wrote of her mom, who collected battle mementos from Confederates whereas she served as a nurse: “One, of a insurgent lieutenant who died in her care; and a rating of palmetto buttons from [South Carolina] insurgent coats—soiled however grateful, poor wretches; and so forth.”

In his traditional Civil Warfare memoir, Co. Aytch, Accomplice soldier Sam Watkins—who gave the impression to be in all places within the Western Theater—wrote of his try to grab boots from a fallen Federal colonel:

“He had on the best garments I ever noticed, a purple sash [cloth belt] and effective sword. I significantly seen his boots. I wanted them, and had made up my thoughts to put on them out for him. However I couldn’t bear the considered carrying useless males’s sneakers. I took maintain of the foot and raised it up and made one trial on the boot to get it off. I occurred to search for, and the colonel had his eyes vast open and gave the impression to be looking at me. He was stone useless, however I dropped that foot fast. It was my first and final try to rob a useless Yankee.”

Maybe Watkins would have tried more durable if the person have been a normal.

In a driving rainstorm on the Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill) late within the afternoon of September 1, 1862, Union Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, who misplaced his left arm through the Mexican Warfare, reconnoitered floor earlier than his division. “The Normal rode as much as an entire firm of the enemy, paid no consideration to their demand that he give up, wheeled his horse and began again,” an aide recalled.

A Accomplice firm fired a volley, and a bullet pierced the 47-year-old normal’s again, close to the backbone, killing him immediately. Confederates took Kearny’s physique to a discipline hospital. The subsequent day, the final’s stays have been returned to the Union Military—minus his “sword, pistol, watch, diamond brooch, finger rings, and the pocket guide, by which the millionaire normal at all times stored a big sum of money.” Confederates snatched souvenirs from the person they referred to as “The One-Armed Satan.” The Rebels had Bayard, Kearny’s prized horse, too. In the meantime, Military of Northern Virginia commander Robert E. Lee burned the papers discovered with the final, assuming they have been of a “personal nature.”

Like Felix Zollicoffer, Union Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny was killed after mistakenly riding into the midst of enemy soldiers. As shown here, during the fighting at Chantilly (Ox Hill) on September 1, 1862, the popular, one-armed Kearny turned around and tried to ride away, only to be immediately shot near the spine by Confederate soldiers in A.P. Hill’s command. (Historic Images/Alamy Stock Photos)
Like Felix Zollicoffer, Union Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny was killed after mistakenly using into the midst of enemy troopers. As proven right here, through the combating at Chantilly (Ox Hill) on September 1, 1862, the favored, one-armed Kearny rotated and tried to journey away, solely to be instantly shot close to the backbone by Accomplice troopers in A.P. Hill’s command. (Historic Pictures/Alamy Inventory Photographs)

4 days after his demise, Agnes Kearny wrote a letter to Lee looking for the return of her husband’s mount and sword. “Feeling nice sympathy” for the widow, Lee—who admired Kearny—replied on September 28, 1862: “I inquired significantly if his particular person had been disturbed and was knowledgeable that his uniform didn’t seem to have been disturbed; however that he was mendacity underneath care of a guard within the situation by which he was introduced from the sector with out his facet arms and hat.”

After Lee consulted together with his authorities, Confederates returned Kearny’s sword—“a lightweight one with a leather-based scabbard appropriate for a disabled particular person.” It was personal property of a former fellow officer, Lee determined. Rebels despatched Bayard and Kearny’s saddle by means of the strains for Military of the Potomac commander George B. McClellan to ahead to Agnes. “I encourage you to just accept my thanks on your courteous and humane consideration to the request of the widow of this lamented officer,” McClellan wrote Lee. However the remainder of the booty snatched from Kearny remained with the Military of Northern Virginia.

On July 3, 1863, Accomplice Brig. Gen. Richard B. Garnett was killed throughout Pickett’s Cost. Though he wore a virtually new uniform coat with a normal’s star and wreath on the collar, high-top boots, and spurs, the stays have been by no means publicly recognized, and his remaining resting place stays unknown. “Inexplicable,” Accomplice veteran James Clay, Garnett’s orderly, mentioned many years later.

“Normal Garnett was gallantly waving his hat and cheering the boys on to renewed efforts towards the enemy,” recalled Clay, an 18th Virginia personal. “I keep in mind that he wore a black felt hat with a silver twine. His sword hung at his facet.”

Good boots, regardless of the earlier proprietor, have been a useful commodity for any Civil Warfare soldier. Accomplice Personal Sam Watkins (above) later wrote of his failed try to grab a pair from a “useless Yankee” colonel. (HN Archives; Heritage Auctions, Dallas)

After Clay fell amongst rocks, he overlooked the 45-year-old commander through the “life and demise wrestle” with Union troopers. Then Garnett’s wounded black charger, its proper shoulder apparently shot off by Union artillery, galloped out of the battle smoke.

“At the moment quite a few the Federals threw down their arms and began throughout the sector to our rear,” Clay recalled. “Two of those deserters got here to the clump of rocks the place [a Confederate captain] and I have been and requested to be allowed to help us to our rear, clearly for mutual security, and the type proffer was accepted. These males instructed us that our brigade normal had been killed, having been shot by means of the physique on the waist by a grape shot.”

Slightly than trying to get well Garnett’s physique and accoutrements within the excessive chaos, Clay sought medical consideration at a discipline hospital for his shot-off proper index finger and head wound. “The place was like a slaughter pen—legs, arms, arms, and so forth., all piled up,” he recalled.

A Accomplice employees officer reportedly recovered Garnett’s watch, however the ornately inscribed saber remained with the final’s physique. Years afterward, George H. Steuart, who commanded a Accomplice brigade at Gettysburg, bought the then-rusty relic in a Baltimore junk store. After Steuart’s demise, the final’s nephew acquired the saber. He finally gave the “valuable heirloom” to Garnett’s niece.

Whether or not a Johnny Reb or Billy Yank picked up the relic from Garnett is unknown. The way it ended up in a Maryland junk store stays an extra thriller. What’s indeniable is the situation of the relic at this time: The American Civil Warfare Museum in Richmond, Va.

At the Wilderness on Could 6, 1864, Union Brig. Gen. James Wadsworth suffered an identical destiny as Kearny. As Confederates pressed an assault close to the Plank Highway, a bullet crashed into the again of the silver-haired millionaire’s head, splashing brains upon an aide’s coat. The aide frantically tried to take away a gold watch from the 56-year-old officer’s outdoors coat pocket. However as Confederates swarmed the realm, he didn’t have time. So, he scrambled upon the final’s horse and rode like hell again to Union strains.

Like frenzied locusts ravaging a cornfield, Confederates looted the helpless Wadsworth, who died two days later in enemy arms. His sword, boots, buttons from his coat, the gold watch, a Virginia map, silver spurs, a billfold containing $90, and elaborately engraved discipline glasses all disappeared through the maelstrom. Confederates left the white cotton stockings with Wadsworth’s initials stitched in purple thread on the final’s ft.

Richard Garnett was carrying this saber when killed, however the picture itself might or will not be of the final. Conjecture continues on the accuracy of a number of warfare photographs supposedly of Garnett. The Library of Congress identifies this picture as Brig. Gen. Franklin Gardner, however it’s seemingly Garnett, in keeping with a current analysis effort. (Library of Congress; American Civil Warfare Museum)

Shortly after the warfare, a Accomplice veteran returned the watch to the Wadsworth household and was rewarded handsomely. Veterans later returned different gadgets pilfered from the final on the Wilderness. However the engraved discipline glasses—maybe probably the most prized Wadsworth booty of all—remained MIA after the warfare. In 1921, Accomplice Veteran journal ran an obituary of William T. Lowry, an eighth South Carolina personal, who claimed to have shot Wadsworth. Lowry reportedly as soon as had the sector glasses in his possession, however the elaborate artifact supposedly had been destroyed in a fireplace at his home a number of years earlier.

Within the Seventies, nevertheless, the sector glasses resurfaced when a descendant of a South Carolina soldier confirmed the relic to a Nationwide Park Service historian throughout a go to to the Fredericksburg (Va.) space battlefields. He claimed his grandfather had shot Wadsworth, however the man was tired of donating the sector glasses or leaving his title.

In 1985, James Wadsworth Symington—the final’s great-great-grandson and a former Missouri congressman—positioned advertisements in South Carolina newspapers looking for the gloves the final wore and discipline glasses he carried on the Wilderness. However the long-shot effort turned up nothing, and the whereabouts of the relics stay a thriller.

After a sharpshooter’s bullet struck sixth Corps commander Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick within the cheek, killing him immediately, blood spewed “like a fountain” and saturated bushes within the undergrowth. Phrase of the 50-year-old normal’s demise unfold “like an electrical shock” all through the Union Military. Military of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade and different officers wept over the demise of a normal troopers fondly referred to as “Uncle John.” Sedgwick’s capturing rocked general Union commander Ulysses S. Grant as a lot as information of President Lincoln’s assassination the next 12 months.

Lieutenant John G. Fisher of the 14th New Jersey saved a memento of the killing, slicing down a bush upon which Sedgwick bled, letting it dry within the solar, slicing off a five-inch part that fashioned a “Y,” and carving into it the date “Could 9.” After the warfare, he stored it on his mantle, “a reminder of the cold-blooded method by which our gallant commander was killed.” 4 hours after Sedgwick’s demise, Frederick T. Dent, Grant’s brother-in-law and army aide, plucked a violet from the final’s demise website and saved it in a guide.

At Meade’s headquarters, Sedgwick’s stays lay on a bier beneath a bower of evergreens. Earlier than the transportation of the corpse to Washington for embalming, troopers paid their respects. (There have been no reviews of a non-public surreptitiously snipping hairs from Sedgwick’s beard.)

Then, as now, crassness plagued the nation’s capital.

After the embalming at Thomas Holmes’ institution on Pennsylvania Avenue, the final’s physique was visited by a “massive variety of individuals,” the Washington Night Star reported. Not less than one in all them was a memento hunter. Apparently ignoring a guard of 4 troopers close to the corpse, a girl “exhibited a singular pertinacity to obtain a memento of the fallen hero by clipping two buttons from his coat.”

Thieves looted the physique of one of many Confederacy’s most beloved generals, too. At about daybreak on December 1, 1864, the day after the Battle of Franklin, a search get together found Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s physique close to Fountain Carter’s cotton gin, vortex of the bloody combat by which 5 different Accomplice generals fell. The Irish-born Cleburne lay on his again “as if asleep,” his kepi partially overlaying his eyes. The 36-year-old division commander wore a brand new, grey uniform and a white, linen shirt stained with blood.

“He was in his sock ft, his boots having been stolen,” recalled a witness years later. “His watch, sword belt and different valuables have been all gone, his physique having been robbed through the night time.” Cleburne had fallen inside Accomplice strains.

Early within the twentieth century, the .36-caliber Colt revolver Cleburne carried at Franklin turned up with a person in Cleburne, Texas. Then it went lacking for years. In 1944, it was discovered by two boys on the banks of the Nolan River in Texas. In the present day the weapon is within the assortment of the Layland Museum in Cleburne.

Union Maj. Gen. James Wadsworth (above) was mortally wounded during the Wilderness fighting on May 6, 1864 (top), dying on May 8. Among items taken from the general were a lock of his hair and a gold watch, both later returned to Wadsworth’s widow. (Artokoloro/Alamy Stock Photo; Dana B. Shoaf Collection)
Union Maj. Gen. James Wadsworth (above) was mortally wounded through the Wilderness combating on Could 6, 1864 (high), dying on Could 8. Amongst gadgets taken from the final have been a lock of his hair and a gold watch, each later returned to Wadsworth’s widow. (Artokoloro/Alamy Inventory Picture; Dana B. Shoaf Assortment)

Perhaps no fallen Civil Warfare normal suffered as ignominious a destiny as “Previous Zolly,” nevertheless. Days after the Battle of Mill Springs, a newspaper correspondent noticed Zollicoffer’s physique in entrance of the tent of a sutler, wrapped in a blanket. His pores and skin was “superbly white and clear,” the reporter famous, and his face had a “nice expression,” which “grim in demise was not altogether destroyed.” Zollicoffer had shaved off his beard, “in all probability to be able to be much less simply acknowledged,” the correspondent speculated.

However Federals had stripped “Previous Zolly” of his garments, from the white, rubber coat over his uniform to his shirt, undershirt, and socks. An Ohio personal snipped three buttons from his coat. Colonel Velocity Fry claimed to have Zollicoffer’s spyglass and elaborately engraved sword, apparently bent when the fatally wounded normal fell from his horse. (The sword was returned to the Zollicoffer household, in keeping with an 1893 account in The Nationwide Tribune, a veterans’ newspaper. In 2020, the weapon and normal’s sash from the battle bought at public sale for $31,980.)

One other soldier despatched a bit of the final’s bloody undershirt to a pal in Alexandria, Va. “The possession of it made me nervous for awhile,” abolitionist Julia Wilbur wrote in her diary. “It’s a singular & fascinating memento of the Rebel.” Even Zollicoffer’s hair was reduce off near the cranium, apparently by fiendish souvenirs hunters.

“I’m sorry to say that his stays have been outrageously handled by the 1000’s of troopers and residents that flocked to see them,” wrote the newspaper correspondent, in all probability exaggerating the variety of ghouls.

“On Tuesday night the physique was virtually bare,” he added. “This sort of curiosity-hunting borders on vandalism.”

Some vehemently denied the ill-treatment of Zollicoffer’s stays, however the proof is irrefutable. “I’ve a small piece of Zollicoffer’s undershirt,” a Federal soldier bragged, “and a daguerreotype of a secession girl, taken with a variety of different plunder.” An Ohio newspaper reported a Union officer displaying off a bit of the final’s buckskin shirt: “It was very tender, and should have been exceedingly snug if stored dry.”

Every week after the battle, thirty first Ohio Captain John W. Free wrote of the division of Zollicoffer’s garments as trophies—“till orders have been imperatively given not to take action any extra.”

“However his pants and the effective buckskin shirt is little question scatered [sic] everywhere in the totally different States of the North,” the officer added, “as some 4 or 5 totally different states have been right here represented.”

Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, one of six Confederate generals slain at Franklin, was last seen advancing on foot during this charge after his horse was killed. It is unknown whether Union or Rebel soldiers were the thieves of his possessions. (Troiani, Don (b. 1949)/Bridgeman Images)
Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, one in all six Accomplice generals slain at Franklin, was final seen advancing on foot throughout this cost after his horse was killed. It’s unknown whether or not Union or Insurgent troopers have been the thieves of his possessions. (Troiani, Don (b. 1949)/Bridgeman Pictures)

One other Ohioan echoed Free’s account. “When the troopers noticed Zollicoffer’s corpse,” wrote Personal John Boss of the ninth Ohio, “they tore his clothes from his physique, and cut up up his shirt, to be able to have a memento. A Tennessean wished his entire scalp however was prevented from that as a result of a guard was positioned there.”

In a letter to a pal, ninth Ohio quartermaster sergeant Joseph Graeff wrote of Zollicoffer: “Inclosed you will see a lock of his hair and a bit reduce from his pantaloons. Shortly after the battle I hunted for his corpse, and located it mendacity within the mud.”

Union Military authorities finally stopped this macabre nonsense, washed Zollicoffer’s mud-spattered physique, and positioned it in a tent underneath guard. “Having no clothes appropriate by which to decorate him,” a witness recalled, “he was wrapped in a nice-new blanket till they could possibly be procured, after which he was dressed and supplied for in a good-looking method….Explicit regard and strange respect have been proven his physique by officers and males.”

Chaplain Lemuel F. Drake of the thirty first Ohio considered the final’s stays on a board within the tent. “I noticed the place the place he was shot, and laid my hand upon his broad brow,” he wrote. “He was about six ft tall, and compactly and nicely constructed, one of many best heads I ever noticed.”

This purple officer’s sash was one of many gadgets stolen from Felix Zollicoffer’s physique and later returned to his household. Together with the final’s sword, the sash just lately bought for a number of thousand {dollars} at public sale. (Brunk Auctions)

The Federals, who stored the physique till January 31, thought-about the final a weird (and by then smelly) warfare trophy. At division headquarters in Louisville, Federal troopers waited in line for a possibility to view the stays of the final and his aide, additionally killed at Mills Springs.

The Union Military embalmed “Previous Zolly.” Then “…the our bodies of Zollicoffer and his aide have been positioned in elegant and costly burial circumstances by the munificence of the federal government he had fallen attempting to overthrow,” wrote one disgusted Federal soldier.

Below a flag of truce, the 2 Confederates’ stays have been despatched by means of the strains. “It was courteous, soldierly and christian to ship to their associates these our bodies of males outstanding within the unhealthy trigger,” wrote the Federal soldier. “However neither courtesy, nor army etiquette, nor Christianity demanded something extra.”

Lastly again in his native Tennessee, the stays of one in all Nashville’s main residents have been handled reverently. In early February, Zollicoffer’s physique arrived within the state capital, the place, regardless of wet, “exceedingly unpleasant climate,” 1000’s filed previous the stays on the State Capitol. The subsequent day, the procession to Zollicoffer’s gravesite at Nashville Metropolis Cemetery, just a little greater than a mile away, was “one of many largest ever seen” within the metropolis.

Finally, “Previous Zolly” might relaxation. 

John Banks, a frequent America’s Civil Warfare contributor, writes from Nashville, Tenn.

This story appeared within the March 2022 concern of America’s Civil Warfare journal. Subscribe to the print version at this time for simply $26.95.

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