Friday, December 31, 2010

Corinth National Cemetery

Corinth National Cemetery Corinth Ms, Alcorn Co.

1551 Horton Street
Corinth, MS 38834
Phone: (901) 386-8311
FAX: (901) 382-0750
Office Hours:
Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed federal holidays except Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Visitation Hours:
Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to sunset.
Burial Space: This cemetery has space available to accommodate casketed and cremated remains.
Acreage: 20.0
Number of Interments
Thru Fiscal Year 2008: 7,295


Corinth National Cemetery is located in Alcorn County, within the city limits of Corinth, Miss. In 1854, the citizens of Tishomingo County, Miss., invited both the Mobile & Ohio and the Memphis & Charleston rail companies to build track through their jurisdiction. The companies quickly accepted the offer and within a year the surveys were complete. The proposed routes for the new lines crossed at a right angle on a section of property owned by William Lasley. Lasley sold the land and a town quickly grew up around the pending railroad intersection. Originally, the town was pragmatically called Cross City, but the local newspaper editor decided it did not fit the growing community. The name was changed to Corinth with the stipulation that the citizens could change it back in a year should they not like it. The name stuck.

Corinth flourished throughout the remainder of the1850s until the election of Abraham Lincoln, Mississippi’s secession and the beginning of the Civil War. Many Tishomingo County men served in the Confederacy and as early as 1861 Corinth served as an assembly point for Confederate soldiers traveling by rail to various points in Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Virginia. In spring 1862, Corinth became the focal point in the Civil War's Western Theatre, as both northern and southern leaders recognized the necessity of holding the city because of its valuable rail crossings. Corinth was also in proximity to ports on the Tennessee River, including Hamburg, Eastport and Pittsburg Landing. Whoever controlled Corinth held an important logistical key to the entire lower Mississippi Valley.

Photo by Angela L MSSPI 2008

The fall of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee, in February 1862 initiated a series of events that led to Union and Confederate advances on Corinth. The Confederates, under the leadership of General Albert Sidney Johnston, saw their trans-Appalachian defense line broken with the capture of these forts by General Ulysses S. Grant. Subsequently, Corinth became the new anchor for a Confederate defense of the lower South.

In early April 1862, federal troops led by Grant camped at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., 22 miles northeast of Corinth. The Confederate Army made a surprise attack upon the federal encampment, and although they had an initial measure of success, on the second day Grant received reinforcements and the Confederates fell back toward Corinth.

While the Confederates were caring for their sick and wounded in Corinth, the Union army began a march on the city. Aware that federal troops were closing in, Confederate commander General P.T. Beauregard made plans to abandon the city. The evacuation was carried out in utmost secrecy and on May 30, Union troops cautiously marched into an empty city. Corinth, once again, became the focal point of the war. On Oct. 4, Union and Confederate forces took part in one of the bloodiest battles in Mississippi. The Battle of Corinth was the last major Confederate offensive in North Mississippi and its failure opened the way to Vicksburg and Union control of the Mississippi River.

Corinth National Cemetery was established in 1866 as a central burial site for approximately 2,300 Union casualties of the Battle of Corinth and similar clashes in the surrounding area. By late 1870 there were more than 5,688 interments in the cemetery—1,793 known and 3,895 unknown soldiers. The dead represented 273 regiments from 15 states. In addition, there are three Confederate interments in the cemetery – one unknown and two known soldiers.

Photo by Angela L MSSPI 2008

The cemetery was originally enclosed with a wooden picket fence, which was replaced by a brick wall in 1872. The first lodge was a wooden cottage that was replaced in 1872 and again in 1934. Corinth National Cemetery was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1991 as part of several sites associated with the Battle of Corinth; it was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

In the Summer of 2008 and again in 2009  my fiance Tony and I visited the Corinth National Cemetery. It is a beautiful cemetery with a sad , lonely feel. The trees are magnificent in the spring time with dogwood blooms. You could feel the sadness in the air here in spite of it's well kept lawn and quiet beauty. There are burials here representing more than just the Civil War, from World War Veterans to Vietnam and Korea as well as their wives. But, the number of unmarked Civil War stones was overwhelming.

We recorded 2 EVP clips here in 2008. We did not record in 2009 as it was raining that day and we were unable to stay. But, I will not forget the feelings I experienced here as if I could feel the homesick sadness of the Union Soldiers who were buried here so far from their homes and loved ones. If you ever get the chance to visit the Corinth Cemetery I would encourage you to do so.  CLICK HERE to listen to the EVP we recorded at the Corinth National Cemetery.


Mississippi Funeral Traditions and Superstitions of the 1800's

Traditions in Mississippi and the South are sometimes bound in superstition. The moment that a person dies, a whole series of customs shift into gear to speed the departed’s trip to the hereafter, and to insure the well-being of those left behind. A century ago, these rituals were commonplace. Today, they are still being practiced in some areas.
Take, for instance, the practice of embalming. Preserving the body was not widely practiced before the Civil War. But the necessity of shipping battle dead long distances called for a cheap way to preserve the body during transit. Formaldehyde became the elixir of choice. Afterwards, funeral parlors began using the techniques learned during the war to preserve every client that crossed the threshold. Wealthy Mississippians of the 1800's had elaborate funeral traditions and were more than likely more apt to be able to afford embalming. It has been reported that during and just following the civil war, that the average cost for an embalming was $100.dollars or more, not exactly, small change in the 1800's. In the Victorian era, many did not fear death as much as they feared not being mourned properly.

But in the South, especially in the mountains, undertakers were as scarce as brass handles on a homemade coffin and the lack of embalming caused some bizarre problems.

There is more than one record of a body suddenly sitting up in the middle of the funeral service. The cause of this unnerving spectacle, of course, was rigor mortis or the stiffening of the muscles after death.

Scottish immigrants had their own cure for rigor mortis, a process they called “saining”. The oldest woman in the family burned a candle and waved it over the body three times. Then she scooped three handfuls of salt from a poke, placed it in a wooden bowl and placed the bowl upon the deceased’s chest. Another solution, especially useful if rigor mortis had already set in, was to pour warm water on the joints and rub like crazy. This counteracted the stiffness but when rigor mortis set back in -- and it usually did -- the body would tend to rise anyway.

The body was dressed in its Sunday best and laid out for viewing -- usually in the parlor. Coins were placed over the eyes to keep them shut and some who still held to their old world traditions and superstitions, also believed that the coins would pay the Ferrymaster as the soul journeyed across the River Styx. Then a cloth was tied around the jaw to keep it from flopping open and the arms were folded across the chest. Another towel, soaked in a strong soda solution, took care of discoloration. Spices or cedar chips, placed around the body, helped ward off any unpleasant odors, especially in summer.

Coffins were made by the local cabinet or furniture maker, who might also rent out a hearse for extra income. The coffin designs could be as simple as a simple pine box, to a more stylish hard wood, that had been stained and lined with padding and lace or satin fabrics, to being as elaborate as a hand crafted brass coffin lined in velvet, it really depended on how wealthy you were.

Photo on left of 1800 era Pine Coffin on original 1800 Coffin Cart, on display at the Old Tishamingo County Courthouse Museum, Iuka, MS. taken by Angela L Burke 2010.

However, before the funeral could take place, black mourning cloth fabric, known as crepe, was draped throughout the house, especially over the mirrors.

Folk stories claim that a person looking into the mirror after a death in the house, would see the face of the next person to die, and if a mirror in your house was to fall and break by itself, it meant that someone in the home would die soon. Mirrors should be covered or turned to face the wall. Some believed that the spirit of the deceased could enter the mirror and be trapped. Others believed that if the spirit of the deceased had entered the mirror, the next person to look into the mirror would be the next to die or the spirit of the deceased could enter the person gazing into the mirror. Clocks were stopped at the time of death. This served a practical purpose as well, so that everyone knew the time the person died. Restarting the clock after burial was symbolic of beginning another period in the families life.

It was considered very bad manners to refuse an invitation to a funeral. Stylish invitations or Funeral Cards were distributed to family and friends. Recipients of a funeral card were expected to attend the funeral or risk offending family members. On the other hand, those who did not receive an invitation would have been insulted, whether it was intentional or not."

A close family friend or relative would be asked to host the ceremony and greet visitors. Coffins were often set up in the parlor for visitors to view the deceased and pay their last respects.While the body was still in the house, certain precautions were taken to insure the welfare of the living. For instance, the body was always laid out on the first floor of the house, never on the second. If a step squeaked while the body was still under the roof, it was believed that there would be a death in the family within a year. Some people believed that the soul remained with the body 24 hours after death others believed that the soul remained for 3 days. Members of the family, or friends of the deceased, often chose to “sit up” with the body. This kept the soul company and prevented it from being whisked away by the devil.

Immediate family members would have very little contact with the mourners. Widows in particular wore heavy crepe face veils to provide some privacy during the service and so that others could not see her cry. However one superstition suggests that spirits of the departed would hover around those they loved. If a passerby looked directly on the mourner's face, that spirit might attach itself to that person. So, the veil was a protection for the wearer as well as a protection for others." It was also believed that a Widow should wear black in order to confuse the spirits of the afterlife and to prevent their deceased husband from coming back to haunt or pester them. Black was believed to make her less noticable by the spirits of the afterlife.

Kissing or touching the corpse was a superstition that prevented the living from dreaming about the deceased. It was also known as the time of acceptance that a remaining relative or person would never see their departed one again. Photo on left of couple in traditional 1800's funeral clothes.

When the body was taken from the house, it had to be carried out feet first, because if it was carried out head first, it could look back and beckon others to follow it into death. It is was also believed that since we come into the world head first, we should go out of it feet first. Pall bearers wore gloves when touching or handling the casket to prevent the deceased person's spirit from entering through their hands.

There is an unwritten rule against interupting a funeral procession. It was and still is in some parts believed that anyone who interferes with the deceased going to the grave, will attract the wrath of evil spirits or be haunted by the spirit of the departed. It was also considered bad luck if a bride and groom encounter a funeral procession. The ringing of bells after a death was done for two purposes. 1) to frighten away evil spirits that might come to claim the deceased soul. 2) to toll the age of the deceased and announce a death in the community.

Digging the grave was a solemn task reserved for family and friends. They dug the grave and filled it up after the funeral. Graves always faced the east toward the rising sun, the symbol of resurrection. When a person died dictated when the grave was dug. If a person died at night or early in the morning, for example, the grave was dug after noon on the following day. It was considered, bad luck to leave a freshly excavated grave open all night.                    1800's Funeral Photo

While the family went to the burial service at the cemetery, the host would remove the mourning crepe fabrics from the house and return the home to it's pre-funeral condition. It was considered unlucky for the family to return to the home from the cemetery and find the house still draped in black. The family friend would then host a light luncheon at the house after the funeral service.

Society placed strict rules of ettiquette on the mourners. The mourning period for a female widow was a year and a day. During this time the widow wore solid black mourning clothes or widow's weeds, Formal black mourning clothes -- even items of underwear and accessories like gloves and handkerchiefs had to be black. The widow was required to limit her social appearances and engagements. Those who could not afford to buy black mourning clothes would either have all their wardrobe died black or they would die their clothes themselves in a large black kettle over an open fire outside in the yard. If the crape was caught in the rain, the black dye would run and ruin anything near it. This limited the woman from venturing far from home. Collar and cuffs were black and after a year lace could be added. All fabric should have a luster or shine. Jewelry was not allowed for the first few months, after that only black jewelry was allowed, including earrings, broaches, bracelets and rings. For a specific period of time a widow (not widower) would not leave her house and did not see any visitors. When a period of time (what others felt was respectable) had lapsed, the widow would send out black edged cards to notify her family and friends that she was ready to receive visitors. Anyone in mourning was not allowed to attend social functions. Full and half mourning was based on the relationship to the person who died and the end of the deep or heavy mourning period. Half mourning included colored clothing of lilac, lavender, violet, mauve, and gray.

"The Civil War resulted in approximately 600,000 casualties. In the state of Alabama alone, there were over 80,000 widows -- 80,000 women dressed for mourning.

During the Victorian era, there were requirements for mourning the dead. The proper time to mourn was: Spouse: 1-2 and a half years Parent: 6-12 months Grandparents: 6 months Sibling: 6-8 months Children under 10 yrs: 3-6 months Children over 10 yrs: 6-12 months Infants: at least 6 weeks Aunts and Uncles: 3-6 months Cousins and Aunts and Uncles related by marriage 6 weeks-3 months Distant relatives or friends: 3 or more weeks

Widower men were expected to mourn for three months, dressing conservatively and wearing a black crepe mourning hatband.

It was commonly believed that if a woman and child die during child birth, they should be buried together in the same grave, otherwise the mother will never rest because she does not know what has become of her baby, and will forever be searching for her child.

A few other superstitions related to death include:

Never cry on a dead person because if the tears fall on them, it makes it harder for the spirit to leave this world.

If for some reason you find yourself needing to bury a body, bury them at a crossroads and their spirit won’t be able to leave.

Midnight has always been considered the best time to contact a ghost and
on the anniversary of the day they died.

You must hold your breath while going past a cemetery or you will breathe in the spirit of someone who has recently died.

Make sure windows and doors are open after a person dies to ensure their spirit a speedy journey to the other side.

If you see a funeral procession go by and for some reason count the cars, you’ve just counted the number of weeks you have left to live.

If you take too long to bury the dead, they will find someone to take with them.

The cry of an owl symbolizes death. Where it builds a nest, ghosts will haunt for as long as the bird stays.

The crowing of a rooster signals wandering ghosts that it is time for them to disappear until nightfall

Another curious and widespread concern in the nineteenth century was the fear of being buried alive. "This was a superstition that so permeated society that even Mary Lincoln, a relatively well-to-do, well-educated woman, shared in her final instructions her fear of this. She wrote,

'I desire that my body shall remain for two days with the lid not screwed down.''

"Because of this fear," Estes said, "they developed a coffin alarm. This was a bell attached to the headstone with a chain that led down into the coffin to a ring that went around the finger of the deceased. So, if you were to wake up and find yourself accidentally buried, you could pull on the chain and ring the bell in the cemetery yard.

Post-mortem photography (also known as memorial portraiture or memento mori) is the practice of photographing the recently deceased.

The invention of the daguerreotype in 1839 made portraiture much more commonplace, as many of those who were unable to afford the commission of a painted portrait could afford to sit for a photography session. This cheaper and quicker method also provided the middle class with a means for memorializing dead loved ones.

These photographs served less as a reminder of mortality than as a keepsake to remember the deceased. This was especially common with infants and young children; Victorian era childhood mortality rates were extremely high, and a post-mortem photograph might be the only image of the child the family ever had. The later invention of the carte de visite, which allowed multiple prints to be made from a single negative, meant that copies of the image could be mailed to relatives.

The practice eventually peaked in popularity around the end of the 19th century and died out as "snapshot" photography became more commonplace, although a few examples of formal memorial portraits were still being produced well into the 20th century.

The earliest post-mortem photographs are usually close-ups of the face or shots of the full body and rarely include the coffin. The subject is usually depicted so as to seem in a deep sleep, or else arranged to appear more lifelike. Children were often shown in repose on a couch or in a crib, sometimes posed with a favorite toy or other plaything. It was not uncommon to photograph very young children with a family member, most frequently the mother. Adults were more commonly posed in chairs or even braced on specially-designed frames. Flowers were also a common prop in post-mortem photography of all types.

The effect of life was sometimes enhanced by either propping the subject's eyes open or painting pupils onto the photographic print, and many early images (especially tintypes and ambrotypes) have a rosy tint added to the cheeks of the corpse.
Later examples show less effort at a lifelike appearance, and often show the subject in a coffin. Some very late examples show the deceased in a coffin with a large group of funeral attendees; this type of photograph was especially popular in Europe and less common in the United States.

Post-mortem photography is still practiced in some areas of the world, such as Eastern Europe. Photographs, especially depicting persons who were considered to be very holy lying in their coffins are still circulated among faithful Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians.
A variation of the memorial portrait involves photographing the family with a shrine (usually including a living portrait) dedicated to the deceased.


Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon DeBartello Carmack
Scottish Lore & Folklore by Ronald MacDonald Douglas 1982

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mississippi & The Spirits of Gettysburg

Confederate troops of Lieutenant General James Longstreet's corps marched into Gettysburg, with the left of his line anchored in Pitzer Woods by the Mississippi Brigade of Brig. General William Barksdale. The Georgia brigade of Brig. General W.T. Wofford formed just outside of the woods, but close behind Barksdale's men. The objective for Barksdale and Wofford was to attack Union troops forming on the Emmitsburg Road and the advanced line at the Peach Orchard.

   Brig General William Barksdale  ( left)

Just before 4 o'clock on July 2, 1863, Confederate artillery along this portion of Seminary Ridge opened fire on the Union batteries stationed in the Peach Orchard. Huddling in the woods, the Mississippi troops listened to the boom of the guns and screech of Union shells crashing through the trees above them. Impatient that his part of the attack was delayed until other troops had gone in first, a fuming Barksdale stormed up and down, stopping only to petition his division commander for permission to go into the attack early.

Almost two hours into the attack, the hot tempered general was given permission to move forward in support of Confederate troops advancing on their right. Barksdale ordered his men to the eastern edge of the woods where the Mississippians dressed their ranks and went to the position of "parade rest" while Union shells burst around them. Though considered a senior in age, General Barksdale was a fiery and fearless leader in battle whose face appeared to "glow with excitement at the prospect of battle." Dressed in a resplendent gray officer's coat highlighted with gold trim, his long gray hair flowing almost to the collar, Barksdale spurred his black charger to the front of his old regiment, the 13th Mississippi. Above the noise of battle, the general spoke a few words of encouragement. He then waved his hat as a signal to begin the charge and his brigade moved forward in an unstoppable wave.

The Mississippi Brigade raced across open fields and sliced through the Union line. It was "The most magnificent charge of the war," as one eyewitness called it. Despite the heroic efforts of two Union regiments near the Sherfy House to slow the Mississippians, Barksdale's soldiers broke through the shaken Union defenders in the Peach Orchard and the Union line began to collapse. Wofford's Georgians followed in Barksdale's path and eventually drove in the last defenders of the orchard before they reached the Wheatfield and beyond.
Barksdale’s Mississippians lost nearly half of their number in the horrific fight on the afternoon of July 2, in the Peach Orchard on the Emmitsburg Road, and en route to Cemetery Ridge. Among them was Barksdale himself, one of 32 generals who fell at Gettysburg.

The Mississippi State Monument stands near this location, selected for this site because of the service of General Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade on July 2.

Sculptor Donald Harcourt DeLue, born October 5, 1897 in Boston, Massachusetts, and died on August 26, 1988 in Leonardo, New Jersey sculpted the monument. He was 76 years old when he completed the Mississippi State Monument. The monument was dedicated on October 19, 1973 and cost $100,000.

The monument to the State of Mississippi at Gettysburg is southwest of town on West Confederate Avenue.
It stands where General Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade began their charge into the Peach Orchard on July 2nd and represents the hand-to-hand fighting of that desperate day. The color-bearer has fallen mortally wounded and his comrade steps over his body, using his clubbed musket to defend the fallen flag.
One of the most conspicuous soldiers on the battlefield is the color bearer. Those who carried the regimental flag into the fight could not carry a weapon, as both hands were required to raise the flag and keep it aloft for the rest of the unit to follow. As a result, the enemies fired at the color bearer more than any other soldier, because if the flag fell, those following it could not continue their charge. On the opposite side, those attacking could not allow the flag to fall. Therefore, as one color bearer was shot down, another, and another would grasp the standard and carry it onward.

July 1st 2nd 3rd 1863
On this ground our brave sires fought for their righteous cause;
In glory they sleep who give to it their lives
To valor, they gave new dimensions of courage
To duty its noblest fulfillment
To posterity, the sacred heritage of honor.

Mississippi was represented on the fields of Gettysburg by infantry brigades of Davis of Heth's division, Hill's corps, consisting of the Second, Eleventh, and Forty-second Mississippi regiments ad the Fifty-fifth North Carolina regiment, which was temporarily assigned to it; Barksdale's brigade of McLaw's division, Longstreet's corps, consisting of the Thirteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Twenty-first regiments; Posey's brigade of Anderson's division, Hill's corps, consisting of the Twelfth, Sixteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-first regiments; Ward's Mississippi battery (the Madison Light Artillery) of Poague's battalion, which was attached to Pender's division.

In addition to these infantry-artillery forces from Mississippi, the Adams County troop of cavalry, the Chickasaw Rangers, and the Kemper County cavalry of Hampton's brigade, Stuart's division, also took part in the battle of Gettysburg.
Mississippi had eleven infantry regiments, one infantry battalion, one cavalry regiment, and one artillery battery , sending over 4,900 men   to Gettysburg, with almost 1,500 becoming casualties.
Confederate Monument listing all the
participating Confederate States (top left)

I visited Gettysburg in September 2010 with my fiance Tony. I walked alone out into the wide open pasture which was once the Wheat Field. I felt the thick dark energy that permiated the air, crushing my chest with its heavy weight. The silence screamed at me and I could almost hear the hot breath of wild eyed horses and charging foot soldiers all around me. I did not feel alone in the least.
It was hard to breathe and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness no matter what area of the battlefield I was walking on. I walked the trails near Spangler's Spring, I stood on Cemetery ridge, where smoke and gunfire once sliced the air. 

I hiked the scenic paths up Little Round Top. I sat behind the rock barricades where the 20th Maine held the Union flanks and where Confederate troops bravely stormed the rocky slopes only to fall to their deaths, Sliced down by the blazing guns that rained down upon them. I heard the trees crying as if they had human voices.  I walked across Slaughter Pen and sat amongst the boulders of Devil's Den, two of the saddest areas I visited. I stood on Confederate Avenue near Pitzer Woods, where the Mississipians charged so fiercely. The sadness I felt while at Gettysburg was overwhelming and I cannot begin to imagine the horrific scenes of death, pain and bloodshed that occured on both sides of the line, in this most beautiful of countrysides. In my opinion there were no real winners of this bloody battle. Both sides of the conflict experienced enormous losses of life.
Many different estimates exist on the number of casualties inflicted during the battle of Gettysburg, but one common estimate is as follows:

Union -Killed 3,155  Wounded 14,530  Missing 5,365  Total 23,040  % of Total 27%

Confederate Killed 2,600-4,500 Wounded 12,800 Missing 5,250 Total 20,650-25,000*
% of Total  30%-34%

* Total Confederate casualties have been estimated to be as great as 28,000. It is usually agreed that total Confederate casualties numbered at least 1/3 of Lee's army.

It is hard to imagine that a conflict so bloody could have happened on such beautiful ground. The feelings of death, pain, anger, sadness and loneliness still lingers in this place.

I firmly believe that the spirits of those who bled and died here, remain to this day. I do not need photographic evidence or scientific proof of their ghostly existence. I felt them with my bones and I heard them all around me, screaming with each gust of wind.

View More of My Gettysburg Photos Here :

History Sources:

Mississippi Monument Photograph © 2008 Patricia A. Hickman