Obtaining Grave Markers for Western Theater Veterans
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
In spring 2016, I strolled through Skipworth Cemetery in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, yet again. I had already scoured the cemetery countless times, hoping that this would be the time I found the grave marker of my grandfather, Darius Hill Skipworth, who died in 1863 during the Civil War. That spring day, I finally--after months of searching--found my grandfather's grave marker. Much to my chagrin, however, the headstone was almost illegible. Over 150 years of weather had worn away the grave marker. It was Darius Hill Skipworth's grave marker that sent me on a quest to help other veterans whose grave markers were in disrepair by applying for Veterans Affair (VA) grave markers. Before applying for a veteran's grave marker, though, I'm always curious to find out more about the soldier--where they served, what rank they held, etc. One common theme is that, while all these soldiers fought in the Western Theater of the Civil War, their stories are decidedly different. Below is information on some soldiers whom I have obtained new, VA grave markers for:
Joseph Stewart Carneal was born July 28, 1824, in Todd County, Kentucky. Joseph enlisted as a 3rd sergeant in Company C of the 25th Kentucky Infantry at Henderson, Kentucky (for a period of 3 years), on October 15, 1861. For February 28, 1862, Joseph had been, "Left sick at Calhoun, Ky, Feb 9/62." After the 25th and 17th Kentucky Infantries consolidated due to both illness and losses taken at Shiloh, Joseph became a private in Company D of the 17th Kentucky Infantry. His time in the 17th Kentucky Infantry was short, however. In fact, Joseph was discharged on June 3, 1862, at Louisville. Joseph's Certificate of Disability for Discharge says he was 37 years old, 6 feet 3 1/2 inches tall, with a fair complexion, dark grey eyes, auburn hair, and the occupation of a farmer. Joseph's discharge certificate goes on to say, "But although unable to perform duty during the winter this patriotic Kentuckian took his place in the ranks at the battle of Pittsburg Landing, and, by his serve on that occasion, prostrated himself." Joseph was suffering from, "tubercular disease of the lungs, which has rendered him unfit for duty, and incapacitates him from being place in a condition to be again fitted for military service." Joseph Stewart Carneal passed away July 11, 1883, and is buried at Joseph Stewart Carneal Cemetery.
Abraham Carver served in Company E of the 17th Regiment Kentucky Cavalry. At the time of his enlistment on February 20, 1865, he was 28 years of age. Abraham enlisted at Louisville, KY, by G.W. Tatum, for a period of 1 year. At that time, he was 5 ft 4 in, with a dark complexion, dark eyes, black hair, and he was born at Caswell County, North Carolina—his occupation was that of a farmer. One paper says that Abraham was “Discharged June the 10 1865 at Russellville, Ky.” For May 1865, Abraham had been absent, sick at a Russellville hospital since April 25, 1865. One muster roll says Abraham was “Appointed Q.m. [Quartermaster] Sgt at original organization Reduced to Pvt 28 April 65 for inefficiency and discharged for disability 15 day of June 1865 from Hospital at Bowling Green Ky.” Abraham was mustered out because of "debility from pneumonia." Abraham Carver is buried at Skipworth Cemetery.
Henry Chatham was a private in Co. E of the 118th United States Colored Troops. Henry enlisted at Owensboro, Kentucky, on September 14, 1864. Henry was at a General Hospital at Sainsville, KY (maybe supposed to be Zanesville, KY). Henry was admitted to the hospital October 12, 1864, and he was returned to duty October 25, 1864—one paper states that he had measles. A record dated November 9, 1864, says “Surgeon I have the honor to inform you that Henry Chatham Colord [colored] Substitute has “Small Pox” this morning; And request that he be sent to proper hospital.” Henry was born at Wilson County, Tenn., and he was 20 years old, with the occupation of laborer. Henry had black hair, black eyes, and a black complexion, with a height of 6 ft 1 ½ or 6 ft ½ in. A record says “Owner Address Clark Chatham Greenville Ky.” Henry Chatham is buried at Old Greenville Cemetery.
James Harrison was a private in Co. B of the 124 United States Colored Infantry. James was listed as being 48 years old, 5 ft 6 in, with a mulatto complexion, black eyes, black hair, and the occupation as that of a wheelwright—he was born at Todd Co., KY. Records state James enlisted May 22, 1865, at Henderson for a period of 3 years. Papers say James was “Assigned to Co. “B” per R.S.C. No. 83 July 26/65. Mustered June 7/65 at Owensboro by J.R. Grissom for 3 years.” Records state that James’ service is due to John Harrison and all of this is “credited” to Muhlenberg, District 2. Military papers says that James “Joined from recruiting Depot. July 27. 65.” It goes on to say “July 1865 Recruit from Depot July 26/65 Camp Nelson Ky Assigned to Co per SO #83 Hd Qrs 124 USCI July 26/65.” James Harrison is buried at Old Greenville Cemetery.
Morris Jernigan was a private in Company “B” of the 6th United States Colored Cavalry. He was born right here in Muhlenberg County around the year 1844. Before the Civil War, Morris’s occupation was that of a farmer. Morris was 20 years of age when he enlisted on August 8, 1864, at Bowling Green, Kentucky, to serve for a period of 3 years. Morris’s military records state that he was 5 feet 6 inches tall. For the January and February 1865 muster roll, Morris was sick in the hospital at Ashland, Kentucky. March and April 1865 records remark that he was absent, as he was still sick at Ashland. Following his Civil War service, married Belle McLean in 1872 in Muhlenberg County. Morris Jernigan is buried at Old Greenville Cemetery.
Benjamin Johns was a private in Co. F of the 3 Kentucky Cavalry. He enlisted Dec 2, 1863, at Bowling Green for 3 years. He was “Mustered in to date from Dec 1, 1863.” Nov-Dec, 1863, Benjamin had “First installment of Bounty due.” May-June, 1864, Benjamin was “Absent with leave.” Nov-Dec, 1864, he was at Savannah, GA, and he was detached. Jan-Feb, 1864, Benjamin was in the field. May-June, 1864, Benjamin was at Lexington, N.C., and at the company muster out, he was 18 years old. Benjamin’s clothing account was last settled to Dec 31, 1863, and his “Am’t for cloth’g in kind or money adv’d” was $72. His bounty paid was $25 and he was due $275.” Benjamin Johns is buried at McDougall Cemetery.
Solomon Laster (listed in muster rolls as Solomon Lassiter and Lassitor) was born 1834 in Tennessee. Solomon enlisted October 19, 1861, at Hartsville, by Captain Baxter Smith for a period of 12 months. Solomon was a private in Co. G of the 22nd (Barteau's) Tennessee Cavalry. Solomon was continually present until doing "Extra duty teamster by order" for May to June 1864. A Roll of Prisoners of War says that Solomon resided in Gallatin, Sumner County, Tennessee. His regiment surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama, May 4, 1865. Solomon and his regiment were paroled May 11, 1865, at Gainesville, Alabama. Solomon Laster died January 30, 1906, and is buried at Carneal-Turner Cemetery.
Samuel Martin was a 2nd Sergeant in Company “F” of the 108th United States Colored Infantry. He was born some time around 1845 in Muhlenberg County, and worked as a laborer prior to the Civil War. Samuel was 19 years of age when he enlisted on June 22, 1864, at nearby Owensboro to serve for a period of 3 years. His service records remark that he was 5 feet 7 inches tall. Samuel’s muster-in paper states that he resided in Muhlenberg County’s 2nd district. Samuel died May 5, 1882, and is buried at Old Greenville Cemetery.
Thornton Rumsey was a sergeant in Company “A” of the 123rd United States Colored Infantry. He was born around 1825 in Muhlenberg County, and he had the occupation as that of a laborer. Thornton was 39 years old when he both enlisted and was mustered in June 21, 1864, at Owensboro to serve for a period of 3 years. Thornton was listed in his records as being 5 feet 7 inches tall. One military document, the “Form For Examining A Recruit,” states that Thornton’s right hand was deformed, but that it had not been fractured, dislocated, or sprained. In the 1870 Muhlenberg County census, Thornton was still living in Greenville. At that time, he was 45 years of age, and he worked as a “day laborer.” Thornton Rumsey is buried at Old Greenville Cemetery.
Finis Taylor Shelton was born November 1848 in Todd County, Kentucky. Finis enlisted in Company F of the 43rd Illinois Infantry at Olney, Illinois, on March 9, 1864, for a period of 1 year. While Finis was really just 16 years old when he enlisted, he embellished his age, claiming he was 18 years and 2 months of age. Finis had blue eyes, light hair, a fair complexion, and a height of 5 feet 5 1/2 inches. According to Finis's pension application records, he had "Lung Disease result of measles and broken hip which occurred during the service while in line of duty. Also Rheumatism." Finis further mentions in his pension application that he, while on his way home to Illinois from Little Rock, Arkansas, in March 1865, was placed on top of a steamboat. While on the ship, Finis got wet and was subsequently taken to Memphis, Tennessee, and placed in Washington General Hospital. Finis contracted measles which caused him to be temporarily deaf and made him suffer from lung trouble. During his brief time in service (Finis was mustered out in July 1865), Finis also had a broken hip, which he received from falling from train "cars" while going home on sick furlough in 1865. Finis said that this injury, and his lung trouble, caused him permanent damage. Finis Taylor Shelton died April 5, 1939, and is buried in Gabriel N. Shelton Cemetery.
Henry Short was a private in Company “K” of the 123rd United States Colored Infantry. He was born in Muhlenberg County around the year 1819. Henry was 45 years of age when he enlisted on August 16, 1864, at Bowling Green in Warren County to serve for a period of 3 years. Remarks on Henry’s military records state he was a new recruit from Muhlenberg County. One month later, on September 16, 1864, Henry was mustered in at Bowling Green. Henry is noted in his military records as being 5 feet 2 ½ inches tall and with the occupation as that of a farmer. Additional remarks state that he was a new recruit from Muhlenberg County. Henry was actually appointed as an Army musician on December 2, 1864. After the Civil War, Henry was listed as being on duty at the regiment head quarters in June of 1865. Henry Short is buried at Old Greenville Cemetery.
Darius Hill Skipworth was born August 22, 1825, in Maury County, Tennessee. He enlisted in the Union army at the age of 36. Darius’s enlistment took place October 20, 1861, in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky (probably at Camp George D. Prentice). He enlisted in Co. B of the 11th Kentucky Infantry for a period of three years. The whole regiment was mustered into the Union army on December 9, 1861, at Calhoun, Kentucky. March and April 1862, Darius was “present.” This means that Darius would have fought at the Battle of Shiloh. A “Special Muster” took place August 18, 1862, in which Darius was “absent,” on duty by General Don Carlos Buell. It further states he was a 3rd Sergeant, on “detached duty by order.” April 30 to August 31, 1862, he is listed as “absent”—“on recruiting service in Kentucky.” Apparently, Darius could write, as he signed his name as a witness on a widow's pension application. For January and February, 1863, it is not stated as to whether he was “present” or “absent”, but it does say he was a 2nd Sergeant. One muster roll states he had been “absent,” by order, in search of deserters (those who had left the army without being mustered out) since March 26, 1863. April 10, 1863, it states he was sick with leave. However, at this time, Darius had passed away. Papers state that Darius passed away from erysipelas, which is a rare bacterial infection. In fact, Captain William F. Ward said, "Greenville, Kentucky I, William F. Ward, Commissioner & acting Captain of Co. B 11th Kentucky Vol Inft do hereby certify that I was personally acquainted with Darius H. Skipworth, sergeant in said Co & Reg. He died at his home in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. He was sent out under the undersigner to scout in the vicinity of his home. Was taken with aeresipala [erysipelas] and died in said service and in the line of his duty. He was an excellent soldier. He was buried near his home. He died 8th Apr, 1863. Jan 21, 1864 - WF Ward Capt, Co. B 11 Reg Kentucky vol." Darius Skipworth is buried in Skipworth Cemetery.
Henry C. Skipworth was a private in Co. E of the 17th Kentucky Cavalry. Henry was born at Muhlenberg County in 1844 to Darius Hill Skipworth and Nancy Jane Meeks. At the time of his enlistment on February 18 [or 1st, records say both], 1865, in Louisville, KY, Henry was 21 years old. He enlisted for 1 year, had blue eyes, dark hair, a dark complexion, and a height of 5 ft 5 in. To June, 1865, Henry was “Discharged for disability at Bowling Green Ky June 15-1865.” Another record says Henry was mustered out June 13, 1865, by Captain J.H. Smith. Regardless, Henry was mustered out at age 21 at a Post Hospital in Russellville, Kentucky. He was suffering from measles. Henry C. Skipworth died in 1908 and is buried at Skipworth Cemetery.
Perry Weir served as a private in Company B of the 115th United States Colored Infantry. He was born in Muhlenberg County some time around 1847. Perry was a young man, only 17 years of age, when he enlisted in the Union Army on August 8, 1864, at Bowling Green, Kentucky. According to Perry’s military records, he had a height of 5 feet 2 ½ inches. Perry was gifted with musical abilities, as another record states that he served as a musician in the Army. Perry Weir is buried at Old Greenville Cemetery.
While each Western Theater soldier had a different experience in the Civil War, they each showed exemplary bravery as they fought for a cause they so believed in. Do you know a Civil War soldier who needs a new, Veteran Affairs grave marker? View the Veterans Affairs grave marker application here. All soldiers deserve to be remembered, and one way you can help honor them is by ensuring they have a new, legible grave marker.
About the Author: Kass Cobb is a genealogist, history enthusiast, and college sophomore who plans to double-major in history and military history. Kass first became obsessed with history in eighth grade through a unit on the American Civil War. She began researching her family's heritage and discovered that she is a direct descendant of eight Civil War veterans. Since then, Kass has desired to share the stories of United States veterans. One of the ways she does this is by obtaining grave markers for veterans. When Kass isn't busy planning historical events for her community, placing signs at cemeteries, or researching her family's past, you'll find her antique collecting, reading, singing, and enjoying nature with her many pets.