In keeping with the history of Memorial Day, or "Decoration Day" as it was originally called, which began as a direct result of the Civil War in 1867, this column is devoted to the "military honors" provided whenever possible to deceased Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.
The official procedures for a military funeral are described as "Funeral Honors" in paragraphs 275-302 of 1861 Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States. The following describes the burial of four Union soldiers and a Confederate guerrilla who died in Fort Scott in 1865 as a prisoner of war.
Copies of these original documents are located in the research collections at Fort Scott National Historic Site.
From the personal journal of Capt. Charles W. Porter, Co. F, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment:
"Sunday May 18, 1862, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas:
After inspection and at the hour of 11 o'clock I witnessed the burial of our fellow soldier of Co. D. He was buried with military honors which was solemn and impressive and in the following manner: there were eight privates commanded by a corporal and marched to the front of the hospital and then formed in two ranks with (fire)arms at a shoulder. On the appearance of the corpse, which is borne by six pallbearers the corporal commands "present arms." The coffin is taken to the right and halted.
The corporal then commands "shoulder arms" by company left wheel. Then "march" when the escort moves off preceded by a band of music.
The coffin is now drawn by or in an ambulance. The escort with (fire)arms reversed by bringing the firelock (musket) under the left arm, butt is to the front, barrel downward, left hand sustaining the lock, the right steadying the firelock behind the back, they then march in slow time to solemn music.
On reaching the grave the escort was ordered to "right wheel into line," opposite the grave. The coffin is then brought to the front to the opposite side of the grave and halted. The corporal then commanded the escort to "shoulder arms," then "present arms" and when the coffin was placed at the grave, the command was "shoulder," then "rest in arms" which was done by placing the muzzle on the left foot, both hands on the butt, then their heads on their hands or bowed and right knee bent. The chaplin then performed his service and the coffin was lowered into the grave.
The command was then "attention," then "shoulder arms," then load at will, after which three rounds were fired over the grave. This being done, they then wheeled to the right into line and marched away in quick time, the band playing a lively tune or air (song). Thus was the soldiers burial"
Sunday, June 29, 1862, Fort Scott, Kansas:
This morning I learned that Henry Manke who was sent to the hospital on our first arrival (Note; the 3rd Wis. Cav. Regt. arrived in Fort Scott on June 16, 1862) at the Fort died on the 26th inst. and was buried in the military cemetery at Fort Scott where our company erected a suitable headstone to his memory. (Note: Pvt. Manke is buried in grave 276 in the Fort Scott National Cemetery.)
Tuesday, November 10, 1863, Balltown, Missouri:
This morning at 3 o'clock 15 minutes, Pvt. John H. Johnson proper name (Davis) died of typhoid fever. He was a member of my company. The name Johnson he assumed when he enlisted as he ran away from home and took the precaution that his parents might not find him. I was engaged in makeing hiscoffin today.
(Note Pvt. Johnson was the youngest of four brothers, all of whom served in Union Regiments and one who served in Capt. Porter's Company).
Wednesday, November 11, 1863, Balltown, Missouri:
At 10 o'clock this morning the funeral escort took up its line of march with the remains of soldier Johnson to the little cemetery near Balltown where we laid him away to rest in due military honors. He had one brother in our company to mourn his loss and his comrades express great sorrow in the loss of their companion in arms. The day was very windy."
From 12th Ks. Vol. Inf. Regimental Order Book:
"Headquarters 12th Kans. Vol. Fort Scott, Kansas, December 6, 1863.
Special Order No. 57: II. Private James Norman, Co. A, 12 Ks. Vols. is hereby detailed as nurse to Pvt. Puckett of the same Co. now sick in the Hospital at Fort Scott, Kans. and will report to Dr. J. H. Page Surgeon, USA without delay.
By order of Lieut. Col. Hayes
Signed Will Pellet
Lieut. and Actg. Regt. Adjutant."
"Headquarters 12 Kans. Vols.
Fort Scott, Kansas;
December 11, 1863.
Special Order No. 60:
I. The remains of Private Henry Puckett, Co. A, 12 Kansas Vols., who died in the Hospital at Fort Scott, Kansas on the 10th inst. will be interred this p.m. at 2 o'clock.
II. Co. A will furnish the escort and pallbearers. All the soldiers will attend in dress uniform and side arms.
By order of Lieut. Col. Hayes
Signed Will Pell, Lieut. and Actg. Adj."
(Note: Pvt. Henry Puckett is buried in grave no. 213 in the Fort Scott National Cemetery).
Headquarters Fort Scott, Ks. September 1, 1865
Special Orders No. 158 "Extract"
II. Captain T.C. Bowles, Assist. Quartermaster, U. S. Vols. will furnish one coffin suitable for the burial of R. Curry, Bushwhacker who died this day in the military prison at this post and will furnish a sufficient number of men and everything else required for his burial and see that he is buried in the proper place as soon as is practicable.
By Order of Nathaniel Vose Capt. Co. J, 17th Illinois Vol. Cav. and Comdg. Post. 1st Lieut., 3rd Wisconsin Cav. and Actg. Post Adj.
Now then, where was the proper place for a Confederate guerrilla (Bushwhacker, if one is of the Northern persuasion) to be buried in Fort Scott. The proper place would have been the "prisoners' plot" that does not exist today in the Fort Scott National Cemetery; however, there is no documentation that R. Curry was buried there.
There is an R.M. Curry buried in grave 470 in the National Cemetery who is one grave away from where "Union" prisoner C. Frizzel is buried in grave 468, so it is possible that R. and R.M Curry are one and the same Confederate guerrilla, but we cannot be sure.
Today in Fort Scott members of the V.F.W. Post 1165 "honor guard" render "military honors" at the funerals of all deceased veterans who are buried in the Fort Scott National Cemetery.
Thank you to each and every member of this "honor guard" past and present who perform and perpetuate the traditional "military honors" that were established in Fort Scott during the Civil War. And for those who study said war, of course, the war goes on.