FROM READERS: Sons of Confederate Veterans to dedicate Civil War mass grave

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:26 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Nathan Conner of Capitol Monuments Inc. sets granite stone for the Moore's Mill mass grave.

Martin Northway is a Callaway County resident, a historian and a longtime member of the Gates Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

A very rare area historical event will occur in Callaway County at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 27: the dedication of a monument and memorial marking a mass grave of both Union and Confederate soldiers killed in an area Civil War battle.

For the sponsoring Fulton-based Elijah Gates Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans it also ends a major investigative and fund-raising effort to honor those neglected dead, unmarked for more than 150 years.

For the public, it affords an opportunity to witness a quasi-military ceremony of colorful pageantry and thoughtful remembrance, featuring honor and color guards of uniformed reenactors, a bagpiper and a fired salute. Mourners in period dress from the Reuben H. Bullard Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy will present a memorial wreath.

The event will take place at the property of Gus Guthrie, just outside Calwood, on St. Rd. Z about 1 mile southwest of the intersection of Z and JJ. Calwood is about 7 miles northeast of Fulton. The event is free, and parking is available at the site.

The SCV camp's commander, Noel Crowson refers to the signal event as "both a heady and a humbling experience," the end of a journey involving research into the July 28, 1862, Battle of Moore's Mill and its casualties, confirming remains with high-tech sonar scanning, acquiring the mass grave site through generous donation by the property owner, creating a small park with fencing and a large granite monument, and raising about $5,000 to finance the project.

This Gates Camp major project is the most recent to draw attention to a battle previously nearly forgotten. On its 150th anniversary, July 28, 2012, two interpretive panels on the Gray Ghosts Trail were dedicated at the battle site, on St. Rd. JJ about 7/10 mile south of the Z/JJ intersection. Subsequently there was a highly successful battlefield archeological dig there sponsored by Missouri's Civil War Heritage Foundation. In the 1990s there were two battle reenactments. Gates Camp members have played key roles in all such efforts.

The Battle of Moore's Mill pitted against one another nearly one thousand dismounted cavalry in four hours of hot fighting. In the end, Union troops led by Col. Odon Guitar of the 9th Missouri State Militia Cavalry had defeated the substantially outnumbered 1st Northeast Missouri Cavalry under Col. Joseph C. Porter.

Union wounded were transported by wagon to Fulton, but for health reasons the day after the battle Guitar ordered Union soldiers and some Confederates left on the field buried in a mass grave. There they lay unmarked for a century and a half, until the Gates Camp decided to aggressively investigate the mass grave's location, once sought out in 1958 by the late judge and regional historian Hugh P. Williamson.

The Sunday ceremony is expected to draw a host of public officials, leaders of both the SCV and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), reenactors including two cannon units, and possibly descendants of men who fought in the battle.

Afterward, the local UDC chapter will host a free reception, with desserts and beverages, at the nearby Calwood Community Center, just east of the Guthrie property on St. Rd. Z.

For information about the ceremony, contact Noel Crowson at 573-386-5786.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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