Sunday, March 11, 2012

Confederate Tombstones

I thought I should document this story for it impresses upon us the importance of thorough research, and encourages us not to be hasty in our conclusions. I attempted to recall this story today in a seminar, and thought it best to record it accurately.

Will The Real WHC Stand?
As an early researcher I was  led to Camp Butler cemetery by Civil War records. So when the intials WHC appeared on a tombstone at the gravesite I  thought my questions were answered.  Here among all the tombstones, we thought, was the burial place of Wiley Harvey Charles (W.H.C.)  But yet on the tombstone, it also states “unknown”. What was unknown?  

It was this clue that led a further search.  Perhaps W.H.C. was not our Wiley. The best explanation thus far is WHC stood for William Henry Chase Whiting (1824-1865). Whiting was captured at the Battle of Fort Fisher with the rest of the Fort defenders and transferred to the Officers Prisoner of War Camp: Governor’s Island, where he died of dysentery. Much can be found at the United Daughters of the Confederacy website. Like many civil war vets his wife had his body exhumed and reinterred. Whiting’s final resting place was at the Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, NC.   

Major General WHC Whiting was captured at Fort Fisher and died at Governor’s Island, in New York March, 1865 (his obituary states).  Many of his men were also captured or killed and their tombstones gave tribute to their Confederate service to WHC’s army. The story of Whiting, William Henry Chase  can be found at the Texas State Historical Society.  

The Opposite of Galvanized Yankees
Galvanized Yankees were prisoners of war who in exchange for their freedom traded their gray uniforms for blue.  But WHC Whiting left the Unites States Army (West Point Grad), resigned from the Army Corps of Engineers, and picked up the rebel flag in the Confederate States Army. 

From: Princeton Alumni Weekly
Red Flag
After a closer study of confederate tombstones, a repeat of WHC popped up everywhere: in cemeteries, in civil war books, in birth records, etc. There’s Wiley Harvey Charles, also a confederate soldier who went by WHC, and many who named their sons after WHC followed by the family name.  Just google WHC +confederate or +civil war and be amazed at the number of people named WHC.

Another twist to this story is that the Fort Fisher captured defenders who were not injured were imprisoned at Elmira (POW camp) in New York.  And, the wounded captured Confederate soldiers were taken to Point Lookout Maryland POW camp upon recovery.  So why was this WHC tombstone at Camp Butler in Illinois?

Well, maybe, I don’t have my ancestor’s exact tombstone after all. What I have probably located is an unidentified soldier who served under Whiting or (perhaps?) one of the unidentified soldiers captured with him or killed on the battlefield.

For More Information on Confederate Prisoners of War
For more information reference the National Archives Publication M598: Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War, 1861–1865; Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.  This collection has been digitized on

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

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