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Archive for Sunday, August 2, 2009

New headstone honors a near-forgotten Civil War soldier

August 2, 2009

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John A. Beasley's new headstone, as seen in this July 20 photo, can now be found on the eastern edge of Eastside Cemetery in Hutchinson. For nearly 100 years, the remains of the Confederate soldier rested under an unmarked patch of Bermuda grass.

John A. Beasley's new headstone, as seen in this July 20 photo, can now be found on the eastern edge of Eastside Cemetery in Hutchinson. For nearly 100 years, the remains of the Confederate soldier rested under an unmarked patch of Bermuda grass.

— People can now find John A. Beasley.

Cannons weren’t fired and taps wasn’t played in this part of Hutchinson’s Eastside Cemetery where, for nearly 100 years, the remains of the Confederate soldier rested under an unmarked patch of Bermuda grass.

Distant cousin Jim Converse, Olathe, along with Heath Roland, a member of a Kansas City branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, gave a simple salute after setting his grave, Converse saying another Civil War soldier has gotten the honor he deserves.

“This brings a great deal of satisfaction,” Converse said. “He’s family.”

Consider Beasley an almost forgotten footnote in the War Between the States. Even with a proper stone, there’s little information on this man who Converse says probably grew up the son of a plantation owner in Kentucky. Beasley enlisted in Company I of the 7th Kentucky Cavalry of the Confederate States of America, fighting in Civil War battles until he was captured by Union troops and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in the North for the remainder of the war.

Then, all other information is lost, Converse said. An obituary from his death in 1912 shows he had been retired for several years and lived in South Hutchinson. The obituary also lists a few family members who are also buried in the local cemetery, including his brother, George.

“How he ended up here, we don’t know,” Converse said.

Across the state, there could be several unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers like Beasley’s, said Roland, who, for the past decade, has helped get Confederate soldiers their gravestones.

Some of these soldiers have no stone, others might be adorned with a private marker, their time in the service never recognized after death.

This could especially be true for Confederate soldiers who didn’t want to disclose that they had once served the southern army after migrating to Kansas, said Gale Wall, with the Reno County Genealogical Society.

Two years ago, Wall and fellow member Kathleen Dankanjin found the unmarked grave of a Union soldier while indexing the cemetery. Finding out information on Confederate soldiers is a little more difficult, she said.

“There are more records available for Union veterans,” she said.

Converse actually serves as department commander of the Department of Kansas Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. His great-great-grandfather was a Union soldier.

But his mother, Annie Reddish Swanson, is a cousin to Beasley. Swanson grew up in Missouri, and her mother was raised in Kentucky. Converse’s family genealogy searches connected him to Beasley.

He soon discovered the soldier never received his free government-issued tombstone — something all veterans of the Civil War were granted if they so chose.

The only cost would have been a $75 fee through Eastside Cemetery, which cemetery officials waived, said cemetery manager Zach Phillips.

So Roland and Converse drove from Kansas City in a van with Beasley’s headstone. They dug a hole 24 inches deep, then set the stone in the small plot on the eastern edge of Eastside Cemetery. Within an hour, they were back on the road toward Kansas City, content with their day’s work.

“It’s great to know he has a marker,” said Roland, whose great-great-great-grandfather was a Texan who served in the Confederate Army. “We drove 190 miles to set his headstone, if that tells you how much this means.”

And it didn’t matter to Converse what side his family fought on.

“The war is over,” he said with a laugh.

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