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Confederate Civil War Soldier
Buried in Collins

In a patch of Yankee soil on a wooded hillside in Gowanda, a Confederate soldier has at last found peace and honor.

Amid the cool autumn breezes and the stirring of golden-brown leaves, an unweathered white stone now stands on a grave that had been unmarked for the past 91 years. It bears an unlikely legend for a cemetery not far from the Canadian border -- a legend proclaiming that Pvt. Charles Vosburg once fought for the Mississippi Volunteers.

Son of a prominent Gowanda family and kin to President Millard Fillmore, who had tried in vain to head off the Civil War, Vosburg returned to his home town years after his capture at Lookout Mountain and internment in Illinois. He moved in with his sister and brother-in-law -- a Union veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg.

"Here are these two guys who fought on opposite sides in the Civil War, and here they are living together at the end of their lives," said Mike Ebert, the man who traced down Vosburg's story. "Apparently, there was no animosity."

The gravestone that stands now on Vosburg's grave in the Pine Hill Cemetery here was provided last month by the Veterans Administration, thanks to Ebert's work. Next month, on Veterans' Day, there will be a dedication ceremony.

No one knows, now, what ideological or personal demons drove Vosburg away from the family homestead and as far as the Deep South. Ebert, despite extensive research, has been unable to locate any surviving descendants of the family.

"His own father had more or less forgotten about him, after he went South," he said. "When I went to the Cattaraugus County surrogate's office to read his father's will, all it said was he didn't know the whereabouts of his son."

Charles, the oldest of nine children of John Vosburg and the former Betsy Fillmore, niece of the president, was born on July 8, 1824 and apparently left home in the late 1850s or early 1860s. Neither records nor shreds of family tradition survive to indicate whether he was simply seeking his fortune, had a falling-out with his father, or found fault with the politics of Fillmore and the nation.

There's also no clear indication why Vosburg never got a headstone after his death on Nov. 12, 1903 -- although Ebert thinks the reason may simply have been lack of money.

In fact, when Ebert first went to Pine Hill Cemetery in early 1993 to find Vosburg, there was very little evidence at all. A caretaker cutting grass pointed out the Vosburg family plot and told him that four or five Vosburgs -- including Charles -- had even been buried without headstones. Ebert, who had been asked by leaders of his Civil War re-enactment group to track down two reported Civil War gravesites in his area, got curious. "There was nothing here at all, which is what drove me to find out more about this guy," he said. Ebert himself portrays a Confederate soldier in "living history" re-enactments, as part of Western New York's 36th Virginia re-enactment unit -- itself an anomaly of sorts, a northern group that's part of a largely Southern re-enactment association

The second burial he'd been checking turned out to be a documented Union veteran. But the re-enactment group got excited by the efforts to trace Vosburg's service. Veterans from the Confederate States of America buried here, Ebert said, "could probably be counted on one hand, from here to central New York (where Elmira hosted a wartime prison)." Ebert's search covered as much ground as Vosburg did. The Pine Hill caretaker directed him to Town of Perrysburg historian Lorraine T. Marvin, who provided information on the family; his search for Vosburg's military records involved the National Archives, officials and libraries in Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi, and the Harold B. Simpson Confederate Research Center in Texas.

All Rughts to this Article belong to The Buffalo News HIS GRAVE MARKED AFTER 91 YEARS, YANK-TURNED-REB IS STILL A MYSTERY TUESDAY, October 11, 1994

 

 

 

Continued from Column One

Historian Peggy Fox at the Texas center finally found Vosburg's name on the roster of Co. A in the 30th Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers, and the National Archives used that clue to track down service records. Vosburg had gone to either Atlanta or Louisville, and had married a Southern woman named Helen Blair. She had died soon afterwards, Ebert said. "But he remained down there and enlisted in the Confederate Army," he explained.

The three-year enlistment, Ebert found, was recorded in Black Hawk, Miss., on Feb. 25, 1862. On Nov. 24, 1863, Vosburg found himself "in one of the forward brigades" when the forces in gray clashed with Gen. Ulysses S.

Grant's Union Army at Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tenn. "He was captured there," Ebert said. "Then he was taken to Nashville, and from there to Louisville. Eventually he reached the Rock Island Barracks in Illinois, on Dec. 14, 1863, and he was imprisoned there until the end of the war. He was taken to New Orleans on May 3, 1865, for exchange."

Vosburg apparently helped his sister and brother in Wisconsin run a hotel there for several years after the war, and in his later years moved in with another sister in Perrysburg. She and her husband, Union vet Frank Campbell, also are buried at Pine Hill, but in a different section of the cemetery.

For Ebert, the search also illuminated other aspects of local history. Vosburg, for example, is buried near Cyrus Fillmore -- a veteran of the New York Regiment from the Revolutionary War who lived from 1758 to 1846.

Vosburg may have attended that funeral. Vosburg's father had been a Gowanda blacksmith who relocated just north of the village to a place called Clear Creek, in the Town of Collins. The place still is nicknamed "Tub Town," and the Vosburgs had something to do with that -- John Vosburg had built a saw mill and a butter tub factory there, and after the buildings burned in 1849 the nickname remained. "After that, his father became the highway commissioner for the Town of Collins, and a lot of the roads around here were built under his supervision," Ebert said.

At 12:30 p.m. Nov. 11, the strands of history will come together once more at Vosburg's gravesite. The 36th Virginia, commanded by Lt. Thomas R.

Place, will provide Veterans' Day honors at the gravesite, aided by a re-enactment Confederate Army artillery battery based at Silver Creek. Standing in the ranks will be three gray-clad soldiers -- Lewis, Charles and Floyd Vickers, brothers who have been "re-enacted" by Ebert, Mike Murray and Scott Lawton, all of Gowanda. For them, the moment will be one of respect for a former soldier who, ideology aside, served through one of the bloodiest and most divisive wars in American history. "Stuff like this is what it's all about, for us," Ebert said.

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