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