Aug 4, 2011

Written in stone

This is one of my favorite local tombstones. The deceased has had as much of his war record as possible inscribed on the front of his marker. I wish he'd used the back to explain why.
If he had died shortly after the end of the war, I could understand it; he may have been afraid, as a Confederate veteran, that the history may have been lost or covered up. But by 1901, the history (and myth), of the Lost Cause was well established, even flourishing. The United Confederate Veterans was a large and robust organization, The Southern Historical Society Papers had been published, and the "OR" (the Official Records of the American Civil War) was just wrapping up its first publishing run. Even the mayor of Baltimore, Thomas Gordon Hayes, was a Confederate veteran.
However, there are two things that may have prompted Brooke Pleasants to set his record in stone. First, the 7th Regiment, Mississippi Cavalry (under the command of writer William Faulkner's great-grandfather), was a unit of "Partisan Rangers," which automatically made them suspect in the eyes of some. Secondly, the unit was under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest at the time of the Fort Pillow Massacre, though it looks to me like the 7th* wasn't at the actual battle, judging by this account: "When Chalmers and Forrest made their famous raid through Tennessee, in April following, the First Partisans, under Major Park, and McGuirk's Regiment, made a demonstration toward Memphis, reporting that General Lee was advancing that way, thus securing more freedom of movement for the capture of Fort Pillow."

It may have been Pleasants' intention to distance himself from the massacre by placing the facts on his tombstone. He wasn't the only former partisan ranger living in Baltimore County back then, but more on that later. The tombstone reads as follows:

In memory of
Son of Thomas Snowden
Pleasants and his wife
Eliza Brooke. Born in
Goochland Co. Va. Feb. 17. 1829.
Died in Baltimore Md. Aug. 4
1901. Enlisted June 15. 1861
at Memphis Tenn. as Private
in Co, E. 6th Battalion 7th Tenn
Cavalry C.S.A. Capt. J.S. White.
Afterwards transferred to Co.
K. 7th Miss. Cavalry C.S.A.
Was surrendered with others
at Citronelle Ala. by Lieut.
Genl. Richard Taylor C.S.A. to
Major Genl. Canby U.S.A.
May 4. 1865. Paroled at
Grenada Miss. May 19. 1865.
May he rest in Peace.

*Nor was the 7th Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry (Duckworth's) at Fort Pillow according to this source and this.

Photo of tombstone taken at St. Johns Church, Hydes, Maryland with a Canon EOS 40D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens