As you might already be aware historical research interests me.
No surprise there, right?
I realize it might not be your thing…but it’s mine. I conduct the research in order to find the quirky things that draw people in…..the hidden information that never makes it to the textbook or your eleventh grade history teacher’s lesson plan.
I use it to remind folks about things they know, but have filed them away somewhere in the dark recesses of their minds.
I use the research to write curriculum so other educators can share it with their students.
I use the research to feed my need to write…..and learn.
I do the research to find little pieces of larger history puzzles I’m trying to put together, and that’s where the irony comes in. Most of the time I find little puzzle pieces here and there when I least expect them…..most certainly when I’m NOT looking for them.
Sometimes those little puzzle pieces are monumental because they hold the key to solving a historical mystery.
I’ve never been that fortunate locate something like that, but Hugh Harrington has experienced the joy of a monumental find while looking for something else.
Hugh was on the hunt for information regarding a mass escape from a woman’s prison, so he was pouring over microfilmed issues of the Southern Recorder, a Milledgeville paper that was published during the Civil War. He happened upon a list of soldiers who had died at Brown Hospital during the last months of the Civil War.
The hospital, named for Governor Joseph Brown had been in Atlanta, but then moved under the direction of Dr. R.J. Massey to Milledgeville when General Sherman began marching south.
The list of soldiers had nothing to do with what Herrington was searching for, but he had hunch that the list might be important.
He knew there was a Confederate Memorial at Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville to unknown dead. He knew this because he had been involved in indexing the many of the graves at the cemetery. He knew at least two of the soldiers were named in the Confederate section and…….their names were on the same list he had just found in the newspaper archives.
It was more than a hunch…..He had stumbled upon the identities of the unknown soldiers….all of them.
He did just what I would have done. He went to the cemetery….walked to the memorial and announced to the men at rest there……”I know who you are…..”
What a personal moment of joy for Mr. Herrington…..
Then he met with members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and shared his discovery. They immediately agreed with him that he had found a resource to identify the graves.
He went through the list to determine which men were shipped home….and narrowed the list to 24 names. He determined they all died in 1864. The men had died in August or September, 1864 while patients of the hospital. They all died of disease of one sort or another. They were all citizens of Georgia and part of the militia.
However, between September 6, 1864 when the newspaper article provided the names of the men who died and 1868 when the monument was erected folks didn’t remember a list existed, and the names had been lost all that time until Hugh Herrington happened to be looking for……..
I have to wonder thought if Mr. Herrington ever found anything on those wild women who broke out of prison.
I’ve written about Dr. R.J. Massey….the head surgeon at Brown Hospital. He was instrumental in saving the State House in Millledgeville from Sherman’s torch and happened to live in my little town for a bit. You can read my article here.