Saturday, April 9, 2011

Alfred Darden, Civil War Solider Mystery, As Best I Can Figure, The Last Chapter

Copyright 2011, CABS for Reflections From the Fence

(Please refer to Alfred Darden, Civil War Solider Mystery, His Family and Alfred Darden, Civil War Solider Mystery, His War Record for background information that leads to this, the last chapter.)

Back in Isle of Wight County Virginia Alfred's brother Charles H. Darden was busy with his own family (his first wife had died and he had taken a second wife).  Charles built a home there in 1852, the home still stands. There is a family cemetery on the grounds not far from the house.  In that cemetery there are currently only two headstones, one is for Charles H. Darden, the other is for (per the inscription):

 A. F. Darden, born 6 Jan 1817 and died 18 Aug 1863

For some years I wondered who this A.F. Darden was.  When I discovered the biography for his grandson, Alfred S. Darden, I started putting the puzzle together.  As a reminder, this is the portion of Alfred S. Darden's biography that plays a large part in my version of what happened to Alfred Darden.

"Alfred Stephen Darden, a planter of Blanton, Sharkey County, is numbered among Mississippi's native sons, for he was born in Pocahontas, Hinds County, September 13, 1877. The family came from Virginia to this state prior to the Civil War, in which the grandfather of Alfred S. Darden participated. Joining the Confederate Army, he was captured and imprisoned, and after his release died while en route home."

The birth date for the A. F. Darden buried in Isle of Wight does not conflict with estimates of the birth of Alfred Darden as found on the 1850 and 1860 census.  The death date for A.F. Darden buried in that family cemetery is just 19 days after A. T. Darden was released from Fort Delaware.

At Fort Delaware many Confederate soldiers died, most of disease. Per Wikipedia, "Originally prisoners were housed inside the fort and later in wooden barracks that soon covered much of the island. Most of the Confederates captured at Gettysburg were imprisoned there. By August 1863, there were 11,000 prisoners on the island; by war’s end, it had held some 33,000 men. The conditions were decent, but about 2,400 prisoners died at Fort Delaware. Statistically, confederates had a better chance of dying from disease on the battlefield than a prisoner at Fort Delaware."  The fact is, Fort Delaware had it's share of disease, many men were ill.  It is entirely possible, although not provable, that A.T. Darden was in fact ill when he was released.

If you use a modern mapping/trip planning program, it does not take long to discover that it is about 265 miles from Fort Delaware to Isle of Wight County Virginia (via Maryland and by crossing the Chesapeake Bay).  It is about 1115 miles from Fort Delaware to Alfred's home in Hinds County Mississippi (via Washington D.C., Winston-Salem, Chattanooga, and Tuscaloosa) .

With just a little reasoning, along with a dash of guestimation, one can easily come up with the scenario where A.T., or Alfred Darden is released from Fort Delaware.  He may be walking home, he has no horse, I cannot imagine that the Union Army paid for him to ride a train home, would they? He could be ill from the conditions of war and Fort Delaware.  If ill he may have headed for the closest haven he knew, his birthplace, the home of his brother, Charles H. Darden, at Isle of Wight County Virginia.

And, there he died.  And, there he was buried in the little cemetery by his brother's home.  And, there, at some point in time, his widow, Mary, had placed a headstone, that reads, A. F. Darden.  Now, this would not be the first headstone inscribed with an error.  It is my opinion that is exactly what happened, Mary ordered a headstone for her late husband, and somehow, it was inscribed with the wrong middle initial.

In Memory of
A.F. Darden
Born Jan. 6, 1817
Died Aug. 18, 1863
Erected by his Wife
And, that is what I believe happened to Mary's husband, Alfred, (A.T.) Darden.  He went to war, he was captured, transferred to Fort Delaware, became quite ill, was pardoned, somehow found his way to his birth home town, where he died at his brother's home and was buried in the family cemetery.

I would like to remind my readers that Alfred, A.T., or A.F. Darden's story is part fact, and part artful and hopefully logical guestimation.  I believe I have artfully and logically guessed correctly, but, I cannot guarantee that I have done so.

Alfred Darden, a Civil War Confederate solider, with a sparse record of service and a lot of unanswered questions about what happened to him.  A story very much like that of many Civil War soldiers, no matter which side they fought on.

* For further reading on Fort Delaware, you might be interested in The Union prison at Fort Delaware: a Perfect Hell on Earth by Brian Temple, I found it via Google Books, here.

**Alfred Darden has a memorial on Find A Grave, here, said memorial created by this compiler.



lindalee said...

BRAVO....nice work with your series on your Darden ancestor. I have seen tombstones in my own ancestry with the incorrect information carved spellings, dates, etc. I don't think you are far flung at all in assuming that this is Alfred T. Darden AND I think your story makes good sense. I have also read enough civil war stories to know that numerous men died enroute to their homes from war wounds....some on foot, some on trains.

Susan (Nolichucky Roots) said...

Your interpretation certainly fits. And I love your last paragraph. Absolutely love it.

Barbara Poole said...

I agree with Linda and Susan. And, you know the T and F look similar, often taken for one another. Your conclusion appears right on target. Is this a case where you found the tombstone then pieced the story or was it the other way, story and hunted for the tombstone? Either way, very good.

Carol said...

Barbara, I have had the information on the headstone for many many years, since at least 1995. In fact, Alfred's headstone was the only one legible when I first found the cemetery, Charles' was face down in the mud, took years to get his stone pulled up and out of the mud.

So, I had the headstone first, a BUCKET LOAD of research in Isle of Wight County on the Darden clan next, then the trip to Jackson Mississippi where I found the grandson's bio with that tidbit of data, and then a lot more reviewing, reviewing and reviewing trying to patch it all together.

And, thank you Linda, Susan and Barbara for your reading this long story, and your kind words. So appreciated!

Greta Koehl said...

Inaccurate information on tombstones causes more confusion and problems! Have a great-grandfather whose tombstone has the wrong year of birth and gives him the title of Captain (he was only a Private). Have had lots of "discussions" with relatives on that score. I am betting your guesses are pretty much on the mark.

Apple said...

Nice work pulling all the clues together! How sad that he died on his way home.