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Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014

Men to match the moment

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's amazing, the many men, average men, tried and proved in the crucible that was 1860s Vernon County. Ordinary men who turned out extraordinary, as it were.

One who only lately came to our notice makes a threesome: three men all once known for their doings in the Civil War's aftermath, all now sadly forgotten.

A brief feature item in an old Missouri Blue Book told us that the erecting of the statue of General Sterling Price in 1915 at Keytesville, the general's hometown, was overseen by a commission of (predictably) two Keytesvil-lians and... J. D. Ingram, Nevada, Mo.

Some rather flurried research turned up only that James D. Ingram was the second half, so to speak, of Turpin and Ingram, the 1890s undertaking and furniture concern that preceded Wainscott's, in the premises now occupied by Hertzberg's.

By 1918, the partnership was gone, and that year's city directory puts Ingram down as a "contractor." Six years later he went to join his wife Donie in Deepwood Cemetery.

The local Confederate roster compiled by Bushwhacker Museum staff takes due note of Major J.D. Ingram, calling him a veteran of the 11th Texas Artillery. In the 1890s he was adjutant of Nevada's Camp No. 662 of the United Confederate Veterans.

It's not much to know about a man once deemed qualified, out of all the state, to join in memorializing Missouri's beloved "Old Pap" Price.

Strangely paralleling Ingram in years, experience, and reputation is another major, and another James. Major James R. Walton earns mention in the famous book of yet a third major, John N. Edwards' eloquent "Shelby and his Men," as well as in an early issue of "Confederate Veteran," the magazine of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Walton's majority (as this officer position is termed) was with the 11th Missouri Cavalry. He was badly wounded at both Neosho, Mo., and Helena, Ark., and spent 18 months on Johnson Island in Lake Erie, that unsavory, often lethal Federal "Andersonville."

Likely Walton's health was permanently impaired, for while he spent 30 postwar years in Vernon County, gainful employment shows up for only four of them, when he was steward of the Nevada State Hospital during the administration of Gov. Joseph Folk. He became first commandant of UCV Camp No. 662 when it was formed in the mid-1880s.

Hardly had Walton at last achieved something like fulfillment as superintendent of the Confederate Home at Higginsville when failing health forced his resignation. And not long afterwards, in 1915, he preceded his comrade Ingram to Deepwood Cemetery.

The third of our trio whose Civil War veteran status carried him above and beyond local concerns came from the "winning" side. And it showed. Better-known than his two Rebel peers, Charles G. Burton was lauded as "one of the foremost men in southwest Missouri." He joined the Union army in Ohio at age 15, and saw action in Mississippi.

Admitted to the bar in 1867, he began law practice a year later in Virgil City. Four years later (Virgil City not having lived up to its early promise) he moved to Nevada, and within a year was elected circuit attorney. In 1880 he began a six-year term as judge of the 25th circuit, and four years later won a seat in Congress. He was also vice president of the Thornton Bank.

In 1907 he was appointed district collector of Internal Revenue at Kansas City; but he continued to call Nevada his home. Popular and engaging, he counted Presidents McKinley and Harding among his personal friends.

As giddy as his political and legal rise was his ascent in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans' organization. In 1889 he became Nevada post commander, and in 1893 was elected state commander. Election in 1908 took him to the top as commander nationwide. His imposing Deepwood monument conspicuously calls attention to these milestones.

Somewhat lower down the social totem pole is a second trio whose common denominator seems to have been just their severally showing up in "Confederate Veteran." In the February 1914 issue, a letter-writer noted that in 1866 he'd heard Gen. William I. Sherman take public responsibility for the controversial burning of Columbia, S.C., "to terrorize the Confederates." The writer -- "C.H. Briggs, Nevada, Mo." Other references were to "H. C. Briggs" or "Rev. Dr. Briggs."

And the local Confederate roster calls McKill Chapel Cemetery southwest of Bronaugh the resting place of "Rev. Ancel C. Briggs, 1847-1937. An old circuit rider, he always did the best he could." Is this all one and the same Briggs, merely a typographical muddle? The dates are right.

A year earlier the magazine had noted the death of J. D. Powell, who'd enlisted, it said, at Nevada, Mo., on May 26, 1861, in R.H. Williams' company, 7th (Hunter's) Cavalry Regiment, 8th Division, Missouri State Guard, and then finished out the war in regular Confederate service. Back home, he soon settled south of El Dorado Springs, where he died in 1913 and was buried in nearby Clintonville Cemetery. A shadowy figure at best, J.D. Powell seems scarcely deserving of the mention his passing earned in a national publication.

Typographical confusions confound the identity of more than one veteran. D.A. Embree may or may not be the 1911 Nevada resident Capt. W.H. (or C.) Embree of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry listed in local sources; but in any case he wrote the "Confederate Veteran" seeking to contact old comrades who'd been with Colonel Sidney Jackman (a prewar Papinsville dweller) in February 1862 "when we got news that the Kansas Jayhawkers were killing and robbing citizens in Bates County." He also hoped to contact men he'd known while a prisoner of war at Sedalia.

"I would like especially to hear from Captain Marchbanks if living," he ended.

Marchbanks, a respected town father in Paris, Texas, had just a year of living left. One hopes against hope that Capt. Embree reached his old fellow-soldier in time.

He was 73, he wrote, and had "never recovered from injuries received in the Sedalia prison." The times they might be a-moving on in 1911, but for these old fading-away warriors the world itself had shrunken to little more than those deep-etched young-men's passions of long ago, as mirrored and immortalized in the pages of "Confederate Veteran." The magazine is still being published, to be read by their grandsons and great-grandsons.