Richmond was flooded with federal prisoners after the Battle of First Manassas (21 July 1861), many of them badly wounded. The Confederate authorities were not prepared for their own casualties, much less the Yankee army's, and scrambled to find space. More POWs arrived steadily as the War continued.
While most prisoners were housed in various tobacco warehouses and other large buildings just east of downtown Richmond, many of the seriously wounded or ill POWs were taken to the brand-new City Alms House, on Shockoe Hill, just north of downtown. This image from 1861 shows Union soldiers being treated in the Alms House.
Loaned by the City of Richmond to the Confederate medical service, and later officially designated General Hospital Number 1, this large, well-ventilated brick building housed wounded and sick Union soldiers on and off for the next two years, along with hundreds of wounded Confederates. It closed as a general hospital in mid-1864. The City Alms House still stands today, virtually unchanged from its wartime appearance.
Dr. Charles Bell Gibson, a leading physician of the time, was the Surgeon-in-charge. He was assisted by nuns of the Sisters of Mercy, an unusual arrangement for the time. While individual experiences differed, a number of prisoners who were treated there noted the respectful treatment they received from Dr. Gibson and his staff.
For example, Corp. William Merrell of the 27th New York Infantry wrote home to Rochester in August 1861: " ...I have received nothing but kindness, the best of care and good treatment. God bless the doctors and Sisters of Mercy...I could not have been treated better among my own friends...."
In this April 1865 view, the City Alms House (a.k.a. General Hospital No. 1) appears in the background with Shockoe Hill Cemetery in the foreground. The eastern cemetery wall is visible in the bottom right of the photo. The area where the federal soldiers were long believed to have been buried is in the bottom center.
The City of Richmond, which also owned and maintained Shockoe Hill Cemetery directly across Hospital Street from the Alms House building, took responsibility for burying the Hospital dead (as well as some prisoners who died elsewhere in the city). Thereafter, the assumption -- for the next 140 years -- was that the Federal POWs were interred, and remained to this day, in a large, relatively open area within the cemetery walls (above, and left, as it appears today).
However, during the early 2000s, research into the City interment records, and the multi-volume Roll of Honor: Names of Soldiers Who Died in Defense of the American Union, established that the men actually were buried one block east of the cemetery, just outside the eastern cemetery wall, in land that formed part of what is now known as the "Shockoe Hill African Burial Ground". There, the City had long buried residents of color, as well as some indigent whites. The soldiers were buried in two lots adjacent to a long-lost building first known as the "City Hospital and Poor House", and later as the "Colored Poor House".
The specific site where the POWs were buried is now part of the Hebrew Cemetery of Richmond. No trace of the earlier graves remains.
Also lost to history until recently, was that at least a dozen of the hundreds of men identified as Union "soldiers" were not soldiers at all, but Unionist civilians. We also now know that all, soldiers and civilians alike, were disinterred in 1866-67, with at least the soldiers reinterred in the Richmond National Cemetery in east Richmond. They rest there today as unknowns. The photo at right shows the section where they were reburied, taken during a marker-rehabilitation effort in 2012.
Although the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument in Shockoe Hill Cemetery in 1938 that referred to Confederate and Union dead, the United States government never memorialized the service and sacrifice of the men originally buried there.
Finally, in 2002, the Virginia Commandery of the "Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States" (MOLLUS), an organization of Union Army officer descendants and other interested persons, ensured that the Federal soldiers' original resting place on Shockoe Hill was identified for future generations.
The Virginia Commandery arranged for the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a suitable marker, which the Commandery dedicated in October 2002.
The eighty-eight names recorded at the time of time of burial as a "Federal Soldier," and that appear on the marker, are listed below. Many have turned out to be misspelled, and no unit information was recorded at burial. (Two other men listed in the burial records by name, but not identified as a "Federal Soldier" and therefore not named on the marker -- Thomas Bingham and William Sturgeon, both of Kentucky -- have since been found to have been United States soldiers. )
Extensive ongoing research since the placing of the marker in 2002 has uncovered the correct names, and the units, of many of these men. Also uncovered have been the names and units of other Union soldiers possibly buried on Shockoe Hill, but not listed by name when buried (and therefore not listed on the marker).
NOTE: Markers for a few of the men appearing here can be found in hometown cemeteries. While it is conceivable some remains were identified and returned to families, it is likely that most if not all of those markers are cenotaphs (i.e., memorial markers not indicating an actual burial.)
The eighty-eight names recorded at the time of burial appear on the markers, and are noted below, as they were recorded. Many of these names were incorrectly spelled at the time of the original burials, and not all these soldiers have been identified. The names of all identified soldiers appear, with any corrections, in the "Names By State of Service" section.
James Adams/Joseph Adkins/Joseph Albright/
George M. Andrews/G.W. Andrews/William T. Armstrong/ Theodore Ashburn/H. Bains/William Barrard/William Batte/
J.W. Bishop/William G. Bishop/Francis M. Botts/
David S. Brooks/John Brown/Joseph W. Brown/
Morton L. Brown/George O. Bryan/Jules Camp/
J. Martin Camp/J.M. Cary/C.F. Clark/
John Cunghman/James Cunningham/Jacob Deitz/
Andrew Dennyson/William J. Devereux/Leroy Dison/
John E. Doughlass/John Eldridge/R.A Ellis/
George Farland/Lucius Fepps/Simon Gerrald/
William Gibbs/William B. Gowen/James Hall/
Francis Hardiman/James D. Harris/Willis C. Haynes/
Hunt/John Cox Jefferson/James Jones/
Nevil Kaughman/William Kein/Franklin King/W.H. Kleeper/ Charles Lam/James Lebery/John M. Lee/James Lemon/
William Lounger/August Maher/C.C. Mann/
M. Mannen/Martin/James H. McClurg/R.M. McMonan/
M. Milsler/ Charles W. Morgan/Joshua L. Nichols/J. Nicots/
R. Nipis/Amos Partridge/John Potter/ Lewis Quagon/
Setes Soel/F. Starke/Samuel E. Statin/George Stol/
H. Strell/James Sweetland/Charles W. Tebbits/James Teel/
J. Terrel/M.B. Thayer/Charles E. Throwbridge/
J. Trexall/William Walcup/Francis Weatherly/Daniel Wetcher/
P. Wheely/Thomas H. Woodware/James Wormes