This is part 2 of the article by Edward G. J. Richter, first published in Issue 2 of The Gettysburg Magazine. Part 1 was posted Monday, June 25.
Dr. Weaver was particularly well suited for the monumental task before him. In 1865 he had received his degree of Doctor of Medicine and in 1870 was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy at Hahnemann Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since his childhood he had a keen interest in anatomy, and he brought his skill and interest to his work. His knowledge in the field of anatomy enabled him to identify many sets of remains, especially where the nature of the soldiers’ wounds was known and where the bones had been involved. In some cases he had hospital records available to him and he was able to match the wounds described with the skeletal remains.
During the years 1870-1873, Dr. Weaver exhumed, boxed and shipped 3,320 sets of remains of Confederate soldiers from Gettysburg to the South. Of these, 73 were individual removals and 3,247 were shipped to the various Ladies Memorial Associations, as follows:
Ladies Memorial Association of Charleston, South Carolina—74 remains
Ladies Memorial Association of Savannah, Georgia—101 remains
Wake County Ladies Memorial Association, Raleigh, North Carolina—137 remains
Hollywood Memorial Association, Richmond, Virginia—2,935 remains
Of the 73 individual removals, it is not certain if that includes all such removals, or only those removed by Dr. Weaver. It is certain though that the vast majority of Confederate remains removed from Gettysburg and vicinity were removed by Dr. Weaver.
On May 10, 1871, Confederate Memorial Day, the remains of 70 South Carolinians removed from Gettysburg, and 10 removed from the hospital cemetery at Chester, Pennsylvania, were reinterred in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina. The remains of 4 others had also been removed from Gettysburg but apparently had been buried elsewhere, as their identity and location of original burial was not recorded. They were buried in 63 individual graves, one containing 2 bodies, and 16 were buried in 2 large graves.
On August 21, 1871, 32 sets of remains, and on September 24, 1871, 69 sets of remains, of Georgians removed from Gettysburg were reinterred at Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia. Two of these were buried in individual graves, and 99 were buried in 8 large graves.
On June 16, 1871, the Wake County North Carolina Ladies Memorial Association voted to remove North Carolina dead from Gettysburg and by Oct. 1, 1871, 137 sets of remains were reinterred in the Confederate section of Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, North Carolina. There were 119 of these dead buried in separate graves, and 18 others in 2 large graves.
In 1872 Dr. Weaver commenced the exhuming, boxing and shipping of the remaining Confederate dead to Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. He was employed in this work from April 19 to September 10, 1872, and from April 9 to October 3, 1873. Before daybreak on each working day, Dr. Weaver and his men were out on the field. He personally superintended all of the work, and once a grave was opened, he removed all of the bones himself, considering each fragment an “important and sacred” part of the remains. He felt that only a person with a knowledge of anatomy could do this properly and completely. He then carefully packed the remains in boxes. At dark he would return home with, as he stated, his “precious freight,” and after dinner often work until midnight labeling the remains and completing his records for the day. He usually worked 18-20 hours a day, feeling that the work had to be completed then or never. Thirty years later his health was still affected by these long hours and his exposure to the elements.
After the exhumation, the remains were boxed and shipped in 3 categories. First, where the remains could be positively identified individually, they were placed in separate small boxes and numbered consecutively. In a few cases, where 2 bodies had been in the same grave, they were shipped together in one box. Secondly, where remains could be identified as being part of a group of remains, but where the individual identification was no longer possible, they were shipped in large boxes. These large boxes usually contained from 8 to 14 sets of remains each, and where the names of some of the soldiers whose remains were contained therein were known, they were listed in Dr. Weaver’s records. These large boxes were marked with a letter of the alphabet, all of the boxes in one shipment from the same location having the same letter. The third category were those shipped in large boxes whose identity was unknown.
The remains were sent from Gettysburg to Hollywood Cemetery in 6 shipments, 313 in separate, small boxes and 2,622 in large boxes, as follows:
Shipment No. 1—June 13, 1872—708 remains.
Shipment No. 2—August 3, 1872—882 remains.
Shipment No. 3—September 10, 1872—683 remains.
Shipment No. 4—May 17, 1873—333 remains.
Shipment No. 5—June 28, 1873—256 remains.
Shipment No. 6—October 11, 1873—73 remains.
The total cost of the removals to Hollywood Cemetery was $9,536. In 1872 and 1873 Dr. Weaver was paid $3,180. As late as 1892, 20 years later, Dr. Weaver, who had paid much of these expenses out of his own funds, still had not been paid and was seeking help in receiving reimbursement.
The remains shipped from Gettysburg had been exhumed from at least 96 different locations, and there were at least 19 other places where there were known Confederate burials but no record of removal. Of the Confederate dead, whose graves had been originally marked and recorded by Dr. O’Neal and Mr. Weaver, there were 230 of whom no record of their removal from Gettysburg could be found. Unfortunately, the records of the last 2 shipments to Hollywood Cemetery were not available, and attempts to locate them to date have been futile. Many were probably included in the last 2 shipments. Many others were probably removed individually, and some were removed among the unknown. Occasionally, in the years since 1873, the remains or partial remains of a Confederate soldier have been found at Gettysburg. One was exhumed in the area where the dead from the Pickett-Pettigrew Charge had been buried and was removed and reinterred in Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown, Maryland. There may be a few who still lay in unknown graves at Gettysburg.
The work was completed, the remains exhumed, examined, boxed, labeled, shipped, and reinterred in the South. The Confederate soldiers who had paid the supreme price for their cause at Gettysburg had come home. Their graves in the Southern cemeteries were marked with headstones, the grounds carefully prepared and maintained, and monuments raised and dedicated in their honor. This accomplishment was a tribute to the ladies of the various Memorial Associations who had arranged and paid for the removals, acquired suitable burial places, and saw that the graves were properly marked and cared for. It was an honor to Dr. Weaver, to whom this was not just a task, but a sacred trust. His efforts had ensured that this monumental task was properly carried out, through his skill, dedication and sacrifice.
About the Author:
The author is a retired lieutenant from the Nassau County, New York Police Department, having served for 33 years. He served in the U.S. Army Infantry for three years prior to that.