CAMP NELSON CONFEDERATE CEMETERY
by Tom Ezell from the message board at http://www.civilwarbuff.org
OF THE 10TH TEXAS INFANTRY
Who are buried at Camp Nelson
ALLISON NELSON was Brigadier General of the Tenth Texas
regiment of infantry before oct 1862 when he died of typhoid . He was
Members of the members of the 19th Texas Volunteer
at Camp Rondo Cemetery, Rondo, AR
men of the ARKANSAS 30th AND THE 26th Battn, Austin Arkansas
who are buried at Camp Nelson
Roster of the 13TH TEXAS CAVALRY REGIMENT (DISMOUNTED)
Additonal listing of men buried at the Camp Nelson Cemetery2
If you have soldiers who are buried in Camp Nelson and would like to have them included, Please let us know.
We will be adding the known names of soldiers buried here. If you have family buried in this cemetery, please let us know and we will be happy to add their names. Jeri and EG
Each morning during the cold, wet, Arkansas winter of 1862-63, an ever-dwindling file of Gray-clad troops marched out of Camp Nelson. In the surrounding forest, beneath the dripping branches of oak, pine and hickory trees, they buried their dead -- in single graves if there were only a few, in communal trenches if there were too many for the weakened men to manage the digging.
After a brief, all-too-familiar ceremony, the
burial detail drove simple wooden stakes to mark the last homes of their
fallen comrades. Then they trudged wearily back to camp, each man burdened
with the knowledge that he
could be one of the next carried to this place in the forest.
The awful irony was that no angry shots were ever fired. No heated battle was ever fought. But there are many ways to die in a war and many kinds of battles. And this battle was against disease -- against typhoid and the dreaded black measles, with its raging fever, bilious eruptions and debilitating diarrhea. Before the siege was over, more than 1,500 of the men at Camp Nelson would succumb to these cruel, relentless enemies.
This wasn't the kind of war General Nelson had promised. But no one was blaming him.
On January 28, 1861, Georgia-born Allison
Nelson, representing Bell and McClennan Counties in the Texas Legislature,
exuberantly cast his vote for secession, returned to his home in the town
of Waco, and enlisted in the Confederate Army. He was appointed to
the rank of Colonel, commanding a well-outfitted regiment of volunteer
infantry and cavalry, gathered from the towns and farms of Central Texas.
His force was soon joined by Captain
John Lauderdale's 10th Texas Infantry from Washington County.
In August 1862, Nelson's troops were
bivouacked at Argenta, Arkansas (now a part of North Little Rock), when
news arrived that Union forces were mounting an offensive from Pea Ridge,
southeast toward Des Arc. Nelson
was ordered to send men and supplies north toward Pea Ridge, with the assurance that he would be resupplied.
On September 12th, Nelson was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Two weeks later, he was reinforced by the arrival of Colonel George Flournoy's 16th Texas Infantry from Austin County. But the promised supplies never came.
On October 2nd, Nelson and Brigadier General
H. E. McCulloch, with a combined force of 25,000 Texas and Arkansas troops,
were dispatched on an ill-fated, 55-mile trek to the east, across the swamps
of Grand Prairie
to Clarendon Heights on the White River. They arrived in a driving rainstorm on the evening of October 4th.
Almost immediately, word came that an enemy
force was moving up the Arkansas River -- in an apparent attempt to split
the Army in half. So, on October 9th, the weary and ill-clad troops packed
up and started back to Argenta
through the mud and knee-deep water.
The first night on the trail, a blustery norther swept across the land, bringing with it a storm of hail, followed by more rain and then sleet. Fighting the cold, benumbing, wind-swept bogs of Grand Prairie for two miserable days and nights, the now-exhausted men, many of them sick with chills and fever, arrived back at Argenta -- only to learn that the rumored Yankee offensive had been a false alarm. Their forced march had been for naught.
Even worse, General Nelson was no longer with his men.
Taken ill on the trip out, he had been carried back to Little Rock, were he died of pneumonia on October 7, 1862.
With an honor guard provided by Colonel J. W. Spaight's 15th Texas Regiment, he was buried in Little Rock's Mount Holly Cemetery. General Henry E. McCulloch was now in sole command of the sick and bedraggled troops.
On the morning of October 14th, McCulloch was
ordered to leave the bivouac at Argenta and move northeast a distance of
14 miles, into winter quarters at Camp Hope, two miles east of the village
of Austin. To honor General
Allison Nelson, McCulloch renamed the new encampment. Henceforth, it would be known as "Camp Nelson".
Tents were erected in a clearing in a belt of woods, where the surrounding hills provided at least partial shelter from the onslaught of the frigid north winds. Even so, epidemics of typhoid and black measles, intensified by a fouled water supply, began at once to take their toll. Within six weeks, more than 500 Gray-clad soldiers had perished.
Early in November, McCulloch was assigned the task of making a general organization of the surviving Texas Infantry. This revamped division, consisting of four brigades of able-bodied men, departed Camp Nelson on November 24th, bound for Little Rock and thence to Pine Bluff.
Five weeks later, on New Year's Day 1863, Major
General John G. Walker assumed command of McCulloch's troops. As Walker's
Texas Division, or "Walker's Greyhounds," this force went on to gain lasting
both the Confederacy and the Union alike.
Meanwhile, back at Camp Nelson near the village of Austin, fallen comrades lay among the trees under decaying wooden stakes.
And there they lay, almost forgotten for 35 years, until in 1898 a group of Arkansas Confederate veterans resolved that something should be done to commemorate those who served and died at Camp Nelson.
One of those veterans, James M. Gately, donated a tract of land for a cemetery four miles southeast of the nearby village of Cabot. Then, in 1905, the Arkansas Legislature appropriated $1,000 for a monument, and the remains of 428 Rebel soldiers were taken from the woods and re-interred in the new Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery.
Each grave was marked with a small headstone of Arkansas marble. But no individual identification was possible because of the original means of burial.
The aging veterans held annual meetings and picnics at the cemetery until the 1920s, but as the old Rebels died off one-by-one, interest waned. And, finally, the cemetery was allowed to return to nature, to be taken over by wild flowers, trees and brush.
The previous year, J. O. Isaac, a military retiree in charge of the Air Force Junior ROTC at Cabot High School, was drinking his breakfast coffee and reading the Arkansas Democrat. An item buried within the newspaper caught his attention.
Congress had passed an act, it read, declaring that Confederate soldiers were to be considered veterans of the Union and, consequently, would be entitled to veteran's benefits. Isaac realized that this magnanimous act was of little use to the living, but the story said that there was also a provision for the placement of proper monuments on Confederate graves.
Excited by the promise this offered, he contacted the Veteran's Administration in Washington. Then, having confirmed the truth of the story, he set about organizing a committee for proper restoration of the old cemetery.
Today, the Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery, the only all-Confederate cemetery in Arkansas, sits in a clearing in the woods off Cherry Road. During holiday periods, three flagstaffs carry the flags of Arkansas, Texas and the Confederacy. Beneath the flags, a 12-foot obelisk stands guard over rows of marble gravestones, each inscribed with the Confederate Cross of Honor and the words "Unknown Soldier CSA." The stark white stones, their tops gabled so that "no damn Yankee can sit on 'em," mark the graves of 428 unsung, but no longer forgotten, heroes of the Confederacy.
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