Friday, February 1, 2013

Friendship and Gratitude at a Civil War Prison

While I was browsing through PERSI, the Periodical Source Index, I came across a citation for an article which mentioned Masonic friendship at Johnson's Island during the Civil War. The title of the article is:

"A Token of Friendship and Gratitude from Masonic Confederate Prisoners of War at Johnson Island, Ohio to Union Colonel W.F. Osborne during the War Between the States." The article was submitted by Martis D. Ramage, Jr. to the Northeast Mississippi Historical & Genealogical Society Quarterly, Tupelo, Mississippi, in its June 1995 issue  (Volume 15, issue 4.)

In the brief article, Mr. Ramage explains that Mary Bowles Merletto had ancestors who fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. Mary Merletto's great great grandfather, Colonel W.F. Osborne, was a Union officer stationed at the Johnson's Island Prison Camp during the Civil War. Colonel Osborne was a member of the Masonic Lodge. Colonel Osborne learned that several of the prisoners of war at the Johnson's Island Prison Camp were also members of the Masons. Osborne took it upon himself to contact the families of the Confederate prisoners who were also Masons, and let the families know of the well being of their imprisoned loved ones. In appreciation for his kindness, several Confederate prisoners of war at Johnson's Island signed their names in a small booklet. The cover of the booklet read:

W.F. Osborne
Brother Masons
Johnson's Island
A Token of Friendship 

Martis D. Ramage, Jr. looked through the booklet and copied the remembrances from fifteen Confederate prisoners who were from the northeast Mississippi area. One remembrance read:

Jas. W. Porter 1sts Lieut
Co. J, 1st Miss. Infantry
(mm) Palmetto Lodge No. 52

Each prisoner included his Lodge number. Some wrote down details of when and where they were captured. Several of the men included the phrase "Fraternally yours" in their message.

I did not transcribe the complete article, or scan any portion of it, so as not to infringe on copyright. Reading this article and learning that their indeed were acts of human kindness at the Johnson's Island Prison Camp during the Civil War was fascinating to me. If you find an article in PERSI, you can contact the Allen County Public Library to obtain a copy for a small fee. Because I have family members associated with Mississippi State University, I contacted the Special Collections Department of Mississippi State University Libraries to request a copy of this article. Thanks to Allen County Public Library for creating PERSI, and to Mississippi State University Libraries for helping me learn more of the relationships between members of the Union and Confederacy in such a difficult time in U.S. history.

Over two hundred graves of former Confederate soldiers are located at the Confederate Cemetery at Johnson's Island. In June of 2010, there was a re-dedication of the bronze monument to the Confederate soldiers at Johnson's Island.


Miss Merry said...

I am learning so much from your blog. I have visited the exhibit which is at the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky. I find Johnson's Island fascinating.

Dorene from Ohio said...

Thanks so much for stopping by! My husband's ancestor on his dad's side fought for the Confederacy, while my mom had ancestors who fought for the I can empathize with both the North and the South!

Shelley Bishop said...

What a neat discovery, Dorene! And a reminder that even during such divided times, there were acts of kindness that transcended sides. Thanks for sharing!

fluffy said...

There is a lot more to this story then just the remembrance book.

fluffy said...

The story involves many Masons who were local citizens who served as guards at the camp.