Monday, May 14, 2012

Marking graves

If you have not figured it out by now, I'll go ahead and let you in on a bit of my life: I really like cemeteries. I actually teach a class on cemetery iconography. Over the past twenty years, I've been in hundreds of cemeteries, from Florida, to Massachusetts, to Missouri. Very few things give me greater pleasure than setting stones for veterans, especially Civil War soldiers.

This past Saturday, I was honored to help set a stone on an unmarked grave of a Confederate soldier - one that I had been hunting for a long time.

Henry Cozzens (Cousins) or at times, William Henry Cozzens, and his brother, Franklin Cozzens, both voluntarily enlisted in Watauga County in what became Company B, 37th North Carolina Troops, on September 14, 1861. Both were mustered in as privates. Both were from Randolph County. Henry was 21 and living at home; Franklin was 28 and married, with an infant daughter.  Franklin Cozzens was killed in action at the battle of Second Manassas on August 29, 1862, and lies buried in a mass grave.

Henry served most of the war as a teamster. He was captured on April 2, 1865, after the break through below Petersburg, Virginia. He was confined at Point Lookout and released after taking the Oath on June 10, 1865. After returning from the war, he moved southwest to Yancey County, where he married Alex Beaver King, the widow of a Confederate soldier. He eventually applied and was awarded a pension for his service in the Confederate army.

I've believed for many years that he was buried in the King Cemetery in Yancey County. A few months ago, after persistent questioning, we finally found a family member who confirmed this. A stone was ordered from the VA and placed on his previously unmarked (or fieldstone marked) grave.

But there is more to this story (something I've been researching for over a decade): Henry and Franklin Cozzens were "free persons of color."  They and their families are listed as either being negroes (1850) or mulatto (1860) on the Watauga County census. They considered themselves melungeons, or, of mixed blood, part Indian, part Portuguese, part Black. Regardless, they were not required (or even eligible) for Confederate service.  Yet they did serve, voluntarily. It cost Franklin his life. I've always wondered what happened to his widow after the War. She simply disappears. Oh well, the search goes on.


Brock Townsend said...

Well done and posted.

Patti Ritchie said...

Thank you, thank you! A very important part of our history.