This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. Like so many Americans, I have my Civil War ancestors. I will be writing about each one of them as research reveals their stories.
Jacob Sellers is not related to me by blood, but I just could not let his story remain untold. He was born in 1829 in Haywood County, North Carolina, son of John “Blacksmith” Sellers and his wife Sarah. Jacob married Rachel Bonham 26 March 1854 and was the father of three children. His youngest daughter Julia grew up to become to my paternal grandmother’s step mother.
Jacob enlisted as a private with the 62nd North Carolina Infantry, Company I. The 62nd was formed in Waynesville, North Carolina 11 July 1862. Between July 1862 and September 1863, the 62nd was involved in engagements at Warm Springs, Cataloochee and Big Creek on the Tennessee and North Carolina border. They also saw action at Union, Watauga Bridge, Carter’s Station and Carter’s Depot in eastern Tennessee in an area known to be very pro-Union.
During the summer of 1863, the 62nd became part of General Archibald Gracie’s Brigade at Cumberland Gap in Tennessee. General Gracie was ordered away and General John Wesley Frazer took over the command. On 9 September 1863, General Frazer, believing that the Union army of General Ambrose E. Burnside vastly outnumbered the Confederates, surrendered his troops at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. Though several hundred Confederates were able to escape capture, over 2000 men were taken prisoner.
Jacob was among those captured at Cumberland Gap, 9 September 1863 and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago along with at least 442 soldiers from the 62nd. Conditions at Camp Douglas were, by all reports, deplorable. Of the 442 soldiers of the 62nd, 196 of them died at Camp Douglas, including Jacob Sellers. Jacob died from diarrhea on 16 October 1863. He was originally buried at the City Cemetery, Lot 741 in Chicago. After the end of the war, in 1867, all the Confederate dead were relocated to a mass burial known as the Confederate Mound in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. The Confederate Mound is the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere and is the final resting place of 6000 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas. It rises over 40 feet high and set into its base are plaques listing the 4200 known dead. Among those names is Jacob Sellers.
Buried in a row in front of the monument are twelve Union soldiers, guards who died at the camp.
Someday I hope to pay Jacob a visit to let him know he is remembered.
Oak Woods cemetery is located at 67th and Cottage Grove inChicago.
Credits and Sources:
Photographs used by permission: Matt Hucke, http://graveyards.com/IL/Cook/oakwoods/
For more detailed reading on the 62nd North Carolina Infantry:
http://thomaslegion.net/62nd.html (this is a great site for research on the Civil War)
http://www.jcncgs.com/civilwar/62ncinfc.htm A first hand accounting of the history of the 62nd and the surrender of Cumberland Gap written in 1901 by B. G. McDowell, who served with the 62nd.
For more information on Camp Douglas:
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nchaywoo/campdouglasdeathsnc.htm (This tribute page to the 62nd has “Danny Boy” playing in the background.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Douglas_(Chicago) (this article appears to be well researched and more balanced than some I have seen on the internet)
Other sources: Civil War and genealogy records on ancestry.com