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Sgt John R Stewart

Sgt John R Stewart

Anson County, North Carolina, USA
Death 3 Oct 1864 (aged 29)
Andersonville, Sumter County, Georgia, USA
Burial Andersonville National Historic Site, Macon County, Georgia, USA
Memorial ID 80224918 · View Source
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John R Stewart was born in Anson County NC, the fifth child of Alfred Merriel Stewart, Sr and Catherine Richardson Stewart. He was the older brother of my g.grandfather, Alfred Merriel Stewart, Jr. Ten days after my g.grandfather was born their father Alfred Merriel Sr died on Oct 10, 1841, leaving Catherine a widow with 8 children.

In 1854 when John was 19, their next door neighbor, friend and pastor, Elder Hosea Preslar was in search of more fertile lands to provide for his family. After much prayer and consideration Hosea made the decision to leave NC, cross the mountains and settle "in the land between the two great waters of TN", the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River. John's widowed mother Catherine Stewart (my g.g.grandmother) and her eight children packed their wagon and joined the group led by Hosea, leaving their home in NC and heading for Henderson County in West TN. I cannot imagine crossing the mountains in a wagon! What courage, strength and faith they must have had!

According to family records John never married. He lived with and supported his widowed mother and two older unmarried sisters, Mahala Caroline Stewart and Roseanna Margaret "Peggy" Stewart. He was well educated and was a school teacher and a farmer. He raised a crop every year to help provide for his mother and sisters.

When the Civil War began John's two younger brothers, William R and Alfred Merriel Jr soon joined the Federal forces of Co. E - 11th Illinois Infantry to help preserve the Union. John did not join them at that time but waited until school ended to honor his teaching contracts.

On 7/6/1863 in Adamsville, TN John enlisted in the Union Army as a private to serve 3 years in Co. M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry. However, in Feb 1864 John wrote his mother from Union City TN - "I was detailed as clerk at Regimental Headquarters for Col Hawkins Adjutant on Dec 16th, 1863 and have served ever since faithful as I could. I could have been 1st Sergt. in my Company but I did not want the Office. I wish they would excuse me from the detail I am now on and permit me to go back to my Company." His letters to his mother expressed his deep concern for her and his sisters' needs and well-being.

On March 24, 1864 John and his company were captured at Union City TN by forces of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The men had the misfortune of being sent to the Andersonville Prisoner of War Stockade in Georgia. Prisoners there were so wasted that in his diary one soldier who survived, Sgt David Kennedy of the 9th Ohio Cavalry, described Andersonville as "this hell on earth where it takes 7 prisoners to make a shadow"... Just six months later John was admitted to the hospital at Andersonville. He died there 3 days later on Oct 3,1864 of starvation and scrobutus (scurvy, lack of Vitamin C).

I made a memorial for John on Findagrave and requested a photo of his grave marker. But volunteer photographer Kevin Frye reported he could find no headstone with John's name and no record of his being there. Andersonville National Cemetery also stated they had no record of his being there... A Findagrave Facebook friend Jennifer Lewis found copies of John's Casualty Sheet and his Prisoner of War Record which proved he was a prisoner there. The number 13382 which the family had thought was his grave marker number was actually his hospital register number. With those records Andersonville was able to confirm his name with that number on a badly ink-stained hospital register list. Another cause for the confusion may have been because his military records were not with his company since he had been detailed to the Adjutant's office. Also his remains might not have been identified because so many prisoners died at the prison that day. There were seven buried as unknowns who died on October 3 1864, graves 10242, 10251, 10253, 10261, 10263, 10264 and 10266. For 148 years John has been buried there known only as one of many 'Unknown US Soldiers'... The documents also showed that John had been promoted to Sergeant. I hope his beloved mother received that news.

Since Andersonville had no record of his burial, they suggested I request a Memorial Headstone to be placed in a cemetery in his hometown so John may finally get the recognition he deserves, can rest in peace and no longer be unknown!!

In May 2013 the VA approved my request for a Memorial Marker for John and on Jun 6, 2013, the anniversary of D-Day, John's marker was placed in Union Hill Cemetery, Reagan TN.

On Saturday June 22, 2013 the family held a Memorial Service at the cemetery. Around 27 descendants and friends came to honor the memory of Sgt John R Stewart. Ret. Major General Dan Wood was the guest speaker and in the end the haunting sounds of 'Taps' were played by Danny Frizzell, VFW bugler. The service was very inspiring.

Andersonville, also called Camp Sumter, was one of the largest and worst military prisons established by the Confederacy during the Civil War. In existence for 14 months, over 45,000 Union soldiers were confined at the prison. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, and exposure to the elements.

John's younger brothers William R Stewart and Alfred Merrill Stewart, Jr (my g.grandfather) served in Co E, 11th Illinois Infantry. They survived the war and were able to return to their homes.

Sgt John R Stewart is no longer an 'Unknown US Soldier' and he will be remembered and honored for his sacrifice to preserve the Union.

Link to John's Memorial Marker and Service pictures at Union Hill Cemetery

Family Members







  • Created by: Shirley Stewart Milford
  • Added: 11 Nov 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 80224918
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sgt John R Stewart (6 May 1835–3 Oct 1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 80224918, citing Andersonville National Cemetery, Andersonville National Historic Site, Macon County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Shirley Stewart Milford (contributor 47645504) .