John McKenzie (1833-1865): Son, Father, and Casualty of War

My family home in Vicksburg, Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s was within about six blocks of the National Military Park, where the Civil War struggle for control of the Mississippi River occurred. The park was established in 1899 on the bluffs of the river to preserve the battlefield and became part of the National Park Service in 1933. During my childhood and youth, the battlefield could be accessed free of charge. We grew up hiking, biking, then driving through the park. Many times we visited the monuments that commemorate a conflict, the true horrors of which I could scarcely fathom in my youth. Nor is it easy now to conjure the truth of what happened there, veiled as it is today by the peaceful natural beauty of its rolling hills.

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Information solicited and immediately given on a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park in 2016.

In addition to the participating state monuments, red and blue markers orient the visitor as to whether they are viewing the battlefield from Confederate or Union lines. Stone markers reveal the state infantry that fought at a particular site. Just beyond Fort Hill on the tour, the visitor passes the Mississippi 46th Infantry marker. I must have passed this place many times over the years, perhaps even stopped to read words on a marker and tried to imagine a group of soldiers. For me, about four years past, the significance of this place grew; it is the place where my great grandfather’s youngest brother survived typhoid fever and the Siege of Vicksburg. Though two of his older brothers and his father-in-law visited John there before the siege, they were powerless to control his fate. After signing a loyalty oath upon surrender to the Union at Vicksburg in 1863, he rejoined the 46th, and was captured at Nashville. John died of smallpox January 30, 1865. His death was only a few weeks after his young wife, Susan, gave birth to his third son. Such was the fate of many families both Union and Confederate.

John is the first member of his immediate family to have been born in Mississippi. His birth event occurs during the first year his father, Duncan McKenzie, is listed on the Covington County Tax Rolls. The family arrived in Covington County in January of 1833 when Barbara McLaurin McKenzie was pregnant with John. He had two sisters: Catharine, who died at around age twelve in NC and Mary Catharine, also born in MS but lived only one year. His older brothers, who all survived to adulthood, were born in Richmond County, NC: Kenneth (1820-after 1872), Hugh (1822-1867), Daniel (1823-1860), Duncan “Dunk” (1826-1878), and Allen (1831-1910). John’s parents were first generation born to Scottish immigrant parents. In the old world no hope existed of their owning land, but in America this was possible. A yeoman farmer trying to grow a market crop such as cotton would probably own a small number of enslaved people. Duncan McKenzie owned eight people in 1841. What lured John’s parents from North Carolina to Mississippi was affordable land and the prospect of making a comfortable living off of growing a staple crop.

The community of Williamsburg, in Covington County, Mississippi near the McKenzie property, was motivated to provide an education for their children as much as was possible. Indeed, Duncan McKenzie claims to have chosen property because of its proximity to a school. The community provided facilities and was able to enlist teachers, who were compensated in tuition fees. In 1838, a family friend, Malcolm Carmichael, “Squire John’s son,” was in charge of a school, “near my house. Dunk, Allen and Johny, are going to him,” according to their father, Duncan McKenzie. By 1840, when John McKenzie is about seven, a new teacher had charge of the education of the three younger McKenzie brothers:

We have a school

in our neigh borhood taught by a Mr. Jones from

Philladelphia (PA), he is not a much learnd man

but in reality he brings the children on the best

and fastest of any teacher that I have Seen …

John Boy will ere long be able to write you

a letter he fancys he has seen you —Duncan McKenzie

By 1841, Duncan writes to his brother-in-law and cousin Duncan McLaurin in North Carolina about his younger sons:

I think

Danl & myself will get through the corn in an

other week Allan & the two oldest of the black

children are hoing a little after us …

and Johnny,, pains to know

as much about his Uncle Duncan & Carolina as

anyone on the place — Duncan McKenzie

During this year Duncan also writes that Norman Cameron, another family acquaintance from North Carolina, is teaching the three younger McKenzies. Norman has a brother named Peter, also teaching at a school in nearby Jones County. Duncan wishes he could keep Norman and suggests that a letter of recommendation from Duncan McLaurin to the community would help keep him. In North Carolina, Duncan McLaurin, a teacher himself, had educated many of these people in their youths.

Even as John has access to education, at age twelve in 1845, his health has become an issue in the family. Duncan writes in March of that year that John has been “apparently the subject of disease for some time in fact his health has been quite delicate for two years.” John seems to have suffered from chronic chills and fever, though he looks “tolerably well.” By 1847 John has had an attack of “billious fever,” but he seems to have recovered without calling a doctor.

Aside from swamp drives with the dogs and the gun that Uncle John sent to them from North Carolina, the McKenzie boys worked regularly on their father’s farm alongside people enslaved on the farm to grow cotton and corn for market. In 1846 their father explains that they have been, “burning the bricks,” they made last fall. Duncan himself carried the bricks to the mason who would put up their chimneys.

John was thirteen years old in 1847 when his father, Duncan McKenzie, passed away in Covington County at the age of about fifty-two. His older brother, Daniel, is away participating in the Mexican War, increasing the anxiety of the family. At the same time, the illness to which Duncan succumbed also killed an enslaved youth on the farm, Hannah’s oldest son. John had probably grown up playing beside this youth under the watchful eye of Barbara McKenzie and later worked alongside him on the farm. An older enslaved person on their farm, Ely Lytch from North Carolina, also perished of an illness that winter.

By the 1850 Federal Census, John is seventeen and living with his four brothers and his mother, who is the head of household. Kenneth is not listed on the 1850 census but was living nearby, if not on the farm. John is listed as a farmer in occupation but he has also attended school within the past year. Kenneth, thirteen years older than John, remarks in 1851 that “John is grown weighs near as much as I do.” However, the year 1855 brings new tragedy to the family with the illness of Barbara. Barbara suffers horribly from mouth sores in spite of the care given by her son Daniel, who has begun practicing as a doctor. John is the faithful son who tends bedside vigil in hopes of giving his mother comfort. Her mouth cancer is ultimately fatal.

In 1859, it is clear the McKenzies have succeeded in either selling or renting their Covington County property to “share” interest in Smith County property that Daniel has encouraged them to purchase. Daniel, who married Sarah Blackwell, has himself purchased property in Smith County. After the brothers settle there, Hugh writes that the neighbors say Daniel and Dunk will “never give Allen John and myself an equal interest with them in the place.” Hugh reveals that he is suspicious about how this rumor got around. Possibly the discord among the brothers had its source in older brother Kenneth. Though John seems more respectful of his older brother, evidently Dunk and Kenneth may have spent the rest of their days in a state of estrangement.

In 1860, Kenneth writes to his uncle, “John is married to a sister of Duncans wife, your nephews are marrying smartly.” By 1860, according to the Federal Census for Smith County, John and wife, Susan Duckworth age sixteen, are living with his brother Dunk McKenzie and his family. The family includes Dunk’s wife Martha, sister to Susan. Martha and Susan also have a sister, Sarah who married John’s brother Hugh, her second husband.

John and Susan’s first child is yet to be born. John is farming and worth two thousand dollars in real estate and two thousand five hundred in personal estate. They are living very near in-laws Robert Crocker Duckworth. Robert Crocker is forty-nine and his wife Elizabeth is forty-seven. Their sons Benjamin, Robert, Wilson, and Joseph live with them. The situation for all of these families is about to change cataclysmically with the coming of the Civil War.

John McKenzie’s loyalty oath dated the tenth of July 1863 under the aegis of Dix-Hill prisoner exchange agreement. Accessed from Fold3.

Early in the Civil War at Enterprise, MS, after Allen, Kenneth, and the Smith County “Yankee Terrors” battle the measles there, John is attaching himself to the 46th Infantry that will soon place him in Vicksburg. His rank is listed as sergeant in Company H from Smith County, “The Raleigh Farmers.” The 46th Infantry was created in 1862 when four other companies attached themselves to the 6th Infantry. He probably mustered with the 46th at Meridian, but was soon on his way by train to Vicksburg. After Vicksburg the 46th would participate in the Atlanta Campaign, with Hood in Tennessee, and in defense of Mobile.  Hugh would join a cavalry unit later in the war. Dunk, as neighborhood Postmaster, would be exempt from serving.

John writes to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin from Vicksburg in July of 1862 about the historic event he is experiencing. John has never seen or met his Uncle Duncan. However, according to letters written by his father, as a young child John enjoyed listening to letters from his Uncle Duncan read aloud. His uncle often related tales translated from his father’s diary. Likely, Hugh McLaurin’s early life in the western highlands of Scotland figured prominently in these stories. This fireside entertainment conceivably led John to form a vicarious attachment with his relative, his mother’s beloved brother. He may have had some encouragement to write his uncle from his oldest brother Kenneth, who well knew how interested in these events Duncan McLaurin would be. Almost a year before Pemberton surrenders to Grant at Vicksburg, John begins his letter from that place to his uncle: “Having a leisure hour I seat myself to pen you a line to inform you where I am … we are stationed five miles north East of Vicksburg … there is a considerable bombarding going on the river this morning.”

In this letter dated 13 July 1862, John notes the poor state of the corn he views on his travels by train from Meridian as troops gather to defend Vicksburg. John describes his first impression of the city of Vicksburg as the 46th Mississippi deploys there:

Vicksburg is on

the hilliest ground I ever saw there is scarce room

of level ground on any hill or in a hollow for

a house the houses are set up on posts

the other side sunk in the side of the hills the

citizens have left the town moved off

every thing they could get off …

the ho(u)ses are torn smartly by

shells and shots the women and children all

over the country here liveng in tents …

the hills are so steep that they dig them

down for roads to pass through them we are now

camped in a very good place except it is in a hollow

we are surrounded by the highest kind of hills

there is a very pretty grove of walnut trees here

and the best water said to be in Warren County — John McKenzie

John also addresses the movement of gunboats on the river in this same letter, which was written about ten months before the siege began and almost a year before the surrender at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863:

I have

understood since writing the above that it is our

gunboats have run down out yazo river

The yankies have a good fleet I do not Know

how many boats they have …

our Capt came in from Vicksburg this evening and

says that the boat arkansas from yazo river it

came down under cover of our Bateries and comenced

firing the YKs firing on her for some time she sunk one

and burned another the Yks are firing on the town trying

to burn it … Direct your letter to Vicksburg Miss Company H In care

of Capt. McAlpin 6th Miss Battalion.  — John McKenzie

The ironclad CSS Arkansas had been built at Memphis. Since April of 1862, it had been at Greenwood, MS on the Yazoo River as Memphis had fallen to the Union forces. The vessel was completed at Greenwood. John mentions the Arkansas’s moment of glory. After steaming down the Yazoo River, she broke through the Union naval fleet at Vicksburg. The Arkansas engaged with and disabled the USS Carondelet but did not sink any vessels, contrary to John’s information. However, the Arkansas plagued the Union vessels enough to reduce the number of their crews and cause them to constantly steam during the hot summer. She was moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, though her engines were in need of repair. The engines failed in August of 1862 during an engagement there. On the sixth the Arkansas was abandoned and burned by her crew to keep her out of Union hands. In March of 2019 a plaque was set at Soldier’s Rest in Cedar Hills Cemetery in Vicksburg, MS that lists these who lost their lives while engaged in service aboard the CSS Arkansas.

Just before the siege begins in May of 1863, John’s father-in-law R. C. Duckworth traveled to Vicksburg on horseback. He is determined to see his son Rob in Company H with John. Rob is suffering from typhoid fever. There he finds both Rob and John dreadfully ill and leaves, hoping to find nourishment for them. Before he can return, the siege has begun. R.C. is captured by Union soldiers and not allowed to return home nor cross Union lines. Apparently Duckworth lodges in someone’s home during the entirety of the siege. He never sees his son alive again.

John, at the end of the siege in 1863 is captured, having survived the illness that killed his brother-in-law. He signs a loyalty oath to the Federal Government of the U.S. and is released. During his time at home, John wrote a second letter addressed to his brother Kenneth, who by September of 1863 was living with or near his Uncle Duncan McLaurin at the McLaurin family home, Ballachulish, in Laurel Hill, NC. John writes in September of 1863:

I must Send

you word that I am yet a scratch

ing grabble I am so glad I am

alive I want every boddy to

know it I and Rob were taken

sick about the 15th of april with

Typhoid pneumonia Rob Died

the 22nd of May Ben and his Father

got there about the 15th of May

on the 18th the place was besieged

the old man R. C. went out into

the country after something

for myself and Rob to eat – the Yks come

upon him and would not let

him come back turned him

loose out Side our lines but

wouldn’t let him into Vicks

burg nor out home So he had

to stay with the Feds about

50 days, it was lucky for him

as he could get vegetables to eat

he stayed at a private house … — John McKenzie

John explains in this letter that he reached home after the siege on the 16th of July but was very weak, not having completely recovered from his illness. By early September when he writes this letter, he has returned to health, “I am now in tolerable good health when I left Vicksburg I dont think I would have weighed 100 lbs.” In another 1863 letter, brother Hugh addresses John’s health as, “slowly improving since the fall of Vicksburg though I fear he will not be able to make an efficient soldier if ever he does his constitution is not very good at best.” 

In his letter addressed to Kenneth, John also describes the ten days he spent at the breast works, “the minnie balls Shells and solid Shot flew in every direction.” He gives the following account of the surrender:

It was 47 days from

the comencement of the siege till

the surender the place was suren

dared on the 4th of July, Stacked arms at

11 o’clock and every man was re-

lieved from duty on the 10th we soon

paroled and left the valiant

city of the hills with many a

new made grave … we borrowed Some

horses inside the Fedl lines and

made it home on the 16th with

much more ease than I at first

expected. — John McKenzie

Both letters convey the uncertainty of war and a survivor’s readiness to bluster about the leaders who failed. In the first letter of July 1862, apparently John entertains the strong hope that the Yankees will soon give up and leave Vicksburg. In his second letter after the siege, John has harsh words against Pemberton for surrendering, calling him “a traitor or a fool”. Yet after Vicksburg, the young soldier knows how fortunate he is to be alive and home. As happened with most soldiers, John was again mustered into service for the Confederacy and captured again at the Battle of Nashville. By now, on both sides of the conflict, the captured soldier’s fate was generally sealed as prisoner exchanges had officially ended. Soldiers both North and South would not have the benefit of swearing upon release not to fight the enemy but returning to the battlefield. Ironically, exchanges would not resume until February of 1865 upon General Grant’s orders.

The end of prisoner exchanges may have done its part to finish the conflict sooner, but the move meant almost certain death from disease and starvation for many forced into unprepared, vastly overcrowded, and hastily formed prisons. From Nashville, John is sent to confinement in Louisville, KY. Early in January, he is taken from Louisville to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, to be imprisoned there. However, by January 30 of 1865 John is dead of smallpox. Longing for his family and home rather than passion for “the glorious cause” likely occupied him on his deathbed at Camp Chase. No evidence has been found that he was able to communicate with his family and Susan.  His youngest son Allen, born the same month of John’s death, would live to be ninety-six, have no surviving children, and reside much of his life in Jones County, MS.

Prisoner exchanges during the Civil War were given some structure by the Dix-Hill Cartel accomplished in Virginia in July of 1862 by Union Major General John A. Dix and Confederate Major General D. H. Hill. According to this agreement, a decided upon number of captured officers would be exchanged for a decided number of captured enlisted men. Agents were assigned to conduct exchanges. John’s experience at Vicksburg was under the aegis of Dix-Hill. However, after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Union deployment of African-American soldiers, the climate for Dix-Hill changed. Lincoln, hoping to force the Confederacy to treat black and white captured Union soldiers equally, ended the agreement when the Confederacy insisted upon treating black Union soldiers as fugitive slaves. By the time the Confederacy relented, Grant complained that exchanging or paroling the huge number of imprisoned Confederate soldiers would replenish the Confederate army and extend the war. General Grant is quoted as saying, “Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us … if a system of exchange liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated.”

John probably died not knowing of Allen’s birth on January 9 just twenty-one days before his own death and about a month before exchanges resumed. John’s resting place can be found in a marked grave at the remaining Camp Chase Cemetery, headstone 970. The Camp Chase property was purchased by the federal government in 1879. The original wooden grave markers were replaced with stone during the 1890s when, during a national spirit of unity, attention was drawn to the deteriorating burial grounds of Confederate soldiers in Union territory.

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John McKenzie’s headstone at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by B. Lane

The restoration efforts at the end of the 19th century in Columbus, Ohio were spearheaded by a Union veteran named William H. Knauss. Knauss and those who supported him faced criticism at first from local Union families whose loved ones had been lost at Andersonville or on the battlefields of the South. For a time annual ceremonies at Camp Chase took place beginning in 1895. As many cemetery soldiers’ families as possible were invited to attend the dedication ceremonies. Whether any of John’s relatives attended is unknown, for Susan had married George Risher and was living out her days in Laurel, MS where she died in 1907.

On May 24, 1868, John’s father-in-law R.C. Duckworth from Jasper Co., MS wrote a letter to his nephew Samuel Duckworth in Bastrop, TX. R. C. sums up the losses the family endured as a result of the war:

We lost two sons during the war Robert & Cooper. Robert died at Vicksburg during the siege. Cooper was killed at Missionary Ridge, Ga … we also lost two sons in law John McKenzie who married Susan, was captured at Nashville, Tenn. and we can never hear directly from him by any of his friends Hugh McKenzie married Sarah Margaret, and Died in Dec. after the Surrender, leaving Both the girls widows and the children on my hands there was property enough to have Supported them Hansomely if they could have retained it. Martha Ann married another Brother, Duncan McKenzie and is living near us. — R. C. Duckworth

John’s brother, Dunk, writes in 1866 to his uncle regarding the fate of family members. Duncan erroneously wrote that Camp Chase was in Illinois. He mentions John’s sons and that he had never seen his youngest. Dunk poignantly adds, “Poor John I trust he is in a better world than this where there is no war, nor troubles never come, John was not only respected but loved by all who knew him.”

Together Susan and John had three surviving sons within their short five years of marriage: Daniel C. McKenzie (1860-1902), John Duncan McKenzie (1862-1950), and Allen McKenzie (1865-1961). Susan was a young woman with three sons at the end of the Civil War. The 1870 Federal Census for Jasper County MS has her living as head of household when she is thirty. She lived near her father and sisters in Jasper County with her three sons.

According to the 1880 Federal Census for Jasper County, by age forty Susan had married  George E. Risher. Children are listed as J age 22, a daughter; G F age 19, a son; A age 11, a daughter; J W age 9, a son; J K age 1, a son; J D McKenzie, a stepson to G. E. Risher age 18; and A a stepson to G. E. Risher age 16. They are living in Jasper County. Daniel C. McKenzie, John and Susan’s oldest son, is not listed. He would have been about twenty and likely living on his own.

The 1900 Federal Census for Jones County, Laurel, MS lists George Risher as head of a household of one other, his wife Susan. George is 69 and Susan is 59. Living near them are John D. McKenzie and his wife Florence Massey, ages thirty-seven and thirty-one respectively. They have a son Alan L, twelve; a daughter Sallie, nine; a son Earnest, seven; and a daughter Annie, five.

John and Susan’s firstborn, Daniel C. McKenzie, married Mary E. “Minnie” Weeks in 1894. Before he died on July 26, 1902 in Laurel, MS, they had four children: John Travis McKenzie (1897-1954), Susan B. McKenzie (1899-?), George Sylvester McKenzie (1896-1917), and Allen B. McKenzie (1902-1934). The 1900 Census shows Daniel working as a carpenter in Jones County. Minnie married again in 1911 to John W. Hester. Daniel C. is buried in Hickory Grove Cemetery in Laurel, MS.

Though I have no marriage record and little to document the following information, a Daniel C. McKenzie with the same birth and death dates appears in other family trees to have married Hettie Duckworth Anderson (1863-1940). Their children are listed as John David McKenzie (1886-1962), Eva Jane McKenzie(Walker) (1888-1980), and Minnie Mae McKenzie (1887-1980). If so, the marriage must have ended in divorce because Hettie and children are still living when Daniel marries Minnie Weeks in 1894.

The middle son of John and Susan, John Duncan, spent the last fifty years of his life living in Laurel, MS in Jones County. The family lived on West 10th Street there. John Duncan is buried near his mother and other members of the family in Hickory Grove Cemetery in Laurel. He spent his life working as a contractor and builder. His obituary in the Clarion-Ledger describes his impact on the community: “He supervised the construction of many of Laurel’s earliest business houses and public buildings and was active in civic affairs.”

John Duncan married Florence Massey (1868-1904) who died, leaving John D. with their children: Allan Lee McKenzie born (1888-1962), Sallie McKenzie (1891-1966), Earnest McKenzie (1892-1967), Annie Dora McKenzie (1894-1957), and Thelma Ada (1901-1991). An undocumented source suggests a second wife who was probably childless. His third wife, Ollie English (1875-1964) gave birth to George Dewey McKenzie about 1906. The 1910 U.S. Census lists John Duncan’s wife as “Allie” McKenzie. This is likely a corruption of “Ollie.”John Duncan’s obituary in 1950 lists surviving children: “three daughters, Mrs. George Baldwin, McLeansboro, Ill., Mrs. John Batton, Missouri, and Miss Annie McKenzie, Laurel: three sons, Lee McKenzie, Meridian, Ernest McKenzie, Jackson, and Dewey McKenzie, Evergreen, Ala.” 

A compelling memoir titled The Spirit’s Journey written by John’s great grandson, Dave McKenzie, connects George Dewey McKenzie’s family with John McKenzie. Dewey McKenzie married Jewell Currence. They lived in Alabama. Dewey and his son David both enjoyed a love of aviation and automobiles that spanned the twentieth century, which is the main theme of Dave McKenzie’s memoir. He claims in his memoir that John Duncan McKenzie fathered two children by his first wife and three children by his second wife. His account also maintains that Duncan and Barbara McKenzie settled in Jasper County. Other sources confirm the family’s arrival in nearby Covington County, though Dunk and Martha as well as Susan and children lived in Jasper County after the war. Another discrepancy for which I can find no source is that John and Susan also had two daughters in addition to their three sons. Unfortunately, though his memoir is quite interesting, Dave McKenzie shared no documentation for information in his book.

John and Susans’ third son, Allen, was born on January 9, 1865 when John was thirty-two and Susan was twenty-four. Allen died on December 29, 1961, at the age of ninety-six. According to 1900 census records, an Allen McKenzie was boarding in Harris County, Texas and teaching school. If so, he returned to Jones County, MS. Allen was married first to Sarah Elizabeth “Bettie” Hosey (1878-1902). In 1910 he was living in Jones County, MS and married Jeannette Florence Kirkwood (1870-1949) on September 29, 1912. He lived in Laurel, MS for the rest of his long life.

John’s Resting Place, Camp Chase Confederate Veteran Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio:

This photo of the monument at Camp Chase Cemetery in Columbus Ohio was taken on an overcast day in 2016 by B. Lane.

According to an article in Confederate Veteran magazine (Vol IV, p 246, 1896), after the war the federal Camp Chase and prison on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio was torn down. Lumber from the barracks was used to fence the cemetery, where today over 2000 men who fought for the Confederacy are buried. In time the cemetery was neglected and became overgrown. Wooden fence and markers rotted. Eventually,  the cemetery was cleaned and wood plank markers replaced the old. As governor of Ohio (1868-1872), Rutherford B. Hayes charged Mr. H. Briggs, a neighborhood farmer, with caring for the cemetery. Briggs did so and planted a number of trees.  Payments to Briggs for his services stopped when the opposing political party came into power. Later, at the request of Governor J. B. Foraker (1885-1889), the U.S. government had an iron fence erected around the cemetery and a stone wall around the entire property. Briggs moved to the cemetery a large boulder upon which is carved, “2260 Confederate Soldiers of the war 1861-1865 buried in this enclosure.” Stone markers were provided for the graves. Later an archway was built over the boulder that reads, “Americans,” topped by the statue of a soldier with his rifle.

Around 1895 in a climate of sectional reconciliation, Col. William H. Knauss, a Union veteran from Columbus, took charge of refurbishing the cemetery and organizing a dedication ceremony. Over the years the city of Columbus grew around the Camp Chase property, and today the cemetery is entirely surrounded by businesses in an inner city neighborhood instead of farm land. A branch of the public library is across the street. In 2017 vandals toppled the soldier statue, breaking the head and hat off. The vandals disappeared with the head and have not been found. Since then, the statue has been repaired and reinstalled. Except for the height of the statue, it exudes no particular sense of power or support for the “cause.” However, today the tall statue in the cemetery is visible over the fence and situated near the heart of a diverse neighborhood. A more fitting memorial might be to place the statue on the ground and striding among his fellow fallen comrades rather than towering imposingly over the cemetery fence.

Still, it is a pity that these men, if given the choice, would likely have abandoned any ideology they may have held to have been returned to their families to live out their lives. May their suffering and sorrow never be used to promote racism or anyone’s divisive agenda in the present day. Though salvaging the cemetery was symbolic of reconciliation between sections of the country, the same period was known for iconic white supremacy all over the nation.

In 1906 William H. Knauss published a book, The Story of Camp Chase, on the history of Camp Chase and the cemetery restoration effort. A memorial edition was printed in 1994. Knauss describes very little about the prison conditions in this book, but he does use some primary sources from prisoners. In the Appendix, he lists the Confederate dead at Camp Chase, Columbus City Cemetery, Camp Dennison in Ohio, Johnson’s Island in Ohio, Frederick County in Maryland, at Shepherdstown, and Antietam. John is listed on page 370. Today Camp Chase Cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places and federally protected.

On pages 258 and 259, the diary entries of a Captain A. S. McNeil of the 45th Virginia Regiment, who spent nine months at Camp Chase, describe the prison. The following entries are from the month of January 1865, including the weeks John was alive and confined there, where smallpox had been raging since October:

1865. Sunday, January 7 — Snowed all night; eight inches deep; drifted in places four and five feet deep. Drew molasses for the first time since being a prisoner. Rations short again.

Tuesday, 17th. — Looks like all of Hood’s army was coming here.

Thursday, 26th. — There are upward of five thousand men in this prison now. Thirty-four men died in the last twenty-four hours. — Captain A. S. McNeil


Quotations from Letters referencing John McKenzie:

1838-3DMcKDMcL– Danl has once more commenced the study of Latin under the instruction of a Mr Strong late principal of the Clinton Academy Hinds Co. Mi Joshua White and others of the neighborhood Succeeded in getting a school for Strong in 4 miles of me I procurd  a pony for Danl to ride, he is in class with Lachlin youngest Sone of Danl McLaurin and Brother to Dr Hugh Fayetteville of your acquaintance of yours ——– Danl the 3 years from that study appears to have retained it tollerable well — Malcolm Carmichael, Squire Johns sone has a small school near my house Dunk Allan and Johny are going to him, he Malcolm came here early in January and took a small school worth say $20 per month —

1840-4DMcKDMcL – We have a school in our neighborhood taught by a Mr. Jones from Philadelphia, he is not a much learnd man but in reality he brings the children on the best and fastest of any teacher that I have seen, Allan reads well and writes a very fair hand for a boy of his age, John Boy will ere long be able to write you a letter he fancys he has seen you ——– Yours Duncan McKenzie

1841-6DMcKDMcL     I think Danl and myself will get through the corn in another week Allan and the two oldest of the black children are going a little after us we leave it perfectly clean, and Johny,, is Sowin pease ahead of the plows he Johny,, pains to know as much about his Uncle Duncan and Carolina as anyone on the place ———— Norman Camerons school is out he only engaged to teach three months he is as yet in the neighborhood also his brother John who has been Sick of chilling fevers, Peter has a school in Jones County he has also been sick of chills and fevers, I wish I could keep Norman as a teacher in our neighborhood, and perhaps the few remarks made in your letter may keep him

1842-12DMcKDMcL   The times are hard as to money but the boys will have their fun they have just come in from a swamp drive in which they caught a large wild boar the dogs captured him with ease

1845-3DMcKDMcL – Our youngest son John has been apparently the subject of disease for some time in fact his health has been quite delicate for two years he was sick last fall of fever after which he was taken with chills and fever which continued occasionally every other day till of late in fact I am not sure that the cause is entirely removed as yet tho he looks tolerably well

1846-2DMcKDMcL – on reaching home the boys were burning the bricks they made last fall the bricks being burnt I became head carryer to an old brick mason who has put up … of the chimneys and has the other in fair progress the boys are progressing slowly preparing for the coming crop

1847-9KennethMcKDMcL – John has had an attack of billious fever, tho he is now out of danger we called no Doctor

1849-5KennethMcKDMcL    Daniel is teaching school, stays at home, profitable business a great deal moreso than farming Duncan has taken to the farm and Allen they are able and strong plenty Hugh was down on the Bay of St. Louis tho now at home, he made some money, he thinks to return soon I am at nothing much yet what perhaps I am best fit for John is working away in the crop I had the blues like the D — C

1851-4KennethMcKDMcL   Daniel is teaching school has a tolerable good one I believe Mother enjoys perhaps better health than usual tho age and cares have left indelible marks on her general features John is grown weighs near as much as I do Daniel is the smallest of the tribe Allen is the largest strongest and swiftest.

1853-6HughLMcKDMcL    It is certainly a mark of some smartness that John McKenzie has managed to get a wife of some sort and particularly so If she is smart as for our relations on the other side I mean the McColls the Douglasses and the other McKenzies I wish John good luck in his new sphere.

1855-4KMcKDMcL  It is in anticipation of a painful future that I write this so soon after a letter written a short time since Mother is declining fast and from present appearances must soon be no more.her words are generally inarticulate. The sore on her mouth is progressing rapidly she is verry low, Miss Barbara Stewart was staying with her but went home to prepare for Presbytery held at Zion Seminary and has not returned since. John stays with her constantly using every effort to soothe her suffering Neighbors are generally kind in visiting

1856-12KMcKDMcL –  By the solicitations of Allen and John and in compliance with the spirit of my own feelings I in response take my pen as the most interesting part of relatives letters is the intelligence of the condition of health I can say the family are all well Daniel not being heard from within the last week as perhaps you have learned lives in Rauleigh in an adjoining county was also well a few days ago … It being more expensive to keep two houses than one, the family consisting of the farming portions of the McKenzies, have moved together where I expect our house will be the home of all until a separation will take place by a marriage of some number of the family or until death will suspend terrestrial action.

1858-3DMcKuncleDMcL    we are all at home this year that is Hugh, Allen, John, myself Kenneth is at work at the carpentering business how long he will continue I cant say I expect you have heard about the trouble he gave to Daniel in setting up the estate which is now wound up or nearly so — Daniel is living in Raleigh Smith County where he has been for some time, but is now living to himself keeping House I have seen him and Sarah his wife several times Since they were married and am glad to say when I get there I feel that I have as near a sister as I could have in a brothers wife there are a large conexion of the Blackwell family …  we have ofered our land for sale last winter at about $4 per acre there is about 960 acres in all but did not find any purchasers our land here is good enough and enough of it for us yet for some time but we cannot divide it agreeable if we can sell our land here we can get new land at a reasonable price in Smith County Daniel is very anxious for us to sell here and buy in Smith he has land enough for all of us for a while he bought 600 acres last fall for 2300 dollars and could sell it now for 3000

1859-9HughLMcKDMcL    We shall be hard pressed for money this winter owing to the high price of corn during the summer but if the price of cotton keeps up I think perhaps we can get through without much difficulty if we try, Daniel and Dunk trade too much and are both bad hands to collect, I will not trade on a credit nor collect for them if they never collect anything that is due them The country is generaly healthy consequently Daniel does very little practice although he done $5000 worth last year …  We have five hundred and fifty acres beside 94 that Daniel owns individually I will send you the plot of it there is about 40 acres in the hills the rest is all in Leaf River Swamp and not five acres but may be cultivated with very little draining we have about 50 acres cut and piled since we finished laying bye our crop that with the 40 acres that we cleared last spring is enough of open land for Daniel and Dunk the neighbors say they will never give Allen John and myself an equal interest with them in the place how they know I know not but time will determine the correctness of their Prophecy the Title was made to them by Damron. Say nothing about this land matter if anything is wrong I shall inform you

1859-12HughLMcKDMcL   Daniels little boy has been verry low with Typhoid Numonia but has nearly recovered his usual health … We have bought the place Taylorville from Daniel and his father in law for which we gave $5.00.00 It contains 2 acres of land a large and good store house grocery lot and stables cribs we then invoyesed the goods at New orleans cost for $2200,00 and I am now selling goods we have bought in Mobile $2000 00 worth more making in all over $4000 worth of goods and I am selling over $ 50 00 worth per day, how long it will I know not if it does last and we can collect we can make money … If Daniel and his wife is lucky there will be another added to their family shortly, and not long after that time Dunk may look for some additions in his family … Day after tomorrow John will find his lost rib in the person of a Miss Susan Duckworth and sister to Dunks wife I think though she is poor, John does very well, they Dunks wife and Johns intended has done all they could for Allen and myself, but it is no go I cannot marry any woman that will marry me because she can do no better how Allens case is I know not I think the same

1860-1KMcKDMcL    John is married to a sister of Duncans wife, your nephews are marrying smartly, Hugh Allen and myself still holds on I do not know how it is with Hugh and Allen tho as for myself my future is hidden in obliviousness

1862-7DMcKuncleDMcL   it appears that Miss, is a subject for the Yankees to prey upon or has been for some time past and even now they are in large numbers on the Miss, River congregating in the vicinity of Vicksburg I am afraid to hear from them for fear that they will have to surrender the hill city of Mississippi to the vandal Hordes of Lincolns Hirlings there was great preparations making and made to defend the place and I really hope it will be done to the destruction of every house and everything else valuable on the soil of Mississippi John and Allen is both there I suppose from what I hear John joined a company some time since and was stationed at Meridian Miss, on the Mobile and Ohio RR about 65 miles from home, Allen has been in the service since last August and his time being near out he thot he would be beter satisfied to be in the same company with John and at the reorganization of the company he would not suffer his name to be run for the office which he held, it being third lieutenant, he got a dismissal and came home and remained a short time and went to the company which John was in as a private I heard yesterday the regiment had left Meridian and gone to Vicksburg we will hear in a day or two the certainty of it

1862-7JMcKDMcLVburg     I got a letter from home a few days ago all were well Hugh Dunk and Allen are at home Kenneth is in Alabama near Pollard which is on the state line between Ala and Fla I heard from him a few days ago he was well, we are stationed five miles north East of Vicksburg … I would be glad to see Susan and my little boy Daniel we named him after Brother give him his full name the little fellow cried after when I left home he will be 2 years old the 26th of October you mus remember me Susan and my little boy in your prayers although we have never seen you I close for the present

1863-1DMcKuncleDMcL       Kennith returned from the same Reg some time about the first December last with a Discharge from the Confederate Service and did not remain only long enough to settle up some business when he returned to go to Vicksburg where John is John was well when last heard from he John has had a verry severe attack of fever he was sick some three months in camp before he could get leave of absence or a furlough he succeeded by the interference of friends and came home and finely recovered good health …. I hear Kenneth has returned from Vicksburg and brings news that John was a little sick, I hope not much I will not see Kenneth till I get Home the Yankees have commenced bombarding again at that place but no damage done yet

1863-5DMcKuncleDMcL     John is still at Vicksburg and was on the 5th just verry sick we heard with Typhoid fever we have sent to know of his illness and to try and get him home on furlough, whether we will succeed or not I cannot tell but will inform you if I hear anything before this is mailed … for the past few days the enemy is advancing on every side the general supposition is that Miss will surrender in a short time the Miss River will be opened and Vicksburg evacuated as it is the only strong hold we have in the state the Yankee fleet or at least a portion of it passed down by Vicksburg and in fact they have been passing down for some time but now they have a force below sufficient to subdue Grand Gulf Port Gibson and I fear Port Hudson also, since writing the above I have heard by a courier that the Yankees are advancing in large force on Jackson how they will succeed a few days will determine probably they will fall back to their gun Boats if not a fight will decide the fate of Mississippi, Great God, uncle what an age we live in did I think I should ever live to witness such Slaughter and Blood Shed,the planters on the river are moving their negroes East there has been not less than five hundred passed here in the last two or three days with a few white families for protection, there is a company meeting here today to go on to Jackson and help defend the Capitol of our state this company is composed of citizens, the fight which is now pending it is the general supposition will decide the fate of the state

1863-9HughLMcKDMcL     I came to old RCs and found John writing to K We will send both in one envelop … Johns health is slowly improving since the fall of Vicksburg though I fear he will not be able to make an efficient soldier if ever he does his constitution is not very good at best

1864-6DMcKuncleDMcL      Kenneth promised to write to me about the last words he spoke to me I told him I would take a pleasure in answering his letters but not a scratch of a pen have I from him since he left being some seven or eight months I heard from him through John some time since … we received a letter form Hugh a few days since he wrote from Blue Mountain in north Alabama he is in a cavalry Regiment he was well when he wrote but knew nothing of the fight at Aalton [Sic Altoona] or Richmond only they were fighting I wish to hear from Allen and John and I fear we will hear bad news from some of the boys, may the kind ruler of the universe protect them and save them in Eternity

1866-9DunkMcKDMcL       You have no doubt learned ere, this reaches you that Brother John never returned from the war, he was captured at Nashville, Tenns carried to Camp Chase, in Illinois [Sic Ohio] and died there. From the best information we could get he died the 30th day of January 1865. He left a wife and three children all boys names as follows Daniel, John, and Allen, the youngest he never had Seen, poor John, I trust he is in a better world than this where there is no war, nor troubles never come, John was not only respected but loved by all who knew him … I attached myself to the Baptist Church in May 1863. John was also a member of the same church, and if I may judge a worthy one at least in my estimation, but he has gone the way of all the world. I hope I may be as well prepared for my exit as I think and hope that he was, may we meet on heaven’s happy shore,

Letters to Duncan McLaurin. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University. Including John McKenzie’s letter to Duncan McLaurin 13 July 1862 and to his brother, Kenneth, 2 September 1863.

Other Sources:

“Allen McKenzie.” Year: 1900; Census Place: Houston Ward 3, Harris, Texas; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0075; FHL microfilm: 1241642

“Allen McKenzie.” <> U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Laurel, Mississippi, City Directory, 1947.

Allen McKenzie and John D. McKenzie.” <> U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Laurel, Mississippi, City Directory, 1928.

Calhoun, S. W. Constantine Rea and the 46th Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers in the War for Southern Independence. Lauderdale Dept. of Archives and History: Meridian, MS. 2001.

“Camp Chase Confederate Dead.” Cunningham, S. A. ed. Confederate Veteran. Nashville,, TN. January 1896. Vol IV. 246.

Cloyd, Benjamin D. Haunted By Atrocity: Civil War Prisons in American Memory. Louisiana State University Press: Baton Rouge. 94,98.

County Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, accessed June 20, 2017,

“Daniel C. McKenzie.” Year: 1900; Census Place: Laurel, Jones, Mississippi; Page: 24; Enumeration District: 0059; FHL microfilm: 1240813

Faust, Patricia L. ed. Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Harper Perennial: 1986. 22, 603, 604.

“Forty-sixth Regiment, Mississippi Infantry.” 25 Jan. 2018. <> accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

“In an Ohio Cemetery.” The Daily Herald. Delphos, OH. 5 Feb. 1900, Monday. 2. Accessed 7 Nov 2017 on <>.

“Jeanette Florence Kirkwood Obituary.” Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, MS. 9 Feb. 1949. 7. Accessed 14 Dec 2019. <>.

“John McKenzie.”<> Year: 1850; Census Place: Covington, Mississippi; Roll: M432_371; Page: 309B; Image: 207

“John McKenzie.”<> Year: 1860; Census Place: Smith, Mississippi; Roll: M653_591; Page: 243; Family History Library Film: 803591

“John McKenzie.” Loyalty Oath at Vicksburg, MS. 10 July 1863. Fold 3. Compiled Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served the State of Mississippi.

“John McKenzie, Report of Interment.” U. S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Original data: Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985 Record Group 92. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

“John D. McKenzie Obituary.” Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, MS 11 May 1950.3. Accessed 14 Dec 2019. <>.

Knauss, William H. The Story of Camp Chase. Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church: Nashville, TN and Dallas TX. 1906. 258,259.

“Mary E. ‘Minnie’ Weeks.” Year: 1910; Census Place: Mobile Ward 5, Mobile, Alabama; Roll: T624_27; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0093; FHL microfilm: 1374040.

“Mr. Dewey McKenzie Marries Miss Jewel Currence.” Our Southern Home. Livigston, AL. 9 May 1934. 5. <>. Accessed 16 Dec 2019.

R. C. Duckworth to Samuel Duckworth, May 24, 1868, Duckworth-Smith-McPherson Family Papers, Center for the Study of American History, University of Texas, Austin. Accessed on <>.

“Soldiers of the 46th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.” Mississippi Genealogy and History Network, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. 2011. <> Accessed 9 Sept 2019.

Strickland, Jean, Edwards, Patricia, and Marjorie Baxter. Who Married Whom: Jasper Co. MS. Book 2. L-Z. 1994.

“Susan McKenzie.” Year: 1870; Census Place: South West Beat, Jasper, Mississippi; Roll: M593_732; Page: 626B; Family History Library Film: 552231

“Susan Risher.” Year: 1880; Census Place: Jasper, Mississippi; Roll: 651; Page: 120C; Enumeration District: 164

“Susan Risher.” Year: 1900; Census Place: Laurel, Jones, Mississippi; Page: 18; Enumeration District: 0059; FHL microfilm: 1240813

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