Monday, May 25, 2015

Remembering Buzzard's Roost This Memorial Day

"Mill Creek Gap plaque" by John Foxe - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

There is no mention of Buzzard's Roost on the plaque commemorating a four-day portion of Sherman's infamous March to the Sea. Twenty years ago, there wasn't much information to be found at all about a place named Buzzard's Roost anywhere. The Battle of Mill Creek Gap is just about as close as you can get, and that's after digging through the saga of Resaca.

But this place with its ominous name is where Robert Carter died.

Robert Carter, the oldest son of John and Martha Carter, was born in 1846 in England and arrived here in Morgan County, Illinois, in about 1848 as a toddler.

As the eldest son of a moderately successful farmer, no one knows why Robert enlisted in Company B of the 10th Illinois Volunteer Infantry when the Civil War began. Whether it was to escape the bonds of Midwestern farm life or the feeling of patriotism felt by a young 20-year-old man, we will never know. In any event, Robert entered the service of the Union and the bloodiest war in our history.

It was here in Georgia during the Resaca campaign, the Battle of Mill Creek Gap, and consequently, the Battle of Buzzard's Roost that Robert fought under Union General William T. Sherman - and died.

Robert now rests with his parents beneath a multi-faceted grave marker in East Cemetery in Jacksonville, Morgan County, Illinois. Cemetery records indicate his burial there, and one can only imagine the wait and the dread and the longing for his body to be returned from Georgia to Illinois in 1864.

Other than a brief notation from the battlefield surgeon, there is little documentation and little known about Robert, either before his enlistment or after. There are no surviving known photographs, no medals, no military trappings left behind to tell his story. Robert never had the chance to marry or father children to carry on his legacy. In all of this, Robert was alone.

Yet he was but one of 10,000 combat deaths from Illinois, and one of almost 600,000 total who gave their last full measure on the battlefields of the Civil War.

Robert could easily be lost in this sea of bloody statistics, but not this Memorial Day.

Rest in peace, Robert.

Robert Carter was my second great grand-uncle.