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The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Moving the Remains from Shohola to Elmira in 1911

Posted By on May 19, 2014

In 1911, the United States Government approved the removal of the bodies of the soldiers and prisoners from the site where they had been buried near King and Fuller’s Cut in Shohola Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania, to the Woodlawn National Cemetery at Elmira, New York.  A vacant space was located in the cemetery and a contract was issued for a monument to be built at the site.  The monument was to contain the record of the death of the soldiers, Union and Confederate, who were the victims of the train accident.  Tablets would contain the names of the soldiers and the plan was to have the dedication of the monument to occur on Memorial Day 1912.

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The following reports are presented here:

Letter to Clay W. Holmes from Chief Quartermaster’s Office, Governor’s Island, New York Harbor, 13 March 1912:

Mr. Clay Holmes

Elmira, New York

Sir: referring to your letter of 8 March 1912, requesting information as to number of remains of United States guards and Confederate prisoners disinterred at Shohola, Pennsylvania, and transported for re-interment in the Woodlawn National Cemetery at Elmira, New York, I have the honor to inform you that the records in this office do not whow the number of remains of guards and Confederate prisoners separately, and that from the information at hand, it seems that all data available, here and elsewhere, lacks the information desired.

In this connection your attention is invited to copy of memorandum prepared in this office for use of Captain Charles W. Fenton, who supervised the disinterment of these remains, and to copy of his report submitted to this office under date of 11 September 1911, showing the number of remains disinterred, transported, and reinterred at Elmira, New York.

Extracts from Memoraandum

From the record it appears that there were killed in a railroad accident, while en route to Elmira Prison, 72 Confederate prisoners and Federal guards, about one and one half miles west of Shohola Station, at a point known as “King and Fuller’s Cut,” and that the burial place is between that point of the railroad and the Delaware River.

The Commissioner for marking graves of Confederate dead says:  “From information on file in this office it would seem that the individual identification of the dead at Shohola is impossible.”

An informal contract has been entered into by the Chief Quartermaster with C. I. Terwillier & Son, of Port Jervis, New York for disinterring and boxing of the 72 remains, more or less, of the former soldiers and delivering of same at railroad station at Shohola, for shipment to Elmira, for the sum of $275.00.

The land on which these former soldiers are buried is owned by C. E. Sills, of Shohola, Pennsylvania, and he has granted permission for the removal of the dead, provided the holes are filled up.

The Report of Captain Fenton, 2nd Cavalry, A.D.C., 6 September 1911, to the Chief Quartermaster at Governor’s Island, New York Harbor:

Sir: In compliance with the orders of the Division Commander I proceeded to Port Jervis, New York, on Sunday, 4 June, arriving at 10:30 P.M.  I met Mr. C. I. Terwilliger, with whom the Chief Quartermaster has made a contract for removing the remains of some 72 Confederate prisoners and Federal guards who were killed in a railroad accident on the Erie Railway at a point about one and one-half miles west of Shohola Station, while en route to Elmira prison.  A permit was obtained from the local authorities for removing the dead, and the work was taken up on the morning of Monday, 5 June, and completed the afternoon of 8 June.  The place of burial was found to be at a point near the Delaware River and not far from the accident.  It was pointed out to us b y an old soldier who was present at the burial 47 years ago.  All the remains (60) were carefully disinterred and packed in boxes and afterward in four large cases, and weighed each as follows:  Case No. 1 – 310 lbs.; No. 2 – 355 lbs.; No. 3 – 375 lbs.; No. 4 – 325 lbs.  These boxes were shipped by express on the afternoon of 8 June to Elmira, New York, and were turned over by me to the Superintendent of the Woodlawn National Cemetery, Saturday morning, 9 June.  I proceed to the cemetery and saw the remains re-interred in the place that had been made for them.

Holmes, then proceeded to reconcile the discrepancy in the count of bodies:

It will be noted that the number of dead is given as about 72, and Captain Fenton reports 60.  The official records show as originally buried there 48 Confederate prisoners and 17 Federal guards – a total of 65.  It is fair to presume that in the disinterring of bodies after so many years a slight error may have been made in the count, or some remains may have totally vanished.  For the purposes of this volume the number will be regarded as 65 to tally with the original report.

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How many men were buried at the wreck site and how many bodies were moved to Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira?  If there was a discrepancy, what happened to the remaining bodies? These are questions which will continue to be asked by descendants of the men, Union and Confederate, who were killed in the train wreck near Shohola.

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For a listing of all other posts in this series, with direct links, click on ShoholaTrainWreck.

The above reports are from The Elmira Prison Camp:  A History of the Military Prison at Elmira, New York, by Clay W. Holmes.  For a free download of this book (digitized by Google), click on the title, then click on “See Other Formats” in the left column on the page.


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