Mike Mull told a war story to the Bulloch County Historical Society for the recent Confederate Memorial Day ceremony. The Herald’s Al Hackle says the tale of Hiram Bland, “took on aspects of a 19th century gothic horror story.”
In 1861, Hiram Bland was about 37 years old, past the Confederate Army’s conscription range of 18 to 35, when he joined the Toombs Guards of the 9th Georgia Infantry.
“War had broken out and Hiram answered the call for volunteers to serve in the defense of his home and family even though he was not required to do so,” Mull said.
Leaving behind his wife Jane “Jincy” Crumpton Bland, with whom he had five children, at home in the Westside area of Bulloch County, Hiram Bland was sent to be part of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
Once in the service, Bland contracted typhoid fever and, in what could have been his permanent re-entry into civilian life, was discharged on July 18, 1862, for “debility and old age” at 37 or 38.
But by 1864, Bland had recovered and re-enlisted. Now in the 1st Georgia Volunteer Infantry, he was captured by Union forces July 22, 1864, during the battles around Atlanta.
Sent first a classification center in Louisville, Kentucky, Bland “was then taken by train to the infamous Camp Chase prison facility just outside Columbus, Ohio,” Mull said.
He noted that some camps and prisons where the United States held Confederate soldiers, such as Elmira Prison in New York, had death rates higher than the Confederacy’s notorious camp for Union prisoners at Andersonville, Georgia.
After about four months at Camp Chase, Bland died on Nov. 24, 1864, and was buried in the prison cemetery, about a quarter mile from the stockade.
“But even in death, Hiram Bland would not find peace,” Mull said.
The Cleveland Medical College in Cleveland, Ohio, needed cadavers, he said, and Dr. Joab R. Flowers, a prison physician in Columbus, had a track record of supplying them.
“On the night of Nov. 24, 1864, the date that Hiram Bland and others had been buried in the ground for only a short time, Dr. Flowers gathered his accomplices and went to the freshly dug graves and using wooden shovels so as not to make too much noise, dug up those bodies,” said Mull.
Bland’s great-great-granddaughter, Ann Hartman of Griffin, Ga, spoke at a Memorial Day service hosted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp No. 1535, where they sang Dixie and sprinkled Southern soil on the cemetery ground while commemorating Bland’s service with a headstone. The bodies of more than 2,000 Confederate prisoners of war are buried in the cemetery. The stone was the idea of Dennis Ranney, a member of the Sons group and an amateur historian who has researched the grave-robbing incident for five years.
Hartman said she has spent 30 years trying to piece together her family history, but Bland’s story always proved perplexing. Here’s what she and Ranney have figured out about what happened to him:
Bland was captured during the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864 and taken to Camp Chase, where he died Nov. 24. He would’ve been about 40 years old.
His body was at rest for just a few hours in grave No. 513, just steps from Sullivant Avenue.
A team of three grave robbers, led by Columbus Dr. Joab Flowers, stole six bodies with the intention of selling them to a Cleveland medical school for dissection and research. Flowers would have received $20 for each body, Ranney said.
The bodies were to have been transported by train, but it’s unclear how far they got because the three robbers were arrested two days later.
Even now, no one knows what happened to the bodies.
Jincy, Bland’s wife, waited on the porch after the war ended for a homecoming that would never be.