Local News

Three Unknown Soldiers Identified at Oakwood Cemetery

Posted September 23, 2007 7:44 p.m. EDT
Updated November 8, 2009 9:53 p.m. EST

— Hundreds of history buffs came to Oakwood Cemetery on Sunday for a rare ceremony. Historians have identified three unknown soldiers buried there from the Civil War.

Private John Dolson of Minnesota, a member of Company A, 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters, was wounded in the second day of battle and died two months later. Before he was buried, his unit identification somehow was changed to 2nd North Carolina Infantry, and for more than 130 years, he has been the only Union soldier buried in the Raleigh cemetery, surrounded by nearly 1,400 Confederates.

The two Confederate soldiers were wounded, captured and later died in the U.S. Corps hospital at Gettysburg. Private William P. Wallace of Company C, 23rd North Carolina Infantry, was taken on the first day of the battle, while Private Drury Scruggs of Company D, 16th North Carolina Infantry was missing after Pickett's charge on the third and final day of the battle.

The Confederate Cemetery, located on the original two and a half acres of Oakwood Cemetery, was established in 1867. The historic cemetery is a short walking distance from the state capitol. 

Charles Purser, with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, has dedicated 19 years of his life to studying the Confederacy. Never did he think he would get a phone call about a Union soldier buried with Confederate soldiers.

"He says, 'I think you have a Yankee down there in your cemetery,'” Purser said.

After Purser talked to a Civil War buff from New York state, he found records of a John Dobson from North Carolina and a John Dolson from Minnesota. Dolson was later determined to be the soldier buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

“It is a good piece of history,” Travis Gorshe said.

Gorshe drove 22 hours to bring Dolson's Confederate grave marker to Minnesota.

“He gave the ultimate price, the sacrifice of his life, for his duty and his job. They should have the proper recognition,” Gorshe said.

That recognition also came Sunday for two Confederate soldiers buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Hospital records were recently found, identifying Privates William Wallace and Drury Scruggs. There are still 231 unknown Confederate graves in the cemetery.

“All of them should get their identities and, hopefully, their recognition as American soldiers,” Purser said.

The three soldiers recently identified fought in the battle at Gettysburg. The two Confederate soldiers were North Carolina natives; one soldier was from Rutherford County and the other from Montgomery County.