View Full Version : NPS to hold court on veteran's identity.

01-23-2008, 09:24 AM
The Charlotte Observer
January 22, 2008



Digging at Confederate justice
Albemarle group says N.C.'s Sgt. Ivy Ritchie is mistakenly buried in a Union grave


An Albemarle group's efforts to honor the remains of a Confederate soldier could be resolved in an unusual proceeding by the National Park Service next month.

On Feb. 13, the park service will hold a mock trial near the Petersburg, Va., National Battlefield to decide whether Sgt. Ivy Ritchie is buried in a Union soldier's grave under a mismarked headstone.

Ritchie, who lived near Richfield in what is now Stanly County, fought with the 14th N.C. Regiment in nearly every major battle of the Civil War in Virginia. Confederate historians say he died in the last battle at Appomattox Court House, the final engagement of the war in that state.

"It's heart wrenching to go through all that hell and get killed on the morning of April 9 when it's all over. It brings tears to the eye," Jim Harwood of Albemarle said Monday. "And then to know he's laying up there in a Yankee grave just tears me up. He hasn't rested in a hundred years or more."

Harwood and other members of the Albemarle-based Sons of Confederate Veterans' Ivy Ritchie Camp 1734 have been trying for years to get their namesake's remains moved to North Carolina -- or at least get his tombstone corrected.

They say the remains were removed from Appomattox after the war, mistakenly buried at a new national cemetery for Union dead in Petersburg, Va., and marked with a gravestone for a Sgt. J. Richie of Company H, 14th New York Infantry.

The National Park Service, which maintains Petersburg National Battlefield, refused to exhume the remains in grave #4824 in the Poplar Grove National Cemetery section of Petersburg.

But it agreed to do its best to correctly identify them without the benefit of physical analysis.

The mock trial will take place at the pre-Civil War-era Dinwiddie Court House, about a half-hour's drive southwest of Petersburg.

A historian for the National Park Service, Chris Calkins, says the Petersburg National Battlefield has never held such a trial and he's unaware of any proceedings like it.

Historical experts on both sides will present evidence to three more experts acting as judges, who will decide if there's proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritchie's remains rest among the enemy.

If they agree with the Stanly County veterans group, the identification on Ritchie's grave could change.

Though the Sons members preferred DNA analysis, they're excited about the chance to prove their belief, which they base on a book written by Calkins.

Harwood became aware of questions surrounding Ritchie's whereabouts after founding the Sons camp in 1995. Searching Confederate records of Stanly County soldiers, he came across Ritchie's name. He said the records indicated Ritchie was the last soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia to fall.

Harwood tracked down Calkins, the chief of interpretation at Petersburg National Battlefield. Calkins' book, "The Battles of Appomattox," theorizes that the remains in grave #4824 might be Ivy Ritchie's, though the expert doubts claims that Ritchie was the last man in Gen. Robert E. Lee's army to be killed in battle.

Quoting from his book, Calkins said, " `It is believed Ivy Ritchie is mistakenly buried as a federal soldier ... Since the 14th New York did not exist in 1865, chances are this is Sgt. Ritchie of North Carolina.' "

Calkins, who will represent the park service at the trial, said he's since found evidence that may prove otherwise.

"It could be the guy from New York (as marked) or it could be somebody else with a close-to name," Calkins said by phone from Virginia on Monday.

Regardless of the mock trial's outcome, the camp has already remembered Ritchie with a permanent marker at New Bethel Lutheran Church in Stanly County, where the soldier's parents are buried.

Harwood said Ritchie married Clara Ridenhour while recuperating from a wound he suffered at Chancellorsville, but the couple had no children.

Camp members hope to prevail at the trial, as Ritchie and his fellow Confederates failed to do at Appomattox.

"I felt it was an important part of my state's history to get this man identified," said camp member Tony Way, who pressed the park service to honor the group's request. "I guess I'm a driven individual and I don't really take no for an answer."

Calkins is close-mouthed about the evidence he'll present for the park service at the trial. "Putting it on record, which I did in my book, and changing a tombstone is another thing," he said. "Only God knows who is in that grave."

Mock trial

A Stanly County group says Confederate Sgt. Ivy Ritchie is buried in a Union soldier's grave.

What: The National Park Service will decide at 10 a.m. Feb. 13 at Dinwiddie Court House, Dinwiddie, Va.

Details: 804-732-6092, ext. 201.