A Memorial Day weekend ceremony is being planned in Vermilion County, Illinois to dedicate a tombstone on the previously unmarked grave of a Confederate soldier who moved to Eastern Illinois following the Civil War.
“I came across the grave of Alford Kinley Bryant of the 50th Virginia Infantry as part of a research project I was doing on Confederates buried in the Land of Lincoln,” Larry Weatherford, who is president of the Ward Hill Lamon Civil War Roundtable and the Illiana Civil War Historical Society, said. “In a 1957 military burial census taken by the state of Illinois, there were a few Confederates in Vermilion County, some showing state and unit. I saw a Kenneth Bryant listed as a Confederate and buried in the Bock Cemetery near the Indiana state line. But, it didn’t list any more information than that. So it piqued my curiosity.”
Through a lengthy process of elimination, and research he learned that this soldier was Alford Kinley Bryant who had moved to Illinois to work as a coal miner. A member of the Civil War Roundtable said that his cousin had been researching her Civil War ancestor and that he was a Bryant. Sure enough, it was the same soldier.
Weatherford said, “I filled the family in on the information we had, and she shared some pictures and family facts that she had gathered. Even though it had been passed down in the family that A.K. Bryant was a C.S.A. General, when it was confirmed that he was a private in the hard fighting 50th Virginia Infantry Regiment, that seemed to please them. The regiment was engaged in most of the major battles in the Eastern Theater. I had found a letter written home by a fellow member of Company A, who proudly named a few soldiers his family knew, who had “fought like Tigers” at Chancellorsville. The first listed was A.K. Bryant.”
Tara Auter, who also worked on the research project said, “We all got hooked on the details of his story and his journey. Several of us have walked in A.K. Bryant’s footsteps at Gettysburg. It’s like we’ve all gained another Civil War ancestor, and we’ve made friends along the way. Some members of Civil War Historical Impressions from Gettysburg will be joining us at this ceremony.”
The 50th Virginia was part of Ewell’s Second Corps, Johnson’s Division and arrived in town from the west during the early evening of July 1. Jones’ Brigade, including the 50th Virginia Infantry, spent the night in the ravine at the rear of the Daniel Lady Farm, and then marched to Benner’s Hill before the Confederate artillery barrage late on the afternoon of July 2nd , and on to Culp’s Hill that evening. A.K. was captured at Monocacy in 1864 and spent time at Point Lookout before being exchanged a month before the surrender.
The ceremony will take place at 1 p.m., Monday, May 29, following the annual Memorial Day activities at the Danville, Illinois National Cemetery. Eugene Bencomo, a Vietnam War combat veteran, will lead the detail of reenactors in blue and gray who will present a three-volley salute at the gravesite. They will then turn and fire a volley in honor of the Union soldiers buried in the small rural cemetery. The Ceremony will also feature live music, readings and speakers. Flower petals will be scattered, and a specially made wreath will be placed on the grave.
Weatherford and the group members have coordinated and participated in several events and Dedication Ceremonies over the past two decades, including one which honored Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient Martin McHugh, whose lost grave of one hundred seven years was found and marked. Over Labor Day weekend last year, he and the groups performed a formal rededication of the Illinois monuments at Gettysburg honoring the 8th and 12th Illinois Cavalry and the 82nd Illinois Infantry. A similar program is planned for this year, honoring Western troops at Gettysburg. Other stone dedication ceremonies are in the works for more Confederate and Union soldiers’ graves in the Illinois/Indiana area as well. The CWRT and Historical Society may be contacted on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-By Tara Auter
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