Private Elijah Smith - Civil War Soldier from GA
Company H of the 11th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Fought and killed at Gettysburg, PA
Coming Home Pictorial - May 31, 2008
and News Article - June 3, 2008


Mary Smith’s matching headstone photo allowed identification of where Elijah’s headstone belonged




Mary Smith’s headstone being prepared for resetting




Mary Smith’s headstone reset and waiting for Elijah’s headstone




Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster) and Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp) assessing the area for cemetery clean up; Henry Dean in background clearing underbrush




Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster) and Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp) still assessing the area




Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster) and Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp) continue to assess the area and await headstone arrival.




Elijah Smith’s headstone coming home
L-R: June Thomas, Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster), John Thomas, and Henry Dean




Elijah’s base and headstone being prepared for resetting
L-R: Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp), John Thomas, Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster), and June Thomas




Cutting the pins for resetting
L-R: Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster), Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp), John Thomas, and June Thomas




Findagrave.com helped make the identification connection possible.
Thanks to Sarah Locklin Taylor for posting Elijah's memorial.




Preparing for the reset
L-R: Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster) and Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp)




Preparing for the reset
L-R: Henry Dean, Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster), and Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp)




Resetting Elijah's headstone
L-R: Henry Dean, Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster)




Resetting Elijah’s headstone
L-R: Henry Dean, Ken Bell (SCV Newsletter Editor/Webmaster), and Joe Bath (Commander of the Lawrenceville SCV Camp)




Elijah’s headstone back home




Elijah’s headstone close-up




Elijah’s headstone back home safely thanks to June and John Thomas




Photos by Karen Dean - Have Camera Will Travel



Just One of Those “Right” Things To Do
Published on June 3, 2008 by Randy Young
Reporter for Thomasville Times News

The saga of Elijah Smith’s headstone begins in July of 1863.

A soldier in Company H of the 11th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment (led by a captain named Mathew Talbot Nunnally, which might ring a bell with some around here), Smith was wounded in the first days’ fighting at Gettysburg. He would die on July 18, 1863, and his body brought back to his Walton County home to be buried in the family cemetery.

Fast forward to November 1912, six months after the Titanic sinks. Elijah’s wife, Mary, dies and is buried beside him. She had never remarried. The family has matching heart-shaped marble headstones made for the husband and wife.

Now, we move to the early 1970’s. The cemetery, apparently forgotten by the families of those interred and pretty much neglected, becomes the target of local vandals. One concerned local civil war buff notes the inscription on Elijah’s stone stating he had been wounded at Gettysburg. Fearing it would become a likely target of destruction, he removes the stone to protect it.

Nearly 20 years pass. Around the year 1990, the headstone was given to Scott Burridge, the then-husband of Thomasvillian June Thomas, with the hopes that he, as someone with apparently at least a casual interest in the war, might be able to relocate it to its rightful resting place.

According to Thomas, he did make a few stabs at it, with no success. Finally, even after they had divorced, June asked to take the stone.

“He was making a major move,” she recalled, “and it had been in storage for years. I just wanted to find out its origins.”

This past April, June mentioned the stone in conversation around her in-law, Rick Thomas, a member of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans. Rick suggested June give me a call, since I was about earlobe-deep in my interest in Confederate history.

So she did. June emailed me a photo of the stone, and asked if I had any suggestions to offer in finding its rightful home. Knowing the stone came from Georgia helped, as there exists a series of books that lists every known Georgia soldier from the war – so that’s where I went.

There were four Elijah Smith’s listed – but only one was noted as being wounded at Gettysburg. That Elijah Smith served from Walton County, in the 11th Georgia. So it seemed a safe assumption that this Elijah Smith was probably buried in or near Walton County.

The next step was to do an internet search for Elijah and Walton County, and just see if anything came up. Sure enough, there was a match, on a genealogical site called “Find A Grave.” Pictured was the Bennett Family cemetery in Walton County, scattered stones around, with one very recognizable, heart-shaped stone that had been knocked off its base and left lying flat in the dirt.

It read “Mary A. Smith – Mother”.

I sent a link to June - and lo and behold, after all the years, the wheels of getting Elijah’s headstone back beside that of his wife were finally rolling.

The photographs of the cemetery were taken by Karen Dean, a local who felt a sense of melancholy about the old family plot, located basically across the street from her home. Her email address was on the site, and June contacted her.

In the meantime, I posted the information about the stone to a statewide SCV email list, asking if there was anyone near Walton County that could help get the stone back home. In a matter of minutes, Ken Bell, who lives near the cemetery in Lawrenceville, contacted me.

So, in a matter of a few days time, all was arranged. And last Saturday, June and her husband John Thomas drove to meet Karen, Ken, and other SCV members at the cemetery.

Mary’s stone was set first. And then finally, almost inexplicably, Elijah Smith’s stone was set by his wife’s. There were more than a few tears, seeing them back together.

Because the cemetery had been in such disrepair, the SVC folks there didn’t know any soldiers where buried within it, and thus hadn’t been involved in caring for it. With the information on Elijah, all that changed. Now they will.

“It is a wonderful feeling that we all could share this event and repair a loss for the Smith family,” June said afterward.

For all the complaining I do about the internet, at least this is one time I can say it served an honorable purpose – and I feel blessed to have been a part of it. It was just one of those ‘right’ things that might never would’ve happened otherwise.

Welcome home, Elijah Smith. May you and Mary forevermore rest in peace.










All photos taken by Karen Dean and may not be copied without permission.
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