By Wesley Harris
(Claiborne Parish Library Historian)
At least two Claiborne Parish cemeteries serve as the final resting places for unknown Civil War soldiers.
Presumably, the bodies buried in the Forest Grove and Lisbon Cemeteries are Confederate, but the lack of records means virtually no details exist on the nameless men.
At Forest Grove, four soldiers lie under the shadow of an official military marker reading, “Interred within this area are 4 unknown soldiers of the Civil War.”
The Lisbon Cemetery contains the graves of at least thirty soldiers. Each grave was originally denoted by locally gathered rocks that were later replaced by simple flat granite markers inscribed “Soldier.”
No fighting occurred within 75 miles of Claiborne Parish, so the reason for so many local burials of soldiers is unclear. Numerous Confederate units crisscrossed the parish during the war as the Union army advanced on north Louisiana from Arkansas and up the Red River from Baton Rouge. Southern units moved back and forth to confront whatever threat appeared most imminent. It is possible that during these movements, wounded or ill Confederates were left in the care of local citizens.
It has been suggested that the graves contain soldiers who were wounded at the April 1864 battles at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, the closest encroachment of federal troops into northwest Louisiana. Oral tradition cites several Confederate hospitals situated in Claiborne Parish. The late Marilyn Lowery Meyers of Lisbon contended a Confederate encampment existed on D’arbonne Bayou near the current location of the Lake Claiborne Dam spillway. According to Mrs. Myers, her grandfather and father used to find Civil War artifacts in that area and she thought the Lisbon unknown dead may have been from that encampment.
However, the official records of both sides fail to confirm any hospital facilities, only overnight encampments as units passed through. These legends were handed down through local families, but no records support the placement of official hospitals in the parish. Documentation does place Confederate hospitals at Keatchie and Shreveport.
Similar stories explain the unknown Confederate graves in Minden. After Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, Confederate units marched north to Arkansas to confront another threat. They stopped in Minden [then in Claiborne Parish] for supplies, leaving sick and wounded soldiers in the care of the locals. Those who died were buried in unmarked graves in what is referred to as “the Trench” in the Minden City Cemetery. An 1867 newspaper account noted the 21 graves were marked by sticks driven in the ground at the head and foot of each plot. In 2008, official markers were placed on the graves.
There may be more unknown wartime soldier graves in the parish. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information.