AUTHOR: Jeff T Giambrone (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)
Over the years, I have visited cemeteries in many different states, and I have to say that I have enjoyed these trips immensely. For a historian such as myself, visiting a cemetery is like opening a storybook, and each grave is a page in that book. Some of the stories are sad, some inspiring, a few even heroic, but I find them all very interesting.
Three years ago, I went to visit my parent’s and grandparent’s graves in the city cemetery at Bolton, Mississippi. Established about 1860, the Bolton Cemetery has been the final resting place of the town’s residents for over 150 years. Within sight of my family plot is a simple marble tombstone that has turned gray from years of exposure to the elements. (Click to enlarge photo.) Although dirty, the information on the front is still quite legible, marking it as the final resting place of O. B. Heitman, who served in Company B, 13th North Carolina Infantry. I was curious as to why a North Carolinian soldier was buried in a small Mississippi cemetery, so I decided to see what I could find about Mr. Heitman.
Orin Burgess Heitman was born on March 24, 1845 in Davidson County, North Carolina, to John A. and Anna (Cursee/Kinsey) Heitman. In addition to Orin, the Heitman family included at least two other children: Nancy and Mary (1850 U.S. Census, Davidson County, North Carolina, accessed on Ancestry.com, September 11, 2018).
On Jan. 1, 1863, Orin, almost 18 years old, married Elizabeth C. Ripple, who was about five years older (North Carolina Index to Marriage Bonds, 1741 – 1868, accessed on Ancestry.com, September 11, 2018). Elizabeth was born on Dec. 26, 1839 to Phillip and Belinda Ripple of Davidson County, North Carolina.
The young couple was soon parted by the war: Orin was of military age, and with the Confederacy in need of all the manpower it could get its hands on, he was soon called to fight. On March 1, 1864, Orin B. Heitman enlisted at Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, as a Private in Company B of the 13th North Carolina Infantry. A physical description of Orin was recorded on one of the muster rolls for the 13th N.C. Infantry: He had a dark complexion, dark brown hair, blue eyes, and stood 5 feet, 4 ½ inches tall.
Orin had joined a veteran unit that had seen extensive combat with the Army of Northern Virginia. The National Park Service provides the following overview of the regiment’s service on their Soldiers and Sailors website: “[The] 13th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 3rd Volunteers, was organized at Garysburg, North Carolina, in May, 1861, with 1,100 men. Its members were recruited in Caswell, Mecklenburg, Davie, Edgecombe, and Rockingham counties. Ordered to Virginia, the unit was assigned to General Colston’s, Garland’s, Pender’s, and Scales’ Brigade. It shared in the many campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from Williamsburg to Cold Harbor, endured the battles and hardships of the Petersburg trenches south of the James River, and took part in the Appomattox operations. This regiment [totaled] 575 effectives in April, 1862, lost 29 killed and 80 wounded during the Seven Days’ Battles, and had 41 killed and 149 wounded in the Maryland Campaign. It reported 37 casualties at Fredericksburg and 216 at Chancellorsville. Of the 232 engaged at Gettysburg, more than seventy-five percent were disabled. It surrendered 22 officers and 193 men. The field officers were Colonels Joseph H. Hyman, William D. Pender, and Alfred M. Scales; Lieutenant Colonels W. S. Guy, Henry A. Rogers, Thomas Ruffin, Jr., and E. Benton Withers; and Majors John T. Hambrick, D. H. Hamilton, Jr., and T. A. Martin.” (https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=CNC0013RI)
Not long after joining the 13th N.C. Infantry, Orin was stricken by that great killer of Civil War soldiers: disease. On the May – June 1864 roster of the regiment, he was listed as having been “at home sick” with typhoid fever, but he had survived and returned to serve with his regiment, as evidenced by that same roster. The young soldier was wounded sometime in September or October 1864, but it must not have been a serious wound, as he returned to duty within a couple of months. Orin remained with the regiment until the last days of the war but was captured at Petersburg, Virginia, on April 2, 1865. He was confined a few days later at Point Lookout, Maryland. Orin was released on June 13, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. (Compiled Service Record of Orin B. Heitman, 13th North Carolina Infantry, accessed on Fold3.com, September 11, 2018; North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster)
With the war over, Orin returned home to his wife, Elizabeth, in North Carolina. By the time the census taker came around in 1870, the family had expanded to include two sons: Philip, age 4, and John, age 2. On that census, Orin was listed as a farmer by occupation, and the real estate he owned was valued at $370.00, and his personal estate was valued at $100.00 (1870 U.S. Census, Davidson County, North Carolina, accessed on Ancestry.com, Sept. 11, 2018). Sometime before 1900, Orin, Elizabeth, their son John, and Orin’s mother, Anna Heitman, had relocated to Bolton, Mississippi. There, Orin operated a small farm with the aid of his adult son, John (1900 U.S. Census, Hinds County, Mississippi, accessed September 16, 2018).
In August 1913, Orin applied for a Confederate soldier’s pension, claiming that he was indigent and unable to support himself by his own labor. He also stated that he was living in a rented home and that all of his children were married and unable to provide for his support. (Pension application of Orin B. Heitman, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.)
According to his obituary [image at right; click to enlarge], Orin was working at his store when “he was stricken with apoplexy,” or stroke, “and from that time until the end came he did not regain consciousness” (Obituary clipping pictured on Find-a-Grave, accessed June 18, 2020). Orin Burgess Heitman died two days later, on October 1, 1917 and was buried in the Bolton City Cemetery. However, it was not until nearly 20 years later, on April 27, 1940, that Charlie Heitman—either Orin’s son or his grandson—applied for a government headstone to mark his grave. (U.S. Headstone applications for military veterans, 1925 – 1963, accessed on Ancestry.com, September 16, 2018.)
I wish I could tell a more complete story about Orin Burgess Heitman’s civil war service: It would be wonderful to have letters he wrote to his wife or parents during the war; or a diary he kept in the trenches around Petersburg; or even just a post-war reminiscence written for his children to explain his small part in a great big war. But I don’t have any of those things, so I pieced together an incomplete story based on the records that have survived to the present day. The next time I go to visit my parents’ graves in the Bolton City Cemetery, I will take a small Confederate flag and place it on the grave of Orin Heitman; I think he would appreciate the fact that over a century after his death, his service has not been forgotten.
Editor’s Note: According to the 1880 Census, Orin and Elizabeth were still living on a Davidson County farm and had added two more children to their family: Along with sons Philip and John, Charles (8 years old) and David (5 years old) lived in the household, too (1880 U.S. Census, Davidson County, North Carolina, accessed on Ancestry.com, June 17, 2020). Then, records reveal that Orin did something unexpected: He married another woman. On Sept. 10, 1885, Orin Heitman, forty years old, married Margaret Marcella Campbell, twenty-five years old, in a ceremony performed by the Justice of the Peace at Emily Campbell’s—Margaret’s mother—home in Forsyth County, North Carolina (North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011, accessed on Ancestry.com, June 17, 2020). Margaret Marcella Campbell was born to Thomas and Emily Campbell on Aug. 21, 1860, and she had had a daughter, Ida, who had been born on Sept. 17, 1881 (N.C. Death Certificates, 1909-1976, accessed on Ancestry.com, June 18, 2020). Then, on the 1900 Census records, Orin appeared in Mississippi, living with his mother, his first wife, Elizabeth, and one of his sons while Margaret was still living in Forsyth County with her husband, James Murphy, a man seven years younger than she, and their children. By then, Margaret and James had been married for ten years, and Ida, eighteen years old, still lived with her mother (1900 U.S. Census, Forsyth County, North Carolina, accessed on Ancestry.com, June 17, 2020). Perhaps Orin’s involvement with and marriage to Miss Margaret Marcella Campbell had something to do with why the Heitman family relocated to Mississippi: All its members but one son, Philip, moved away from North Carolina. Elizabeth C. Ripple Heitman died on July 2, 1914 and is also buried in Bolton Cemetery at Bolton, Mississippi.