Moore’s Mill mass grave discovered

Sons of Confederate Veterans and other researchers pose with the sonar equipment used to pinpoint the location of the Moore's Mill mass grave site in Calwood. Front row, left to right: David Todd, Don Ernst, Kevin Wenzel, Peter Kessinger, Pablo Baum, Noel Crowson, Bill Connor, Wayne Sampson. Back: James Dixon.

Sons of Confederate Veterans and other researchers pose with the sonar equipment used to pinpoint the location of the Moore's Mill mass grave site in Calwood. Front row, left to right: David Todd, Don Ernst, Kevin Wenzel, Peter Kessinger, Pablo Baum, Noel Crowson, Bill Connor, Wayne Sampson. Back: James Dixon.

After 150 years and multiple attempts at finding the elusive unmarked site, the mass grave that holds eight Confederate and 16 Union soldiers who died in the Battle of Moore’s Mill has been uncovered.

Thanks to the efforts of members of the Elijah Gates Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the remains of those killed in Callaway County’s largest Civil War battle were confirmed in Calwood — just one foot from where initial speculation had placed it — following an underground sonar investigation that began April 5.

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This canister ball uncovered at the Battle of Moore's Mill is an example of a popular anti-personnel amunition fired from cannons in the Civil War. Canister shot fired several small metal balls, effectively turning a cannon into a large shotgun.

“I think obviously all of us are excited about the success of finding it, but I think what we’re more excited about is that all of these soldiers on both sides will finally have their final resting place located and marked for the future to see,” said Elijah Gates camp commander Noel Crowson.

“I think we all believe that no matter if you’re Union or Confederate, if you die in combat in service to your country, you deserve to have your final resting place marked.”

The Elijah Gates camp focused its finances and manpower toward finding the burial location following the dedication of the final Gray Ghost Trail panels last year, the project they had been previously dedicated to. Crowson said efforts to find the grave site began July 2012.

Don Ernst, Kevin Wenzel, James Dixon and Crowson spent 15 to 20 hours a week over the following months researching military documents, newspaper articles and other records, compiling and narrowing down the list of those who were killed during the Moore’s Mill battle.

They finally received permission from the owner of the land on which the grave site exists and hired Ground Penetrating Radar Systems Incorporated from St. Louis to examine the area.

The technician determined “manmade anomalies” underground at the site consistent with a mass burial.

Out of respect for the soldiers — and because there would be little left of 150-year-old soldiers buried in blankets — Crowson said there would be no efforts to exhume remains. Instead, the landowner gave the group permission to build a fence around the site, and they plan to raise funds to buy a monument that would be inscribed with the names of those fallen. The Elijah Gates camp also plans to have the site registered with the county as a cemetery.

Crowson said he anticipated the monument would cost between $2,500 and $3,000, with the Elijah Gates camp currently having about $500 in their monument fund. They hope to work with the Sons of Union organizations from Iowa, Ohio and Indiana who lost Union troops in the battle to raise funds, and will also turn to organizations, businesses and individuals in the community.

Those interested in donating to the marker project may contact Don Ernst at the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society or Noel Crowson at mbcllc@ktis.net.

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