GREENE COUNTY, Mo. – Members of Mary Whitney Phelps Tent # 22 Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War held a marker dedication for the Union Civil War Veteran Private Geroge W. D. Kirkland.
Private Kirkland fought and died in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. He was buried in a mass grave and later re-buried in an “unknown” grave in the Springfield National Cemetery. Now there is a new marker with his name in the Hazelwood Cemetery.
“Private George W. D. Kirkland enlisted in the Union Army in 1861, just a couple of months before the Battle of Wilson’s Creek,” said Sarah Cunningham, Superintendent for Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. “He fought there and unfortunately was killed in battle.”
Private Kirkland was the son of the enslaved Elizabeth Keckley who later became a seamstress for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.
“I came across some information about Elizabeth Keckley and the fact that her son had fought at the battle of Wilsons Creek and died during that battle,” Pat Haas Former President of Mary Whitney Phelps, Tent #22, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 1861–1865. “And I thought, why don’t we know that? and why have we done something to recognize him up there?”
Private Kirkland’s father Alexander Kirkland was a white merchant. Private Kirkland is one of the only known mixed-race soldiers to have fought in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
“I think it is rather unique about him, that he was willing to do that,” Haas said. “Willing to enlist and sacrifice his life when he didn’t have to.”
The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War held the marker dedication to honor Kirkland’s sacrifice and continue preserving the history of the Civil War.
“We don’t want to forget because the Civil War was such a horrible battle,” said Dee Dosch President of The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 1861–1865 Mary Whitney Phelps, Tent #22. “And all these men who fought and gave their lives and split families apart, and it was never the same after that. So, we just want to remember it.”
Although not much is known about Private Kirkland, he is still remembered for his courage and sacrifice.“There are many other stories that are untold waiting to be discovered. some of the records just don’t exist from that time period,” Cunningham said. “And so, I hope that through more research and as time passes, we’ll be able to learn more about folks like George Kirkland.”