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Jon's Jottings: On Memorial Day, remember those who went before

A monument at Manassas Battlefield Park marks the spot where Gen. Francis Bartow fell during the first major conflict between the North and the South in the Civil War. Photo by Jon Echternacht

The origins of Memorial Day, when citizens honor those who paid the ultimate price for American during all conflicts, goes back to the years after the Civil War.

The original practice of placing memorials on veterans' graves in various areas of the country began after the great conflict that claimed at least 620,000 casualties.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the United States was about 3.5 million in 1860. The conflict lasted four years, three weeks and six days from April 12, 1861 to May 9, 1865.

I recently visited hallowed ground of the Civil War in which I have an ancestral interest.

The First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run, in Northern Virginia, was the first major battle of the Civil War.

In a search through family history not so long ago, I discovered an ancestor who was wounded in the battle and died later from the injuries.

Pvt. Marcus L. Funderburk, of Company E, 8th Georgia Regiment was wounded at Manassas July 21, 1861, and died in September at Charlottesville, Va.

There were nearly 60,000 troops engaged in the conflict. Estimated casualties for the 28,400 Union Army troops were 480 killed, 1,000 wounded and 1,200 missing.

Estimates for the Confederate force of 30,800 included 390 killed, 1,600 wounded and 30 captured or missing.

The battle set a course for things to come. It was a Confederate victory and took place near the Manassas railroad junction and along Bull Run Creek about 20 miles from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and 80 miles from the Confederate Capitol at Richmond, Va.

Accounts of the battle tell of civilians riding to Manassas in buggies with picnic baskets treating the first big showdown as an entertainment event.

An orderly retreat by the Union Army turned into chaos as soldiers and civilians clamored across Bull Run in haste.

It marked the bloodiest battle in American history at the time and signaled the war would not be an easy victory for the North and would last much longer than expected.

It could have been worse if the Rebels had not been too exhausted to pursue the Union troops in retreat.

As I walked along the open field around Henry House Hill toward a line of cannons near a statue dedicated to the memory of Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson who earned the nickname Stonewall in the battle, I came across a much smaller stone memorial.

The inscription on a brass plaque read in part, "Brigadier General Francis Stebbings Bartow mortally wounded on this spot July 21, 1861. Commanded 7th, 8th,9th &11th Georgia & 1st Kentucky Regiments, the first Confederate officer to give his life on the field."

I couldn't help but wonder if my ancestor, Marcus, was anywhere in the vicinity when he was wounded 152 years ago. Lead mini balls and cannon shrapnel still rise up from the earth from time to time.

One battle report said half of the 8th Georgia's 1,000 men fell dead or were wounded, captured or lost early in the battle.

There was fierce fighting in the area in and around the hill where the Judith Henry house stood. The widow Henry, who refused to leave the house, was shot and killed in her bed. A white tombstone marks her grave near the house.

Reportedly without standard uniforms, soldiers on both sides were wounded by friendly fire. I hoped Marcus didn't meet his fate that way, but it's possible.

I can imagine the ground surrounding Henry Hill soaked with blood and the house peppered with lead.

The house has been reconstructed to represent its original form. A Library of Congress photograph taken in March 1862 shows the Henry House in complete shambles with only a partial chimney standing.

It turns out there were Funderburks who wore both Blue and Gray and in one instance a brother was a Union soldier and two other siblings served for the Confederates, thus illustrating the fact the Civil War was "brother against brother" among my own ancestors.

It was an account of this in a published Funderburk family history where I ran across my ancestor at Manassas.

Dr. Guy B. Funderburk wrote: "Actually two brothers, George W. and John H. Funderburk joined the Confederates while Frank, a brother between them joined the Federals."

Frank was captured in an attempted raid on Rome, Ga., in May 1863 and the local newspaper read him the riot act, according to Dr. Funderburk's account of the newspaper article.

Rome (Ga.) Courier, May 9, 1863: "The Yankee Prisoners in Rome - Among this batch of thieves and murderers was found two companies of North Alabama Tories; and amongst them a man by the name of Funderburk, who was born and raised within 3 miles of Rome. This villainous welp (sic) had a gallant brother in the Eighth Georgia who fell covered with honor and glory at the First Battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861."

Dr. Funderburk goes on to point out that the gallant Funderburk at Manassas was actually Frank's uncle, not his brother.

This long buried and nearly forgotten family history has provoked an intriguing search for more details. I now have a mission to expand on this information of my ancestors' role in the Civil War.

And also to remember those who lost their lives in the terrible conflict that involved Americans killing Americans and brothers shooting at brothers.