Charles B. Thompson and the Unknown Four Thousand.

He was from Wisconsin. He volunteered with the 37th Infantry Regiment March 15, 1864. He turned fifteen June 1. 

On his 150th anniversary last year I dedicated a climbing rose to his memory and designated it the Charles B. Thompson Rose. A friend’s digital camera framed it. The honor was overdue.

Sixteen days after that 15th birthday, Charles B. Thompson died in the Union’s first assault on Petersburg, VA.   June 17,1864.

Such brief glory. He was 5 foot 6,  blue eyes, light hair, a fair complexion, a child patriot whose blue uniform became his dusty shroud. He was my great uncle.

Researching his final resting place brought me in touch with Betsy Dinger-Glisan, Park Ranger in the Interpretive Division, Petersburg National Park, VA  which includes the Poplar Grove National Cemetery.

“The area around HQ (administrative offices) was where your ancestor's unit was when he was killed.  According to our historian there was a place called the Shand House.”

“When a soldier was killed, he was usually buried close to where he fell.”

“When the bodies were moved to Poplar Grove in 1866, they were each buried in a separate grave.”

Betsy said only 2-thousand of the 6-thousand buried there are known. Charles [99% sure] is among the 4-thousand without a name. Poplar Grove Cemetery is a much visited part of the Petersburg National Park which is staffed 7 days a week this summer.

“We staffed the old house (built in 1872 for the cemetery Superintendent) on weekends only but the positive feedback from visitors keeps it open every day this season.”

One day I sent Betsy a cyber-picture of the rose and told her its story.

“While talking to my boss I told him about the picture of the rose you had sent; he was quite touched by that story.  He asked me if it would be possible for you to send a photograph of the rose; maybe we can use it in an exhibit at the cemetery?”

The picture photo-printed out nicely, with a tasteful font below the bloom.
Charles B. Thompson Rose.

“The picture arrived -  it is just lovely and I will frame it and hang it up at the house at Poplar Grove with your information! Thank you so much for sending such a special picture along with thoughts about the others, our unknown 4,000.”

In the spring, summer, fall of this year [2000] Betsy’s daily tour-visitors pass through the 1872 house at the Poplar Grove National Cemetery on the southern edge of Petersburg, VA.

They see the rose.

They see the name.

They honor the many as they honor the beautiful fair-haired youth who may be gazing back at them from the heart of his rose.

Frank Thompson