On November 12th, 1994, 20 years ago today, the remains of a Civil War veteran were laid to rest in Geneva Cemetery in Geneva, Florida.
As was to be expected at the burial of a man who had died 129 years before, the number of attendees were few. He had no direct descendants to speak of. Those present were comprised mainly of collateral relatives (great grand nieces and nephews), a Baptist minister, a newspaper reporter, members of the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans, and two historians.
The casket had been custom made for the occasion. The wood was a beautiful mahogany and the interior was lined with red velvet. A bronze plate affixed to the top of the casket was engraved with the service record of the deceased: “2nd Florida Infantry, Co. I – Hamilton Blues” and the”43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry – Mosby’s Rangers”.
The service was brief, but fitting. Remarks were made by the deceased’s elderly grand niece about the family’s memory of her great uncle. A historian spoke candidly and compassionately about the man’s life, service, and death. The invited Baptist preacher, whose church had been founded by the veteran’s father, spoke about the trials of the Civil War. “Had I lived when he did,” the minister said, “I probably would have done the same thing. War is war, and I believe he did what he did believing he was right.” To conclude the service, a local SCV chaplain recited a prayer. The casket was lowered delicately into the ground in a grave adjacent to that of his mother, reuniting mother and son for the first time since the man’s death so many years ago.
The burial of this forgotten soldier occurred on the day after Veterans Day. This coincidence is quite fitting considering that, to most, this man’s service as a veteran will forever be forgotten due to the actions he took that ultimately led to his death.
For you see, it was no ordinary Confederate veteran that was laid to rest this day 20 years ago in Florida. Rather, the casket that was buried contained the skull of Lewis Thornton Powell, the attempted assassin of Secretary of State William Seward.
As has been previously written, the skull of Lewis Powell was removed from his body by a D.C. undertaker. It was donated to the Army Medical Museum who later turned it over to the Smithsonian along with many Native American remains. The skull was rediscovered in 1993 when the collection was being documented in order to return the Native American remains to their respective tribes. Assassination authors Betty Ownsbey (Lewis Powell’s biographer) and Michael Kauffman helped to identify the skull. With the help of these two researchers, the skull was turned over to descendants of the Powell family and the interment service was arranged. The following are some more pictures of the reburial of Lewis Powell next to his mother at Geneva Cemetery all courtesy of Betty Ownsbey:
Betty Ownsbey, whose knowledge of Lewis Powell and generosity are both unsurpassed
Read more about Powell here: http://www.lewisthorntonpowell.com/
Lincoln Conspirator’s Remains Buried In Seminole County by Jim Robison