Confederate soldiers pose for the cameras after their capture at the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
Confederate soldiers pose for the cameras after their capture at the battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Supplied

Mystery of US Civil War soldier

A SMALL unmarked plot in the Ipswich Cemetery – number A07030 – would barely catch the eye if you walked past.

But the grave marks the spot of one of Australia's earliest war veterans, a man who served in the American Civil War for the Confederate army.

William Keen Bryant was known to have been born in Queensland in 1839 and served aboard the Royal Navy's HMS Victory and HMS Shannon after leaving his home state.

Among the information that has been gathered about his past from newspaper clippings and archives, it is known that Mr Bryant fought in the Virginia 60th Infantry with the Confederate Army.

Mr Bryant lived to participate in six different major conflicts for Great Britain and also the Confederate forces.

After the Civil War, Mr Bryant married Sara Ellen Jenkins in England and then sailed for Australia again in 1882.

The couple had 12 children and lived at a cattle sheep station at Rosewood before Mr Bryant found a job as a coal miner at Churchill at the turn of the century.

He died aged 97 on March 27, 1936 and was buried without a headstone in the Ipswich General Cemetery.

But while his final resting place remains largely unnoticed, a Brisbane historian is determined to ensure the Confederate veteran is remembered by future generations.

James M Gray heads a group named the William Kenyon Australasian Confederates Camp 2160, which is the Australian chapter of the US-based Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Mr Gray said he hoped to find Mr Bryant's living relatives so he could honour the veteran with a headstone or bronze memorial plaque.

“We want to contact some of the descendants and make them aware of what we've found out about him,” Mr Gray said.

“We want to get the cemetery to accept a free bronze marker for his grave. We'll then arrange for a dedication ceremony.”

The group commemorated another Confederate officer, Richard William Curtis, who was buried at the Toowong Cemetery, with a ceremony earlier this month.

Mr Gray, who is originally from the US, said a few Australian and European men had fought in the American Civil War for money.

Considered now by many as a war about slavery, Mr Gray said many southern families joined the Confederate struggle to protect their houses and land.

If you think you may be a descendant of Mr Bryant or you are interested in joining the group, call Mr Gray on 3388 0581 or email jamesmgray@bigpond.com.

NORTH VS SOUTH

  • THE American Civil War broke out in 1861 after 11 southern States withdrew from the “Union”.
  • The southern States feared the new president, Abraham Lincoln, would abolish slavery – which he eventually did.
  • Approximately 620,000 soldiers and civilians died before the south surrendered in 1865.
  • Lincoln’s triumph was short- lived, however, as he was assassinated just six days later.


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