ALBANY TOWNSHIP — George Wilder Kimball, who died in the Civil War, is the only one of Wilder and Mary Kimball’s eight children not buried in Songo Cemetery.
John Kimball, 60, president of the Songo Cemetery Association and sexton of three other Albany Township cemeteries, hopes to rectify that and bring his ancestor back to Maine to rest beside his seven siblings, including another brother , Charles , who fought and survived the Civil War.
George Wilder Kimball, the brother of John Kimball’s third great-grandfather, served as a private in the 12th Maine Infantry Regiment, Company A, in Louisiana. After a series of battles and skirmishes in 1863, Kimball fell ill and died on November 12, 1863, at Camp Parapet, located along the Mississippi River just north of New Orleans. He was 25 years old.
He is currently buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana.
“Through the genealogy, I realized he was the only one of that generation who wasn’t together,” John Kimball said. “I think it would be nice to bring him home. This is the first generation of my family that lived in Albany. There have been several from the Civil War until today who have been involved with the cemetery and others still live in the area.
The third of eight children born to Wilder and Mary Kimball, George was born on April 3, 1838. The 1860 U.S. Census lists George’s occupation as a servant at age 22, living on the family farm.
After the Civil War began, at least one new regiment was forming in Maine every month. George joined the 12th Maine, which was formed in November 1861. After training in Massachusetts, the 12th Maine sailed to Ship Island, Mississippi, on the steamer Constitution, arriving February 12 and was assigned to the Army of General Benjamin Butler.
After the fall of New Orleans in early 1862, the 12th Maine was sent to the city to guard the United States Mint and later saw battles at Pass Manchac and Port Hudson. The Siege of Port Hudson from May to July 1863 was fought in support of General Ulysses Grant during the Battle of Vicksburg, which gave the Union complete control of the Mississippi River.
There are no records indicating that Kimball suffered any injuries during his time with 12th Maine.
The regiment returned to Camp Parapet in October, but a month later Kimball fell ill and died of an undetermined illness.
John Kimball still hopes to uncover military records that would point to the exact cause of death.
As bloody as the Civil War was, disease was more deadly than actual battles for North and South. Many more soldiers died from disease than from combat deaths or wounds. According to military records, the 12th Maine lost 52 soldiers in combat or from battle wounds, while disease claimed 239 lives.
The biggest culprits were dysentery and typhoid, caused by contaminated water and unsanitary conditions. Other diseases like measles, malaria, pneumonia and tuberculosis killed tens of thousands of soldiers during the war.
George was buried at Camp Parapet, but his body was moved with 7,000 other war dead to Chalmette National Cemetery in 1867-1868.
John Kimball didn’t even know he had an ancestor who died during the Civil War until he began researching his family roots. A year before beginning his genealogy quest, Kimball said he was in Louisiana less than 20 miles from La Chalmette, not knowing at the time that there was a buried ancestor.
“There was no family discussion about it,” Kimball said. “I was close to my grandfather, but he didn’t talk to me that far.”
He can trace his family back to their arrival in America, near Boston 12 years after the Mayflower. His family has a long history of military service. John Kimball served six years in the military.
Kimball said he reviewed the process of exhuming and transporting George’s remains to Maine three years ago. “It didn’t seem too hard to do,” he said.
The cost then was about $3,000, he said, and officials would give him the existing headstone and provide another flat memorial stone. said Kimball.
“I hope to bring him back in the next two years,” Kimball said. “I am a freelance carpenter. There’s so much going on now. COVID has changed everything.
George would be buried next to his seven other siblings, including Charles Clark Kimball, a Civil War veteran who died in 1885.
Because of his role in Albany Township cemeteries, John Kimball helped plan other veterans’ ceremonies and memorials. He suspects that when George returns to Maine after about 160 years, a motorcycle escort and other groups of veterans will bring his body back to town.
“It’s just about finding the time and following the steps to get there,” he said.