A ceremony for a Confederate soldier was held Saturday in Spokane, after the mystery of his grave — unmarked for 106 years — was cleared up.

Share story

SPOKANE — An honor guard made up of Confederate and Union Civil War re-enactors fired a salute during the dedication of the final resting place of Confederate soldier Pvt. Hugh McLaughlin.

One mystery surrounding Pvt. Hugh McLaughlin was recently solved.

For 106 years, the Confederate soldier’s body lay in an unmarked grave in Spokane’s Greenwood Memorial Terrace cemetery.

Genealogists, including McLaughlin’s great-granddaughter, Bonnie Young, tracked down the grave, and a new marble headstone was unveiled in a graveside dedication ceremony Saturday.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

“It was pretty much lost history,” Young said.

She knew her ancestor’s body was somewhere in the area, but she didn’t know exactly where, and she didn’t know the history of his Civil War service. For Young, locating McLaughlin’s grave brings her one step closer to piecing together her family history.

“It’s fascinating,” Young said. “I love puzzles.”

McLaughlin’s family and the Washington Artillery Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans worked with the federal Veterans Affairs Department to obtain the marble headstone.

Saturday’s ceremony included a Confederate honor guard in ragtag gray uniforms, who loaded their muskets for a salute, and a bugler who played taps and “Charge.” It served as a family reunion for Young and McLaughlin’s other descendants.

“I haven’t seen some of them for ages,” Young said. “It was really nice.”

The sleuthing started with a Seattle-based genealogist who discovered some census data indicating a Confederate soldier had died in Spokane. That genealogist reached out to local genealogist Pat Weeks through the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website. Weeks, who has no relation to McLaughlin’s family, called area cemeteries to find McLaughlin’s burial place, then decided to find the soldier’s grave to document the information on his marker.

“We came out to photograph it, because that’s what genealogists do,” Weeks said. “There was nothing but weeds.”

She thought, “that’s unacceptable.”

“So, I started to try to track down the next nearest relative,” she said. Through Internet research and persistence, Weeks found Young, and they worked with Sons of Confederate Veterans to get the marker.

“Until that headstone was placed there, it was just bushes,” Weeks said. “No one will ever walk by here again without knowing a Confederate soldier is buried there.”

The ceremony also served as a Civil War history lesson.

McLaughlin, 71 when he died, fought through the entire Civil War with the 19th Mississippi Infantry, including in the decisive battles at Antietam and Gettysburg.

It is still unknown why he ended up in Washington, but many vanquished soldiers headed west after the war seeking a new start, according to Washington Artillery Camp Lt. Commander Randy Guthrie. More than 400 Confederate soldiers are known to be buried in Washington.

“Today, that number has gone up by one,” Guthrie said.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.