Title: Confederate Army private, Civil War; carpenter
Birthdate: January 12, 1835
Death Date: January 5, 1919
Plot Location: Section 208, Lot 61, south line

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A “Southerner” by birth, George’s hometown was Portsmouth Virginia. He must have grown up without his father, who wasn’t listed in the earliest available census. In 1850 his mother, Jane, was head of the household and brother James, age 21, was a carpenter. That became George’s profession as well.

By 1858 he was married to Elizabeth Gray who gave birth to a girl and a boy before Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, 1861. George became a private in Company G of the 9th Virginia Infantry on April 19. They engaged in the Second Battle of Bull Run and Fredericksburg. Then, at Gettysburg in 1863, more than half of the regiment’s 318 men were either killed or wounded. 

According to one story, George was detailed to another part of the battlefield, probably as a teamster (or driver of a team of horses). That means he missed Pickett’s Charge, the Confederate assault that failed and ultimately forced their retreat. The regiment was dissolved but, since most of the surviving members of the 9th Infantry were from the Portsmouth area, they were transferred to the Confederate Navy in the fall of 1863.

The official record says George was discharged that September, but there may have been much more to his service. Some of the former soldiers became “pirates” or spies for the South, and there were many of them.

Espionage was conducted on many levels, from the Confederate government and its military to independent operators. These ranged from secret networks and Southern sympathizers conducting covert operations in the North to individuals who volunteered near the southern battlefields as scouts and couriers. On the seas they couldn’t match the Union Navy, so an incentive was offered to any armed merchant ships (“privateers”) who sank or destroyed an enemy vessel. It was essentially legalized piracy.

This is merely speculation, but with his carpentry experience, George may have been involved in ship building and repair, or sent aboard blockade runners, a merchant ship that could get past the Union blockade of seaports. Many of these came from Canada’s Maritime Provinces and the coast of Maine.

One citizen from that state who is buried here may have been one of those privateers. He has no official military record, but Oscar Carle is suspected of using his occupation as a ship’s captain to aid the Southern cause. There were incidents of steamships being hijacked out of East Coast ports, or perhaps he profited from slipping food and supplies into Southern ports . He continued his career as a mariner after 1865, grew his family in Philadelphia starting in 1881, and is buried with his wife and children in Section G, Lot 8.

Any documents regarding the secret transfer of soldiers to the Navy were purposely destroyed when the Confederates burned Richmond before they evacuated. While George’s service was officially over in 1863, the fact that his wife did not have another child until 1867 suggests he may have been retained for the duration of the war. 

After their second daughter arrived, they moved to Philadelphia where four more children were born starting in 1870. What brought the Berry family to Philly is unknown, but he remained in the carpentry trade the rest of his life. Four of his five daughters got married but only one was buried at Mount Moriah. 

Of his two sons, one got married but both died before George did and both were buried here. Their parents were laid to rest beside them in Section 208. Did George have a Confederate soldier’s gravestone? If he did it hasn’t been located yet. Or perhaps, like Oscar Carle and others, he preferred to keep quiet about his experience as a “Rebel” in a strongly patriotic bulwark of the Union like Philadelphia.

There are two Confederate soldiers with specially marked graves in Section 200, the Soldiers Plot. Others who served the Confederacy are Sylvester T. Bunting, Jacob Nathan Hoeflich, and Orville Jackson Moat.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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