“A Martyr to the cause:” The death of Captain Hugh Rees Vaughan

Today is Confederate Memorial Day, and I want to spotlight one Mississippi soldier who gave his life during the Civil War. This morning I was looking through some photocopies I had made from John L. Power’s scrapbook, which is in the collections of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. On one page was a small column headlined with just one word – “OBITUARY:”

Obituary of Hugh Rees Vaughan, 18th Mississippi Infantry (John L. Power Scrapbook, MDAH)

Hugh Rees Vaughan was born on June 10, 1839, in South Carolina; his family moved to Yazoo County, Mississippi, in 1835. His father, Henry Vaughan, was a wealthy planter in Yazoo County; in 1850 he valued his real estate at $55,000. To work this land Vaughan used a force of 293 slaves. An influential man in his community, Henry Vaughan was elected to represent Yazoo County in the Mississippi Secession Convention. (1850 U.S. Census, Yazoo County, page 500b, and “The Mississippi Secession Convention” by Timothy B. Smith.)

Hugh Rees Vaughan enlisted in the “Benton Rifle Company,” Company B, 18th Mississippi Infantry, as 2nd sergeant on April 27, 1861. Promoted to Captain of the Benton Rifles on April 26, 1862, he extended his 12 month enlistment two days later by reenlisting for “the war.” Wounded at the battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, he was absent on furlough until the spring of 1863. That summer Vaughan was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, when the 18th Mississippi took part in the assault on the Peach Orchard. After his second wound Henry Vaughan went on furlough in South Carolina, probably recuperating with relatives, as his father was a native of the Palmetto State. Unfortunately the young captain succumbed to his injuries, and his service record noted that he died on March 18, 1864. (Compiled Service Record of Hugh R. Vaughan, 18th Mississippi Infantry, accessed on Fold3.com, April 30, 2018).

Hugh R. Vaughan Tombstone 2
Grave of Captain Hugh R. Vaughan (Findagrave.com)

Captain Hugh R. Vaughan is buried in the Church of the Holy Cross Cemetery in Stateburg, South Carolina. He has a well-marked grave in a well tended cemetery beside a beautiful antebellum church; it’s a fitting resting place for a man who gave his life in defense of his home and family.

Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg, South Carolina (Wikipedia)

I will close this story with part of a poem written by Ellen Hebron of Vicksburg, Mississippi. She had a brother in the 18th Mississippi who died early in the war, and she wrote these lines as a tribute to him:

He ‘is not dead, but sleepeth,’

The boy that ‘wore the grey,’

With manhood’s pride and boyhood’s grace,

On that bright summer’s day.

His dark-blue eyes were radiant

With a patriotic glow,

And his beardless chin was dimpled

With a smile ‘twixt joy and woe;

While from his fair young forehead

The silken locks were thrown,

With a careless ease, and a winning mien

No painter’s art hart known.

He ‘is not dead, but sleepeth,’

The boy that pined away,

On a couch of pain afar from home,

On that bright summer’s day.

And the words of love he uttered

To a mother’s aching heart,

In the household band of a sunny land,

Are now a treasured part.

He loved his native country,

He loved his Saviour too;

And softly to His bosom

This youthful son He drew.

Virginia’s noble daughters!

We pray you guard the spot

Where sleeps our darling brother;

You will not be forgot.

For in the gentle rustle

Of the wind that passeth by,

You will hear a soft and tender wail –

His tribute from the sky!

In Memory of Our Brother, J.E.,” published in Songs From the South by Ellen Hebron.

2 thoughts on ““A Martyr to the cause:” The death of Captain Hugh Rees Vaughan

  1. Loved your post, as Confederate Memorial Day is upon us here in the south, it is a wonderful way to remember a fallen soldier. The poetry of this area is so moving, thanks so much for sharing.

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