By Rickey Robertson
In my September 2011 column I wrote of the settlers and homesteaders of Peason Ridge. Let's look just a little further into Peason Ridge history. When the families had to leave in 1941, they did not get to bring out hardly anything other than what they could haul in a wagon. One thing that was left by the Heritage Families of both Camp Polk and Peason Ridge was their cemeteries. Located on present day Ft Polk is 18 cemeteries and on Peason Ridge 2 cemeteries. Of the 3 adult men buried on Peason Ridge, all of them served in the Army of the Confederacy. Let's look at these Confederate heroes.
Alfred Michael (Uncle Mike) Dowden was a rugged pioneer of this area. In 1846 during the Mexican War he served in combat in Mexico. In 1861 when war clouds gathered, he walked to New Orleans and joined Co K 19th Louisiana Infantry Regiment. Being a combat veteran he made sergeant in his unit. The 19th Louisiana fought in the Battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Atlanta, Mill Creek Gap, and Nashville. They surrendered in Alabama on May 8, 1865. "Uncle Mike" returned home and raised his family. As he grew older, he made hand carved tombstones for his friends graves and would cry while making them. He is buried in the Billy Dowden Cemetery along with his son. Uncle Mike was a proud veteran of 2 wars.
Merritt Cemetery located on Peason Ridge Military Reservation.
Also located on Peason Ridge is the Merritt and Conner Cemetery. Buried here near the artillery and bombing impact area, is Pvt. Edmon Merritt. He served in both the 3rd Bn. Mississippi Infantry (State Troops) and 3rd Bn. Mississippi Cavalry Reserves. He fought throughout Mississippi and Alabama before moving to Louisiana after the war. He was the first person buried on Peason Ridge with his wife Eliza resting beside him.
Confederate gravemarker for Pvt. Edmon Merritt.
The last Confederate buried on Peason Ridge, Sgt. Robert T. Conner also rests with his wife Elizzebeth in the Merritt and Conner Cemetery. They were brother and sister in laws to Edmon and Eliza Merritt. Robert Conner was a member of the famed 1st Texas Infantry serving in Company K. His ancestors still reside in the Milam, Hemphill, and Newton areas. Robert and his unit fought in the Army of Northern Virginia where at First Manassas, Robert was wounded. He again was wounded at Suffolk Virginia in 1863. He was transferred to Louisiana in time to fight at Mansfield, La. and be wounded there, but he continued south with General Taylor's army and was slightly wounded at Monette's Ferry, where the Yankees captured him! Wounded 4 times and was captured! What a combat record!
Confederate gravemarker for Sgt. Robert T. Conner
These 3 Confederate veterans are part of the heritage and legacy of Peason Ridge. Their old homesteads also were taken by the US Army in 1941. During Heritage Day 2011, part of the Peason Ridge Tour stops at the Merritt Cemetery. To register for the tour call Tami Narigon at Ft. Polk 337-531-0916.
If you want to research your Confederate ancestors, you can visit the Sons of Confederate Veterans websites at www.lascv.com and scv.org. Remember these men fought with honor and bravery for the Southland. You fought all the way Johnny Reb! You fought all the way!