John Kimball kneels Wednesday beside the grave of his ancestor, Charles Kimball, who survived the Civil War. Kimball is leading the effort to have the remains of George Wilder Kimball, brother of Charles, brought from Chalmette National Cemetery outside New Orleans, La., for burial in the family plot at Songo Cemetery in Albany Township. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

ALBANY TOWNSHIP — George Wilder Kimball, who died in the Civil War, is the only one of Wilder and Mary Kimball’s eight children who is not buried at Songo Cemetery.

John Kimball, 60, president of the Songo Cemetery Association and the sexton for three other cemeteries in Albany Township, is hoping to rectify that and bring his ancestor back to Maine to lie next to his seven siblings, including another brother, Charles, who fought in 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. Following a string of battles and skirmishes in 1863, Kimball became sick and died Nov. 12, 1863, at Camp Parapet along the Mississippi River just north of New Orleans. He was 25 years old.

He is buried at Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana.

“Through genealogy, I realized he’s the only one of that generation that’s not together,” John Kimball said. “I think it would be nice to get him home. That is the first generation of my family that lived in Albany. There’s been several all the way back to the Civil War to today that have been involved in the cemetery and others still live in the area.”

The third of eight children born to Wilder and Mary Kimball, George was born April 3, 1838. The 1860 U.S. Census lists George’s occupation as a servant at age 22, living on the family farm.

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Following the start of the Civil War, at least one new regiment was forming in Maine every month. George joined the 12th Maine, which was formed in November 1861. Following its training in Massachusetts, the 12th Maine sailed to Ship Island, Mississippi, on the steamer Constitution, arriving Feb. 12, and was assigned to Gen. Benjamin Butler’s army.

After New Orleans fell in early 1862, the 12th Maine was sent to the city to guard the U.S. Mint and later participated in battles at Pass Manchac and Port Hudson. The siege of Port Hudson from May through July 1863 was conducted in support of Gen. 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 wounds during his time with the 12th Maine.

The gravestone of George Wilder Kimball at Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana. Contributed photo

The regiment returned to Camp Parapet in October, but one month later Kimball became ill and died of an undetermined disease.

John Kimball is still hoping to uncover military records that would indicate the exact cause of death.

As bloody as the Civil War was, disease was a bigger killer than the actual battles for both North and South. Far more soldiers died of disease than were killed in action or from wounds. According to military records, the 12th Maine lost 52 soldiers in battle or of war wounds, while disease claimed 239 soldiers.

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The biggest culprits were dysentery and typhoid, caused by contaminated water and unsanitary conditions. Other diseases such as 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 along with 7,000 other war dead to Chalmette National Cemetery in 1867-68.

John Kimball did not know he had an ancestor who died in the Civil War until he began researching his family roots. A year before he began his genealogy quest, Kimball said he was in Louisiana less than 20 miles from the Chalmette, not knowing at the time that he had an ancestor buried there.

“There was no family talk about it,” Kimball said. “I was close to my grandfather, but he didn’t talk back 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 Army.

Kimball said he looked at the process of having George’s remains exhumed and brought to Maine three years ago. “It didn’t look like it was too hard to do,” he said.

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The cost then was about $3,000, he said, and authorities would give him the existing headstone and provide another flat memorial stone, Kimball said.

“I’m hoping to bring him back within the next two years,” Kimball said. “I’m a self-employed carpenter. There’s just so much happening now. COVID changed everything.”

George would be buried next to his seven siblings, including Charles Clark Kimball, a Civil War veteran who died in 1885.

Due to his role with the cemeteries in Albany Township, John Kimball has helped plan other veterans’ ceremonies and memorials. He suspects when George arrives in Maine after roughly 160 years, an escort of motorcycles and other veteran groups will bring his body to town.

“It’s just finding the time and going through the steps to get it done,” he said.

A marker stands at the gravesite of Civil War veteran Charles C. Kimball in Songo Cemetery, Albany Township. His great-great-great-grandson is working to bring the remains of Charles’ brother, Civil War veteran George Wilder Kimball, from Chalmette National Cemetery outside New Orleans, La., for burial in the family plot. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal


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