A fateful journey during the War
On July 15, 1864, a train carrying more than 800 Confederate prisoners of war destined for the Union camp at Elmira, N.Y., was involved in a head-on crash near the sleepy town of Shohola, Pa.
The collision of the two trains on the Erie Railroad along the bank of the Delaware River resulted in the deaths of a large number of Confederate prisoners and Union guards.
As a historian and writer from Madison, N.J., I visited the site after learning of this tragic piece of history. There, I found out about two Confederate lads who died in the crash and were buried in a nearby cemetery.
With a great deal of research, their stories emerged, and the long hidden graves were found. As a result the train wreck becomes a personal story about two soldiers named Johnson, one from Anson County, N.C., and the other from Petersburg, Va. Both served in N.C. regiments, the 8th and 31st. To pay respect to them, my wife, Nancy, and I have taken the role of caretakers and faithfully place the Confederate flag on the gravesites.
The story begins two years earlier, in 1862, when it became apparent the war was going to last longer than anticipated, and both sides were faced with the problem of housing an increased number of prisoners. The Union and Confederacy decided to work out a prisoner exchange plan.