The great-great grandsons of the only Confederate soldier buried in Medway Cemetery honored their ancestor last week by placing a headstone upon his grave—the first marker to ever grace his final resting place since his death 98 years ago. On Saturday, three generations of the Bailey family gathered at the cemetery to dedicate the new headstone to William Bailey, culminating the family’s 30-year search for the final resting place of its patriarch.
William Bailey’s story began on March 12, 1829, when he was born in Augusta County, Virginia. A farmer-turned-soldier who found himself among the ranks of the famed Stonewall Brigade fighting on the side of the Confederate States of America, Bailey survived many of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles, and died at the age of 88 in Greene County, Ohio. His story, now afforded some closure with the placement of his official Confederate headstone, almost ended in the town of Osborn in Greene County, yet the Osborn Cemetery was dismantled, with its residents being transferred to both Medway and Fairborn.
Bailey’s great-great grandsons, Dale and David Bailey, have spent the past three decades compiling information on their forefather, but could not find the location of his final resting place until late last summer, when local historian Scott Suther of the Medway Area Historical Society did some research on the cemetery’s sole Confederate soldier and contacted the Baileys with the good news.
Dale Bailey of Peebles, Ohio and his brother David Bailey of Colorado Springs, Colorado, said they had always been interested in their family history, especially its military involvement, and that they spent the past 20 years searching hundreds of cemeteries in Virginia and Ohio for their great-great grandfather’s burial site after learning of his impressive battle history. Once they discovered that it was in fact the correct William Bailey buried in the Medway Cemetery, they were horrified to learn that their patriarch had never been given a headstone.
“It’s wrong that your ancestor lies here in an unmarked grave,” David said of the process to place a monument upon William’s final resting place.
David said his brother Dale suggested approaching the VA about obtaining an official military headstone, an idea David first laughed at, saying the VA would never grant them such a memorial, as the Confederacy technically fought against the United States of America. The VA, however, approved the official Confederate headstone for William Bailey, making it the only one of its kind in the Medway Cemetery. The 240-pound Confederate stone is marked at the top with the Southern Cross of Honor and depicts Bailey’s name in an arched design, whereas Union soldiers’ names are etched into a straight line.
“To be in an unmarked grave for 98 years is quite the injustice,” said Dale. “We’ve corrected that problem today,” he said during Saturday’s private dedication service, which featured a 21-gun salute from the West Carrollton Honor Guard.
William Bailey joined the Confederate Army in 1861 and fought with the Fifth Virginia Infantry, also known as the Stonewall Brigade, as they served under General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In September of 1862, Private Bailey fought in the Battle of Antietam, which David said was the “bloodiest one-day battle in American history.” Three months later, he fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, and engaged in the Battle of Chancellorsville the next spring, where General Stonewall Jackson was killed. Later in July of 1863, Bailey fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and was involved in the Civil War’s fiercest hand-to-hand combat at the “Bloody Angle” of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The Fifth Virginia Infantry was obliterated at Spotsylvania Court House when all of its soldiers were either killed or captured, with Bailey being taken as a prisoner of war by the Union Army. He spent two years as a POW until Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in April of 1865.
The Baileys said William and his wife Sarah moved to Greene County, Ohio after the war, as Sarah was in poor health and physicians believed the change of climate would benefit her. She died five years later, and William moved back to Virginia with his sister, who died soon after, prompting William to move back to Ohio. Sarah and William are buried side-by-side in the Medway Cemetery, with their son and his wife next to them as well.
David, a former Marine and retired FBI Special Agent, said he had done enough research to determine that he had family members who fought on both sides of the Civil War, yet never in the same battles. He said it was somewhat relieving to honor his great-great grandfather after 30 years of searching for his burial site.
“Now it’s on to George,” David said of the search for his great-great-great grandfather’s gravesite, which is located somewhere in the vast state of Virginia.