It’s been nearly 150 years, but John Henry Dooly has been laid to rest in spirit at the Concord Baptist Church cemetery.
The Confederate soldier from Forsyth County never returned from the Civil War, and the family believes he died on or about May 10, 1864.
Carol Dooley, who organized the Dooley family reunion Saturday, called the ceremonial funeral “special” and “emotional.”
“It’s a marker,” she said, “but he’s home and he’s next to his brother.”
About 70 relatives attended the ceremony, which was part of the family gathering Dooley arranged in memory of her late mother-in-law, Lora “Ma” Dooley, who was 98 when she died in 2009.
The afternoon event celebrated the life of the Civil War soldier and honored the heritage of the Dooley family.
The family’s patriarchs, James and Ruth Dooly, moved to Forsyth from Habersham County in 1846, and had 14 children.
John Henry Dooly was the 10th, born March 21, 1842. He enlisted in 1861 at Concord Baptist Church, where his marker rests.
Each person who spoke at the Saturday ceremony was in some way related to the fallen soldier.
Descendant Charlie Colston said he had been searching for what happened to his great-great-uncle since Ma Dooley told him the stories when he was 16.
“[She] used to tell me that John’s mother, Ruthie, used to sit on the porch of the house and watch down the road, hoping one day to see John walking down the road coming home,” Colston said. “She did this the next 21 years until she died.”
After hearing about the mystery of the soldier’s fate, Colston said his grandmother’s attic became a “treasure chest” as he began a long search.
Colston said he is about 98 percent certain that Dooly was captured and likely died while serving temporarily in the 44th Georgia, along with friends and neighbors from the Bannister, Copeland, Ledbetter and Shoemaker families, all of Forsyth.
The battle at Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia was deadly. Twenty five men in the company, including Dooly, are believed to have been casualties, Colston said.
Sherry Clayton, a distant cousin of John Henry Dooly, said a prayer at the ceremony in a mourning dress from the time period.
“We are not here to glorify the conflict but honor the memory of those who went through the conflict,” Clayton said. “Nothing is ended until it is forgotten. John Henry’s memory still endures and is real.”
Members of the Cumming-based Col. Hiram Parks Bell Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans performed a traditional canteen ceremony, which Cliff Roberts said represents the “band of brothers concept.”
“The soldiers pledged to share everything they had down to the last drop of life-giving water they had in their canteens,” Roberts said. “Each member of this color guard takes a tiny sip from the canteen. Water from the canteen will then be poured on the grave of John Dooly.
“You sir, are not forgotten.”