Archive for June 29th, 2010

Woodland Cemetery contains what is allegedly the only Confederate grave in Cuyahoga County. Henry Ebenezer Handerson, who lies sedately in a cemetery with well over a hundred Union veterans, served in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier and officer.

The Yankee in Grey

Henry Handerson was born in Orange Township in Cuyahoga County in 1837, to Thomas and Catherine Handerson, natives of New York state. Within two years, a tragic accident killed Thomas, leaving Catharine with 5 children. Henry and one of his sisters (whose name is never mentioned in accounts I have found) were adopted by his uncle Lewis Handerson. The uncle moved his family to Beersheba Springs, Tennessee. In 1854, he entered college at Geneva College in New York and returned to his adopted family after completing his course of study. In Tennessee, he worked as a surveyor before finding work as a private tutor to plantation-owning families in Louisiana. He embarked on medical studies at the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University) in the fall of 1860. He had joined a company of local militia, or home guards, and volunteered for the Confederate army in June of 1861.

He was part of the Stafford Guards, Company of the 9th Regiment, Louisiana Volunteers. He rose through the ranks to eventually reach the rank of Adjutant General of the 2nd Louisiana Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia. Handerson was captured at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864 and became a prisoner of war. He became part of the Immortal Six Hundred, a group of Confederate officers explicitly placed into the line of fire of Confederate guns on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor and later moved to Fort Pulaski in the mouth of the Savannah River. Handerson finally signed an oath of allegiance on June 17, 1865, four years to the day from when he first volunteered for the Confederacy. Handerson wrote a memoir called A Yankee in Gray that I have not yet been able to locate.

Handerson completed his long-delayed medical studies at Columbia University in New York and earned the degree of M.D. in 1867. He married a woman named Juliet Alice Root in 1872, but she did not survive long and left him a widower with a young daughter. He practiced medicine and researched the history of the field in New York before finally returning to his birthplace in 1885.

In Cleveland, he married a significantly younger woman named Clara Corlett in 1888, and she can be seen resting beside him in Woodland Cemetery. They had two more sons together.


His work in Cleveland afforded him great acclaim in the medical community. In addition to being a practicing physician, he published books and articles on the history of medicine as well as the state of health in Cleveland. He became a professor of Hygiene and Sanitary Science first at University of Wooster and then the Cleveland College of Physicians and Surgeons (now Ohio Wesleyan University). He founded the Cleveland Medical Library Association and served as its president for six year. He was also president of the Cuyahoga County Medical Society and a member of professional organizations: the Cleveland Academy of Medicine, the Ohio State Medical Society, and the American Medical Association. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 80 in 1918.

A detailed biography of Handerson is contained in this link, as a foreward to one of his books published posthumously. During his life, most accounts state that Handerson often downplayed his Civil War service, but it is now probably what is most often remembered about him.

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