With a nudge from a record in the Frederick Patient List database, I went looking for 2nd Lieutenant J. Corfro of Company I, 1st North Carolina Infantry, only to find he probably never existed, despite his shiny new government-issue marker at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, MD.

The Lieutenant lived only on paper, in Federal hospital and burial records, which have him admitted to a US Army hospital in Frederick in September 1862 and buried at Mt. Olivet after he died on the 20th.  He appears in no roster, muster roll, or other military record for the First North Carolina or any other military unit.

I believe he was actually Lieutenant William D. Scarborough, who, incidentally, has an equally nice stone at Mt. Olivet.

The bits of available information about Scarborough, recorded under many names including Corfro, are sometimes confusing and contradictory, but I think I have made some sense of them.  Follow along and see what you make of him …

His war service looked like this:

A 28 year old farmer on his father’s large place at Rolesville in Wake County, he was commissioned First Lieutenant, Company I, First North Carolina Infantry on 16 May 1861.  He was mortally wounded by a gunshot and captured in Maryland in September 1862, probably in action near Fox’s Gap on South Mountain on 14 September.  He was admitted to a US Army hospital in Frederick on the 17th but died there on 20 September 1862.

I weeded through the pile of items below to get to the best story I could for him, and here they all are, unvarnished. Would you make the same choices and draw the same conclusions I did?  [see Notes below for more about the sources].

  • He was born in 1832 or 1833 in Wake County, North Carolina. [US Census 1850, 1860]
  • In August 1860 he was unmarried, 27 years old, and lived and worked on his father’s very large farm near Rolesville in Wake County. He was also assistant US Marshal for the North Eastern Division/District. [US Census 1860]
  • In the Spring of 1861, by then 28 years old, he enrolled in the Wake Light Infantry as they organized for war service. He was commissioned First Lieutenant to date from 16 May. He and the Company joined the First North Carolina Infantry regiment at “Camp Bee”, Brooke’s Station near Aquia Creek, VA on 30 August 1861 as Company I. [Manarin]
  • He had two weeks home on leave for Christmas 1861 and was briefly absent in March or April 1862 for illness. [CSR: muster rolls for December 1861 and April 1862]
  • He died on 20 September 1862 “of disease while on march at Frederick City, Md.” [CSR: Roll of Honor, undated]
  • He was “left sick in Frederick, MD. Since reported dead.” [CSR: Company muster roll for the period ending 31 October 1862]
  • As 1st Lt. W. Scaforo: he was wounded by gunshot and captured at Antietam on 17 September 1862 and died of his wound in a Frederick hospital on 20 September [CSR: report of prisoners of war who died at USA General Hospital, Frederick from July 1862 – Nov 1863]
  • As 2nd Lt. J. Corfro: he was captured at Frederick, MD on 12 September 1862 and died of a gunshot wound in USA General Hospital #1 in Frederick on 20 September. He was buried in grave #29 in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick. [CSR: report of prisoners of war who died at USA General Hospital, Frederick from July 1862 – Nov 1863]
  • As 2nd Lt. J. Cofro: he was captured on South Mountain and died of a gunshot wound in USA General Hospital #1 in Frederick on 20 September. [CSR: report of prisoners of war who died at USA General Hospital, Frederick from July 1862 – Nov 1863]
  • As 1st Lt. W. Carforo: he was captured at Antietam and died from a gunshot wound in USA General Hospital #1 in Frederick on 27 September 1862. [CSR: list of prisoners of war who died at USA General Hospital #1, Frederick dated 5 March 1863]
  • As 1st Lt. W. D. Scorbro: he was admitted, no date, and died in a Frederick hospital on 20 September 1862. [CSR: undated list of Confederates admitted to USA General Hospital #1, Frederick, Md]
  • As 2nd Lt. J. Corfro: he was admitted to a US Army hospital in Frederick on 17 September 1862 with a gunshot wound and died on 20 September 1862. Grave 27, Mt. Olivet.[Frederick Patient List: patient #9.570]
  • As 1st Lt. W. Seaford: he died from a gunshot wound on 27 September 1862. [Frederick Patient List: patient #9.999; Death Book record only]
  • He died of wounds in a hospital in Frederick, MD on 20 September 1862. [Manarin]
  • He “died September 20th, ’61, at Frederick City.” [Moore]
  • As Wm. Sourbro: he was buried “on west side of and in the cemetery at Frederick. Boards up.” [Bowie List]


As for the grave marker at the top, for “Lieut J Corfre, Co. I, 14th NC Inf,” there are several things wrong in addition to the most obvious problem.

First, I didn’t see that spelling among the many variants for Lieutenant Scarborough, so I don’t know how it was chosen for engraving on the stone. Burial records, perhaps? Handwriting issues?

Second, I don’t know where the 14th North Carolina Infantry reference came from. Everything I found listed the First Infantry.

Lastly, this new stone was put in place behind – and paired with – one from about 1862 which is labeled only “unknown.”

This is unlike the other modern markers placed on “Confederate Row” in recent years, each of which supplements an old stone for the same soldier. In retrospect, perhaps that should have been a hint of something wrong.

J. Corfre’s headstone is a particularly egregious example of a pet peeve of mine. A well meaning (modern) person has ordered and installed a new stone, apparently without doing the research to be sure it is reasonably accurate. Or in this case, to see if anyone of that name even existed.


The fabulous Frederick Patient List database is online from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

The gravestone photos above are from the Corfre and Scarborough memorials on Findagrave,  both by longtime contributor The Guardian.

Scarborough’s census records for 1850 and 1860 are online from FamilySearch.com (the Mormon database folks; free membership required).

His service information from (1) Manarin, et al in North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865 : A Roster (1966-); (2) Moore’s  Roster of North Carolina Troops in the War Between the States (1882); and (3) the 19 service cards in his Compiled Service Records (CSRs) from the National Archives via fold3.

Some Confederate burial records including the Bowie and Coxson lists are found in Samuel Pruett’s compiled Possible burials in Washington Confederate Cemetery, Hagerstown, Maryland, online in an excellent exhibit from WHILBR.

One Response to “Piecing a soldier’s story together”

  1. Gary says:

    Very interesting but also very frustrating. I’ve run into similar situations with genealogical research where individuals ASSUME a connection when in fact the ancestor doesn’t “fit” into any data base. Thereby confusing others who come upon their research only to be further confused.

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