Remembering Southern Union Soldiers on Memorial Day

Chalmette National Cemetery

I received these photos from Deena Collins Aucoin this Memorial Day morning. The first is of Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. The second is the grave of Riley J. Collins from Jones County, MS. An avowed Unionist, Riley resisted service in the Confederate Army, and joined Co. E, 1st New Orleans infantry (although his gravestone says LA Infantry) on April 30, 1864. He died of disease the following August.

Deena is a descendant of Simeon Collins, brother of Riley. Both men, along with brother Jasper Collins and many nephews and cousins, were members of the Knight Band in the Free State of Jones. Three other Collins brothers–Warren, Stacy and Newton–deserted the Confederate Army and fought against it in the Big Thicket of East Texas.

Vikki Bynum, moderator

Riley J. Collins Grave, Chalmette National Cemetery

11 replies »

  1. After reading this post, I did some research and found one of my relatives, John Bounds of the 1st NO, is also buried at Chalmette. He died of small pox January 4, 1865.

    So thanks for sharing this!

    Now if only I could find where John Lampkin Smith is buried…


    • You’re welcome, Shelby. So many Civil War soldiers died of illness, both Unionists and Confederates. Let us know if you find John Lampkin Smith’s burial place.



  2. One of Riley J. Collins’ children was my great great grandfather, N. W. Collins, whose daughter raised my mother. My understanding is that N.W. was a pre-teen or teenager when Riley and Desdemonia died. Then he went to live with Jasper Collins. My mother read your book before she died; we pieced together the family tree and she was thrilled to learn the history of her ancestors! Thank you for all of your years of hard work and bringing a smile to my mother’s face! Stephanie Bodden, Dallas, TX.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Stephanie,

      Thank you so much for sharing your descent from Riley James Collins! Riley’s early leadership in Jones County’s dissent against secession, and his decision to resist the Confederate army and move straight toward joining the Union Army is an important episode of the history of the Free State of Jones; one that is often forgotten—no doubt because of his untimely death in service to the Union. Combined with the earlier death of Desdemonia, it’s a particularly tragic episode. I’ve often thought about the children who were orphaned during this horrific war, and wondered how they fared. So thank you, again, and I’m touched that my book brought a smile to your mother’s face.



  3. I’m looking for information about Simeon Boden haven Collins. Would you know if this is the same “Simeon”. Thank you


    • Leslie, thank you for checking with this site. I am sure that your Simeon Collins is a different one, as there is no “Boden” or “Haven” middle names in this well-documented family line.



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