ALFRED J. LUTHER, SGT. AT GRANT’S CANAL
Alfred J. Luther enlisted, in Missouri, on May 30, 1861 in Company A of the 1st Kansas Infantry. Alfred was promoted to Sargeant on May 1, 1862, then rising to the rank of corporal before the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
The Battle of Wilson’s Creek was fought on August 10, 1861, and the 1st Kansas was in this battle when Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was killed and Alfred was slightly wounded. The First Kansas was documented having lost 300 of their 800 men that day.
General Ulysses S. Grant was ordered to capture Vicksburg. At Lake Providence, two of Grant’s engineers proposed digging a mile long canal from the river into the lake and then follow various waterways from the lake to the Red River to bypass the Rebel regiments and cannons in the bluffs near Vicksburg.
Along with many other regiments, the 1st Kansas Infantry, was sent to Lake Providence, arriving on February 8th, 1863, for provost duty until July. They were attached to the 1st Brigade, 6th Division, of Major General James B. McPherson’s XVII Army Corps, during the ‘Grant’s Canal’s project.
Many lives were lost at Lake Providence due to small pox, cholera, malaria, etc. due to unsanitary conditions. On March 22, 1863, Sgt. Alfred Luther was one of those lost. Alfred was respected for bravery by fellow soldiers, always there, doing the duty handed and never showing any fear as is expected of the soldiers.
Records indicate the original burial site of Alfred as “1 mile north of Lake Providence, 40 yards south east of Dr. Blackman’s residence, in a row, running from North to South, joining the Vaults (tombs), heads of bodies towards the East.”—a red asterisk was placed in the records by the name of A. J. Luther.Later about 40 soldiers’ remains were removed from Lake Providence and places in the Vicksburg National Military Cemetery. Burial removal records indicate that A. J. Luther, #24, as a “white soldier”, however most of the soldiers removed were unknown colored soldiers.
When preparing this soldier for burial, it must have been a big surprise to learn that he was actually female. To learn the sergeant, the man they thought was Alfred, and fought alongside for two years, was actually a ‘she’. And imagine all that she had to endure during her two year stint, to conceal the female identity.
It is said that about 250 women fought as men… yet almost unheard of. The men in the company all spoke of her in terms of respect and affection.
She would have been promoted to a Lieutenancy in just a few days if she had lived.
Sandra Guthrie Moore