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US civil war veteran buried in Highgate Cemetery inspired Moriarty character in Sherlock Holmes

PUBLISHED: 08:00 28 September 2015

Michael Hammerson with some of his US Civil war history research items. Picture: Polly Hancock

Michael Hammerson with some of his US Civil war history research items. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

They fought thousands of miles away in a war that would ultimately define the future of the United States. But the final resting place for many veterans of the American Civil War was on the other side of the pond, in cemeteries across Britain.

From Michael Hammerson's collection of American Civil War research, a photograph of the London Branch of U.S. Civil War Veterans, greeting the US servicemen who had arrived in Europe once American had joined the allies in WW1, dating from about 1915From Michael Hammerson's collection of American Civil War research, a photograph of the London Branch of U.S. Civil War Veterans, greeting the US servicemen who had arrived in Europe once American had joined the allies in WW1, dating from about 1915

Highgate Society vice-president Michael Hammerson has dedicated more than five years to studying 1,300 British veterans who fought in the war between 1861 and 1865.

And he has discovered that dozens were laid to rest in north London burial sites, including Highgate Cemetery and West Hampstead Cemetery.

“I’m sure it will surprise people, and this is only a small proportion of them,” said Mr Hammerson, a retired chartered surveyor and town planning consultant, of Highgate Village. “I would guess there are in excess of 45,000 over here [in Britain].’’

Among the veterans Mr Hammerson has researched for the project is Adam Worth, who is thought to have inspired the character of Professor Moriarty in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.

Photograph of Thomas Shepherd's grave in Highgate CemeteryPhotograph of Thomas Shepherd's grave in Highgate Cemetery

German-born American Mr Worth, who is buried in a mass pauper’s grave in Highgate Cemetery, was mistakenly reported as killed in action in the war, when in fact he had just been wounded.

Seizing the opportunity, he fled the Unionist ranks for a life of crime in New York, before the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency forced him to escape the US for Great Britain.

It was here he established a reputation as the “Napoleon of the criminal world” before his death in 1902 aged 57 or 58.

Mr Hammerson said: “You find incredible people who are just like us, yet totally different. You learn more about the subject and each man’s story is different.”

Other locally buried veterans include Ferdinand Thomas Barzetti, who fought in the war under the alias Thomas Shepherd and is buried in Highgate Cemetery. Born in 1836, he left England to enlist in the Union army in 1861, aged about 25.

In later years he wrote that he assumed the name of Thomas Shepherd so that his mother would not know he had enlisted.

The grave, which bears the emblem of the London Branch of American Civil War Veterans group, was rededicated in a ceremony in 2010.

A few miles away, West Hampstead Cemetery is the final resting place of confederacy-supporter Rev Francis Tremlett, who was vicar of Belsize Park from 1860 until 1913.

Mr Hammerson is reaching out to residents with family connections to the war so he can help them to track down their graves.

He said: “It was really a personal interest to find these people but I am now publicising it to get people who had ancestors connected with the war, in America or England, to get in touch.”

Mr Hammerson can be contacted by email: Michael@midsummer.demon.co.uk

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