Today my son Ralph and I attended a grave marker dedication at the Oak Hill and Oak Crest Memorial Cemeteries in Downer's Grove, Illinois. The event was sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Oak Hill/Oak Crest Cemeteries Foundation. Wonderful turnout! Well over a hundred people. There were several dignitaries -- township trustees, a mayor, local state congresswoman, and a representative from the Governor's office.
The new grave markers were for Pvt. Jacob T. Escher (Co. E, 8th Ill Cavalry), Pvt. Judson Farrar (Co. E, 8th Ill Cavalry), Pvt. Herman Pilz (Co. I, 52nd Ohio Infantry) and Pvt. Martin E. Stanger (Co. A, 82nd Ill Infantry). I keep calling them grave markers, but in fact they are headstones paid for with your tax dollars and provided through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Our country has, rightfully, decided this is one of the least things we can do to show our appreciation for their service.
There were remarks from two representatives of the S.U.V.C.W., the politicians spoke, also a local Eagle Scout who was instrumental in the project. Everyone kept it to just two minutes until the head speaker who was the local historian and cemetery curator who gave us the detailed biographies of these four soldiers. The S.U.V.C.W. also provided a presentation of colors, professional singer (for the National Anthem and "Battle Hymn of the Republic"), and an artillery salute with a period canon, salute with period rifles, and a professional bugler ("Amazing Grace" and "Taps"). And of course the S.U.V.C.W. provided a chaplain for the Invocation and the Benediction.
At last count I have six direct ancestors who served in the Civil War --
Pvt. Charles H. Chesley -- Co. K, 8th Illinois Cavalry
Pvt. Alfred Gibson -- Co. D, 33rd Kentucky Infantry
Pvt. George Hall -- Co. K, 26th Illinois Infantry
Corp. Arthur H. Needham -- Hosp. Steward, 2nd Iowa Cavalry
Pvt. Samuel R. Porter -- Co I, 17th Illinois Infantry (transfer from 8th Ill)
Pvt. Henry Martin Walker -- Co. A, 33rd Illinois Infantry
Following the Civil War many, many of the Union Veterans formed the Grand Army of the Republic as a fraternal organization supporting the soldiers. According to Wikipedia --
Linking men through their experience of the war, the G.A.R. became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, promoting patriotic education, help to make Memorial Day a national holiday, lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans' pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak membership, at more than 490,000 was in 1890.-- As the Civil War veterans began passing away, the job of looking after our soldiers and their memory was passed down to their sons, and then their sons' sons, and so on. That is where Ralph and I are currently, descended not just from Civil War veterans but G.A.R. members too. Doing good work. Doing the right thing.
Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker