Rows of New Markers, and Untold Sacrifice by Civil War Soldiers

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Conrad Joachim, a German immigrant, marched off to war from his home on Greenwich Street in Manhattan on May 13, 1862, enlisting as an assistant surgeon in the 15th New York Heavy Artillery. Charles Joachim, whom historians believe to be his son, had already joined the same unit.

Four months later, Conrad was dead; and in another year, so was Charles, at about the age of 20. They were buried in the same grave at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, beneath a marble headstone that is an exquisitely carved open book inscribed with both their names. But the stone slowly sank into the earth as the centuries turned twice, and the cemetery and the city were completed around them.

The Joachim family’s sacrifice may have been forever lost to history if not for a formidable labor of detective work involving hundreds of volunteers and lasting longer than the Civil War itself. Now the Joachims are among more than 1,200 Civil War soldiers with new gravestones at Green-Wood. And today, for the first time, the cemetery is honoring the full known complement of veterans of the country’s deadliest war.

Dozens of veterans’ descendants, some from as far away as Spain, will be joined at 9 a.m. by volunteers and Civil War re-enactors for a public ceremony. There will be a parade, a color guard, a fife and drum corps, crashing salutes from an artillery battery and speeches of welcome and remembrance. Then, descendants and history lovers will read the names of the veterans.

Over five years, the volunteers have scoured not only Green-Wood’s grounds, but also cemetery records, pension and enlistment archives, government databases, regimental histories, published obituaries and death notices. They have also found and interviewed soldiers’ descendants.

The project identified not 200 Civil War veterans — as had originally been expected — but 2,998. Many gravestones were missing, damaged or obliterated; some, like the Joachims’ marble, had sunk beneath the grass. And so the volunteers filled out more than 1,200 applications for new markers, since the Department of Veterans Affairs supplies them if originals are unreadable or lost.

“This is a work of historical rescue,” said one of the volunteers, Jeffrey Blustein, a medical ethicist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. “History isn’t just about the rich and famous, it’s about all the forgotten people, ordinary people who otherwise would never be known.”

Read it all; the accompanying video linked to the right of the article is well worth the time.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed Forces

Posted May 28, 2007 at 7:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Dee in Iowa wrote:

My uncle, Austin Needham, a fine Irish lad, who came to his new country in the 1850s, just in time to enlist in the Union Army in Ill. 90th, fought in Tenn., and died in the Battle of Atlanta.  He rests in peace in the National Cemetery at Marrietta, Georgia.  We have honored this young man, in every generation, by using the name of Austin.  My dad, my brother, my son, and my grandson… well as other lines in the family.  God, I know, has blessed all who gave so much for this country…....

May 28, 9:26 am | [comment link]
2. Sherri wrote:

Though I live deep in Georgia, my hometown was founded by Union veterans. Yesterday afternoon, we placed wreaths at the two sections of the cemetery where Union veterans are buried together - a little military cemetery within the larger cemetery. The UDC holds a memorial service for the Confederate veterans every April, but I think these Union vets had not been honored in a long time.

May 28, 11:30 am | [comment link]
3. Br. Michael wrote:

It is fitting that they all should be honored:  I remember Andrew Grant, 11th Fla. Infantry, wounded at Petersburg;  CPO Gene DeWitt, USN and Lt. Cdr. John L Berry, USNR.

May 28, 3:00 pm | [comment link]
4. Scotsreb wrote:

I have to say that the volunteer staff at Camp Moore Museum, nr Tangipahoa, LA, are to be highly commended in this service, of identifying the fallen from the WBTS and ensuring markers are raised.

Camp Moore in Louisiana, was the main Camp of Insturction for the troops raised in Louisiana, southern Mississippi as well as some from Texas and Arkansas too.  There is a cemetary at Camp Moore where around 700 recruits and some war casualties are buried.  The staff at Camp Moore, led by Wayne Cosby and Dennis Neal, have over the last 10 years or so and with dedicated research, managed to identify about half of the soldiers intered there.  For those identified, the VA created headstones which were delivered to the cemetary and set up with all due honour.

After all, Memorial Day began as a development of Decoration Day, begun in 1866 in Charleston, SC, to decorate the graves of the fallen, both Confederate and Federal.

May 29, 5:34 pm | [comment link]
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