images/pages_template1x1.jpg images/pages_template1x2.jpg
images/pages_template2x1.jpg images/pages_template2x2.jpg images/pages_template2x4.jpg
images/pages_template3x1.jpg images/pages_template3x2.jpg
images/pages_template4x1.jpg

 

CIVIL WAR GRAVE MARKERS

by Janet Nesler

return to article index

History came alive on a cold, snowy day in November, 1996 when the first services were held to honor Veterans of the Civil War lying in unmarked graves in Scioto County. The graves received Civil War grave markers and services were held in 9 cemeteries and honored 27 Civil War soldiers on the same day. An obituary was read for each soldier and the grave marker was unveiled by a distant relative of the soldier.

All of this happened because of the perseverance of one woman Judy Ross of Portsmouth. In the 1950's Ross started tracing her family tree. In 1961 she was given a diary that belonged to her father's great-great grandfather. From that day on she and her father and her brother started searching for history on her great©great grandfather, Elza Ross, who was a dispatcher and
ambulance driver with the 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery's Battery L. Ross found that he already had a marker on his grave, but a lot of his buddies didn't have markers.

Ross went to every Civil War Reenactment she heard of in Ohio and the Tri©State area. "I made a lot of contacts at the Civil War re- enactments that helped me," said Ross. In May of 1996 I went to a Civil War Show that was the largest one in Mansfield, OH. There I met Tim Park, a state graves registration officer with the Veterans Administration and he asked if I knew any Battery L graves that needed markers. So I came home and started searching."

Ross started her search at Greenlawn Cemetery with the help of Harold Neal, cemetery Custodian. Neal helped her to look up records and she had to go to every grave to see if they had markers.

"I went to hundreds of soldiers graves." said Ross, "This took weeks. Then I found out about Grave Registration Cards at the Portsmouth Courthouse, so I proceeded to go through hundreds of card at the courthouse. It states on the card if they have a marker, but every grave without a marker had to be photographed."

Ross then wrote to Tim Park and asked how to order markers. He suggested she contact the local Veterans Service Office where Dan Sissel called and talked to Washington D.C. The officials at Washington said "give her anything she wants." Ross had to provide the Government with information that went on the markers. 27 forms, one for each soldier had to be sent to Washington, signed by the Trustee of each township where a service was to be held. The Veterans Administration in Washington then made a contract with an engraver in Washington to engrave the markers. Shipped in by semi-trucks the markers weighed 230 pounds each,
were marble and hand carved. To place the marker on the graves, all 27 had to be put into hand©dug holes. They could not use machines to dig with in cold weather.

Ross started gathering any information she could find about the different soldiers so she could write the obituary and this took months. She advertised in Gettysburg News and several other
Civil War Magazines for relatives of soldiers she had no background on. Ross also went to the Library and studied micro film for obituary or information on any of the soldiers

"In the 1800's unless you were very wealthy or very famous they did not print your obituary," said Ross, so she didn't find a lot of information there.

After an Article was published in The community Common newspaper in Portsmouth and listing all the names of 220 soldiers of Battery L, Ross started getting phone calls from relatives.
She got together with as many relatives as possible and later in September, 1996 a descendants meeting was held and 12 people showed up. "But so many soldiers had no one left that I could
find," said Ross, "I cried and had many sleepless nights thinking, what am I going to do about these men?"

"Then Sam Piatt from The Ashland Daily Independent wrote a very tender story about the soldiers that was picked up by the Associated Press and descendants from all over the state of Ohio started calling me. So with the many calls I received I finally had some distant relative to unveil the grave of every soldier."

Ross then contacted Rev. Dan Mason, a Civil War re-enactor and Chaplin of the 59th Ohio Infantry in Cincinnati. He sent her a couple of services to consider which included The Soldiers Prayer that was always prayed just before a soldier went into battle, this prayer was repeated at every service.

Ross also obtained a copy of the Ohio Roster of Soldiers and it listed the battles in which each man fought. This helped with their obituaries. She found that 21 soldiers from the First Light Artillery Battery L were her great©great grandfathers Civil War buddies. Some of the men were from Ironton, some from Jackson, three from Lucasville and at least one from Pike county.

There were at least three officers, Captain L.N. 'Nute' Robinson and Captain Gibbs. She also learned that Captain W.W. Rielly laid out the Civil War Circle in Greenlawn Cemetery and
was not even buried in the Soldiers Circle. "When I found his grave he did not have a marker and their was nothing stating that he had been a Captain in the Civil War," Ross said. Capt.
Reilly's three great-great-granddaughters came down from Columbus, Ohio to unveil his marker at the ceremony.

Ross asked the descendants what they wanted to have said about their soldiers. She had already decided that an ordained minister was going to read the obituary at each service. The markers were covered with a black drape which was removed by the soldiers descendant after the reading of the obituary. It told of the battles fought by that soldier including Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville and Cedar Creek, also if they had been a prisoner of war or wounded in battle. The scripture chosen by Ross to be read at each service was John 15:13 "Greater Love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." A 21 gun salute was given for each soldier and the playing of taps ended each service.

"It took 360 people to do this in 9 cemeteries, none of which I knew before I started this," said Ross. "We had a get together afterwards at a local church and had a lunch prepared so the
descendants and helpers could get to know each other. There were several people who found relatives they didn't know they had. At Rarden Cemetery there were people who had known each other all their lives and did not know they were related to each other until the service. From the beginning everything just fell into place as if it were meant to be."

It doesn't stop here for Judy Ross, she has vowed that every Civil War soldier in Scioto County will have a Civil war marker on his grave and a ceremony. It has become an on©going crusade
with Ross.

 

images/pages_template5x1.jpg images/pages_template5x2.jpg