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
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
"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