GALLIPOLIS — In a ceremony to be held this Saturday, June 15, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), Cadot-Blessing Camp #126, will dedicate a memorial located in Pine Street Cemetery honoring all Civil War soldiers — a monument that is being erected following the search for a similar memorial that was dedicated almost exactly 145 years ago.
According to Cadot-Blessing Camp #126 Commander Jim Oiler, the search for this missing Civil War memorial began nearly two years ago after an article published in the Wednesday, June 3, 1868, edition of The Gallipolis Bulletin — a weekly publication that was published every Wednesday morning — was discovered.
This article, which outlines the events of “the day appointed to strew flowers upon the graves of the soldiers buried in our cemetery” or the first Memorial Day, Saturday, May 30, 1868, also describes in great detail the dedication of a monument erected on behalf of the soldiers who fought in the newly ended Civil War.
The description of this monument reads, “In the north corner a beautiful monument was erected, twelve feet high. Inscribed on one side, ‘Lives sacrificed to American Liberty;’ on the opposite side, ‘From ‘61 to ‘66;’ on the other sides, ‘Vincil amor patrice,’ and ‘Post cineres gloria venit.’ The monument was also ornamented by a flag, draped, and crossed swords with shield in evergreen, surrounded by a large wreath of laurel leaves.”
According to Oiler, following the discovery of this article, his group began to search for this elaborate monument, and, at the very least, they hoped to discover a photograph of it, but were unsuccessful in their attempts.
“When we found out about the monument, we searched. We’ve searched Mound Hill, we’ve searched Pine Street, and we’ve never found a picture of it,” Oiler said. “Nobody understands what happened to it, and once you read that article, you understand it was a big deal.”
After receiving permission from the Gallipolis City Commission to erect a new monument among the graves of the Civil War soldiers buried in Pine Street Cemetery, Oiler reported that the SUVCW began a nearly two-year process of raising funds to put some type of monument back — albeit a smaller and less elaborate monument — but, as Oiler reported, as the sole heirs of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), it is the duty of the SUVCW to see that their Civil War ancestors are remembered and honored.
“We have to bring recognition and honor to those men who helped preserve the Union,” Oiler said. “I think that’s our duty to educate and be patriotic, and, as it states it in our charter, that’s our duty to our ancestors. And, I think it’s also our duty to today’s public to educate people.”
The SUVCW is patriotic and educational organization comprised of descendants of Civil War soldiers. The group that is made up of numerous camps across 37 states, including the local Cadot-Blessing Camp #126, is a congressionally chartered organization officially recognized as the GAR’s (the largest Union Civil War veterans’ organization) legal successor, and, as such, among its duties is the care and upkeep of Civil War memorials, as well as the proper observance of Memorial Day — a holiday that was originally established by the GAR in 1868.
“We’re not reenactors, many people think we’re reenactors, but we’re not. Now, some of us may be, but we are all descendants of Civil War soldiers,” Oiler stated of his organization.
Those Civil War soldiers who are buried in Pine Street Cemetery are the unclaimed deceased soldiers who perished at the U.S. Army General Hospital at Gallipolis. This large hospital was initially established in 1862 near the site of Camp Carrington to treat the sick soldiers there. However, for the remainder of the Civil War, the hospital staff treated both sick and wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. This fact is evident by the Civil War grave stones located in Pine Street Cemetery, many of which are marked simply as “Unknown US Soldier,” others of which identify soldiers from not only Ohio, but also numerous soldiers from West Virginia and other surrounding states. In addition, four confederate soldiers also rest among their Union brethren in Pine Street — a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Oiler.
“On the day of the dedication, I’ll have confederate friends there and they’ll be dressed in gray. We’ll have both blue and gray there. Now, hopefully that doesn’t upset people, but, the monument says, ‘to all Civil War soldiers,’ it doesn’t say, ‘Union soldiers,’ and we specified that,” Oiler said. “And there are four confederates buried out there. Those guys were soldiers, and they fought for what they thought was right.”
Oiler further reported on his hope that the dedication of the monument may rekindle an interest in the Civil War among the people of the area, as the Ohio Valley is rich with the history of the war that, if it had turned out differently, would have reshaped the face of the nation.
“There isn’t a whole lot of interest in Gallia County over the Civil War and that’s unfortunate because there’s a lot of history here. Of all the states of the Union, Ohio was the third largest state to provide Civil War troops, behind New York and Pennsylvania. There were over 200 regiments from Ohio, so it played a big role,” Oiler stated. “Most people in this area, if they are originally from this area, have Civil War ancestors, it’s just a lot them have never dug to find it.”
As for the missing Civil War monument, Oiler stated that he will continue to look for clues as to what it’s fate may have been, but he is hopeful that the monument dedicated by the SUVCW this Saturday will stand the test of time.
“Our idea is to just simply to dedicate it and maybe, in 150 years, it will still be there,” Oiler said.
The dedication ceremony will be held beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 15 at Pine Street Cemetery. The guest speaker will be State Representative Ryan Smith. Ohio Department Commander of the SUVCW Jonathan Davis will also be on hand. The public is encouraged to attend.
For more information about the Cadot-Blessing Camp #126 or to learn how to join the SUVCW, contact Commander Jim Oiler at (740) 245-0134 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.