Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Memorial Day at Mountain View Cemetery

I attended Memorial Day services at Mountain View Cemetery, located in the foothills that straddle Pasadena and Altadena, California.  Nick Smith has almost single-handedly revived a Memorial Day tradition which existed until 1946 when  the last local Union veteran was buried there.  Nick has discovered more than 600 Civil War veteran soldiers buried at Mountain View.  This year, the ceremony included some special presentations in addition to traditional services.

I arrived a bit late.  Loran Bures, Commander of the Department of California’s   Rosecrans Camp #2 of the Sons of Union Veterans was explaining to attendees the origins of the Grand Army of the Republic and its successor organization the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  Brother Phil Caines followed up with the reading of General John A. Logan’s 1868 orders establishing Decoration Day, the forerunner of Memorial Day.  Logan was the first commander in chief of the G.A.R.  This was followed by a reading of the poem “The Flag They Loved So Well,” and the 2010 General Orders from today’s S.U.V.C.W. Commander in Chief Leo Kennedy.   A prayer was offered for our country’s soldiers and the president, after which, a wreath was presented by two members of the Ladies Auxiliary to Rosecran’s Camp #2.  This concluded the brief official service by the Sons.  Flags and flowers had been placed before the graves of many veterans two hours prior to the start of services.

Nick then introduced Ms. Margaret Alley of the United Daughters of the Confederacy [U.D.C].  In his introduction it was noted that all who fell in the Civil War were Americans, so this year the graves of the fifteen Confederate dead at Mountain View were decorated with the first national flag of the Confederacy.  One Mountain View veteran, Arnold Bertonneau, actually served on both sides during the conflict, as 1st Lieutenant in the1st Native Guards Louisiana Militia, and in Company H, 74th U.S. Colored Troops. After the war he settled in Pasadena.  His son worked to include football as part of the annual New Year’s Celebration in Pasadena.  Ms. Alley gave a brief talk about local Confederate Heritage, including Fair Oaks Blvd. in Pasadena which is named for the home of  A.S. Johnston’s widow, who lived there briefly after her husband had left to fight for the Confederacy.   Among the Confederate dead at Mountain View is William Blackwell of the 18th Texas Cavalry who was awarded the Southern Cross in 1931.

After Ms. Alley’s brief talk U.D.C. member Kathy Ralston gave the crowd an interesting presentation on Victorian “mourning” customs.  She brought a collection of several authentic artifacts to accompany her talk.  Among them many pieces of  'hair jewelry' which was much in vogue in Victorian times.

In June, 2004 Kathy hosted a ceremony at Mountain View to dedicate a headstone for her ancestor, Emanuel Basore, who served in the Stonewall Brigade until after the battle of Gettysburg.  Emanuel made his post-war home out here and was buried without a headstone when he died in 1907.  It was attendance at this ceremony that started Nick’s research into the number of Civil War veterans buried at Mountain View, and the subsequent revival of Memorial Day services there.    Emanuel Basore’s brother-in-law, George Sperow is buried a short walk away; both men served in Company E, 2nd Virginia Infantry.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Stonewall Brigade lately as I follow the fortunes of the 13th Mass. Vols., in 1862, and I remarked to Kathy, after her talk, that my ancestor spent an awful lot of time chasing her ancestor around Virginia.  I don’t think the rival regiments ever directly faced each other in combat.  Kathy related many interesting stories handed down by family.  After the battle of Gettysburg, when apparently they had enough of war, the two men deserted and hid out, possibly at their family home near Harper’s Ferry.  There is a story that while Emanuel’s mom invited the Union High Command to dinner the two boys were hiding under a bed in an adjacent room.  It was also told that the boy’s sisters flirted with Union pickets in order to bring food concealed under their hoopskirts to the boys hiding in nearby woods.

After speaking with Kathy I trekked off down the road to photograph the graves of her two relatives.  Consequently I missed Steven and Patrice Demory’s presentation on Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, the Civil War Balloonist, and his wife Leontine, who are buried a few steps from where the ceremony was held. ( I had seen the fascinating presentation before).  Judging from the size of the crowd they were also enjoying it.

I rounded out the day taking a tour with Nick, and listening to some of the fascinating stories he’s discovered.  There are two Medal of Honor recipients buried at Mountain View, Milton Haney and Thomas Ellsworth.

Haney was Chaplain of the 55th Illinois, a regiment that saw much fighting with Sherman during the 1864 Atlanta campaign.  Rev. Haney led his regiment in a countercharge against Confederates in one of the engagements before Atlanta. Haney turned down a subsequent promotion in rank because he wanted to remain Chaplain.  He settled in Pasadena after the war and served as a Methodist minister.  In fact, he was a minister for 76 years of his 97 years of life.  He retired from the pulpit for ‘medical reasons.’  Not a word of his military service or the Medal of Honor is on his headstone.  He wanted to be remembered for his ministerial work.

I was very interested in the other recipient, Thomas Ellsworth, because he was a Captain in the 55th Mass. Colored Regiment.    Charles B. Fox, formerly 2nd Lt. Fox, of Co. K, 13th Mass. was the Lt. Colonel of the 55th.  Fox’s journal was actually used as the basis for the post-war regimental history of the 55th.  Nick told us that when Massachusetts Governor John Andrew called for volunteers to enlist in the new Colored Regiment, the famous 54th Mass., he got so many applicants, (some who had come from as far away as Ohio to join), that he decided to muster the extra 1,000 recruits and form a second regiment; the 55th Mass.  Since the new regiment was not planned, officers had to be found.  Nick said Governor Andrew had very strict requirements for the officer applicants; they had to be experienced in the field, very patriotic, and have abolitionist leanings.  At Honey Hill, the 55th Mass. participated in a lethal charge on a Confederate Fort.  The troops were badly shot up.  Ellsworth carried the regimental commander off the field.  Another man, Andrew Jackson Smith, of the Color Guard, helped rally the troops and get them safely off the field.  In the 1890’s, rules for the Medal of Honor were changed, and he military commander of the 55th Mass., who was still serving in the army, recommended Ellsworth and Smith receive the Medal of Honor.  Ellsworth’s paperwork went through quickly, and he received the medal in 1895.  Smith’s took a little longer; his posthumous medal was accepted by descendants in the last days of the Clinton administration.

We also visited the graves of John Brown’s daughter Ruth, and her husband, Henry Thompson. Henry and his brother William were followers of John Brown.  Henry was wounded at one of Brown’s actions in Kansas and couldn’t participate in the famous raid at Harper’s Ferry.  Will Thompson did participate and was killed during the raid.  The couple operated a health camp in Pasadena after the war.

I'm not sure if this means anything, but two very prominent names in the annals of the 13th Mass., are John S. Fay, who lost an arm and a leg from a shell that killed two others on April 30th 1863; and Charles E. Davis, jr. who was the regimental historian, and the one man who kept the 13th Regiment Association going for years and years.  Davis and Fay are buried thousands of miles away, but I was struck by the view from where I was standing, watching the services a few moments after I arrived at Mountain View.  These markers were directly in front of me.  Is this a coincidence ?

1 comment:

  1. Great story. Thanks for bringing me a little piece of Pasadena, my old home.