27 June 2012

Riverside Cemetery Honors Civil War Veterans The Blue and the Gray

Remembering Our Civil War Heritage and Heroes:

Riverside Cemetery Honors Civil War Veterans
The Blue and the Gray

By Ken Robison
For The River Press
May 30, 2012

This continues a monthly series commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and the veterans that settled in Central Montana.

Beautiful Riverside Cemetery on the northern bluffs above Fort Benton was formed in 1883, in time for Decoration Day on May 30. That Decoration Day the River Press reported:
     “Decoration Day is here again, diverting our thoughts once more from the present and calling us to an affectionate remembrance of the brave men who laid down their lives so willingly in the great civil war. It is not the privilege of many of us here to lay wreaths upon the graves of friends or relatives who fell in the mighty conflict. The roar of the blood-red tide of war was hardly heard in this distant country. The bones of our dead soldiers repose thousands of miles away, under the thickets of the wilderness, upon the slopes of Gettysburg, about Vicksburg, and at Shiloh . . . It is not our privilege . . . to scatter flowers over their honored graves. We can, however, upon this day, when time has subdued and chastened grief, when animosities are silenced, look back calmly upon the war. If many perished, what splendid valor was displayed; if many suffered, what nobility of character was developed; if blood and treasure were squandered, what glory was won; if hearts were broken, what a glorious principle was established. The evil effects have passed away. Peace, and good fellowship and brotherly love have returned; and may their benign influence never be dispelled by the words of scheming demagogues. To the boys in blue, and the boys in gray, who so nobly gave their lives for the maintenance of principle and country, our minds should go back with equal love and admiration.”
            “Under the rain and dew,
            Waiting the Judgment day,
              Under the roses the Blue,
            Under the lilies the Gray.”

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, a day to remember those who died in service during the Civil War. This day of honor was first observed May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Originally, the South held separate days to honor their fallen soldiers, but by 1886 the River Press reported:
     “The beautiful custom of decorating the graves of the soldiers who died during the great civil war has now become a national affair and is observed by both north and south alike. Its observance has done as much to heal the breach between the opposing sections as any other one thing. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” and the graves of northern soldiers who are buried on southern soil are receiving the same kind attention that is bestowed on the Confederate dead. The southern soldier who fought for a principle and whose body is interred in the north is not passed by, and the flowers surmount his tomb. Sectional feeling is giving way to the idea of one country.”

On Decoration Day 1890 Fort Benton went all out with an impressive procession and Line of March through town. Marshal of the Day Tom. J. Todd led the formation followed by the Twentieth Infantry band from Fort Assinniboine under Chief Musician J. Kunzel; members of G. K. Warren Post No. 20, G. A. R, under Post Commander J. C. Duff; 1st platoon, George W. Crane commanding and Comrades Whalen, Patten, Culbertson, Smith, Dutro and Hilton; 2nd platoon W. Gould Smith commanding and Comrades Hamilton, Clark, Peters, Parsons, Lytton and Terhofstedde; 3rd platoon, T. A. Cummings commanding and Comrades McCord, Coatsworth, Murphy, Dexter, Fulkoot, and Kennedy; Choteau Hose Company under Foreman J. P. Lee; Juvenile Hose Company under Assistant Foreman H. P. Stanford; Pupils of the public school in charge of Professor Danks.; citizens on foot and in carriages. The procession proceeded to the school buildings. From there carriages took the band, the G. A. R. and others to Riverside cemetery where the decoration of the graves of the veterans of the Civil War under the impressive ceremonies of the G. A. R. the archway leading into the cemetery was festooned with evergreens and the graves of the dead veterans covered with the same emblems of eternal life.

In October 1891, five government headstones were received to mark the graves of Union soldiers in Riverside cemetery The names of those whose graves they were to mark: Col. George Clendenin, Dr. William E. Turner, Thomas McDonald, Thomas Mussell, and Patrick Fallon.

By 1892 the River Press began using the name Memorial Day in place of Decoration Day. That Memorial Day a large crowd assembled for memorial exercises at the cemetery and assisted in paying tribute to the memory of the nation’s departed dead. G. K. Warren Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) and the Woman’s Relief Corps performed Memorial rites, flowers were strewn on veterans’ graves. In the evening a crowd filled the court house to overflowing to hear a program of addresses, vocal music, and recitations. Fort Benton children participated with Miss Flora Dutro singing a solo, Eddie Davis and Mabel Culbertson sang, and Mrs. Dr. Crutcher recited John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “Barbara Frietchie.” Judge Pierce, Rev. Wadsworth, and Judge John J. Tattan made short addresses.

By the end of the 19th century, veterans had died in the Indian Wars and in the Spanish American War and Philippines Insurrection, and Memorial Day broadened to honored all veterans of all wars.

Today on this Memorial Day 2012, 129 years after opening, Riverside Cemetery is home to veterans from many wars. Many of these veterans of later wars are buried in Military Plot where there are gravestones from the Spanish American, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf. No Civil War veterans are buried in the Military Plot, but a walk around the cemetery will find the white marble curved top stones of many Civil War Union veterans such as Thomas Coatsworth, Co. I,  46th Wisconsin Infantry; George W. Crane, Co. I, 26th Illinois Infantry; Robert S. Culbertson, Co. A, 6th Ohio Infantry; Thomas A. Cummings, Battery C, New York Light Artillery; Wheeler O. Dexter, Co. F, 16th New York Heavy Artillery; Patrick Fallon, Co. I, 7th U. S. Infantry; John Grant, Co. A, 3rd Missouri Infantry; Lewis, Edward W., Co. B, 113th Illinois Infantry; Thomas McDonald, Co. A, 25th Iowa Infantry; Andrew W. Mussell, Co. D, 7th U. S. Artillery; C. P. Niles, Co. G, 25th Wisconsin Infantry; Chapman Pennock, Co. C, 18th New York Cavalry; Richard Smith, Co. A, 191 New York Infantry; William E. Turner, Asst. Surgeon, 40th Illinois Infantry; Patrick Whalen, Co. F, 151st Indiana Infantry; James F. White, 24th Iowa Infantry. Confederate veterans like Paul Schoonover, Co I, 28th Virginia Infantry have angled top stones. The well cared for grounds of Riverside Cemetery are a fine home for the Blue and the Gray from Chouteau County.

Note: If you have Civil War veterans in your family who settled in this area, we would be pleased to hear from you with copies of stories and photographs that we can share with our readers. Send your Civil War stories to mtcivilwar@yahoo.com or to the Overholser Historical Research Center, Box 262, Fort Benton, MT 59442.

Sources: [BRW 30 Nov 1882; BRW 14 Apr 1883; BRW 12 May 1883; BRW 2 Jun 1883; BRW 12 Sep 1883; BRW 29 Sep 1883; FBRPW 2 Jun 1886; FBRPW 4 Jun 1890; FBRPW 3 Jun 1891; FBRPW 7 Oct 1891; FBRPW 1 Jun 1892]
1.     Entrance to Riverside Cemetery
2.     Military Plot, Riverside Cemetery

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