Sunday, May 29, 2011

"We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them." - Francis A. Walker

Corner View of Yantic Cemetery

For me, Memorial Day is not complete without a visit to at least one or two cemeteries to pay my respects to the veterans interred there for whom this holiday has been dedicated. Considering that they chose to serve in our nation's military to make our country the free land that it is today, it seems like the least I can do is visit their graves and say "thank you".  After all, isn't that what Memorial Day is all about?

Tall Spires and Tall Grass

As most of you know, I live within very close walking distance to what I call my favorite cemetery in Norwich - the Yantic Cemetery on Lafayette Street - so it was to there that I headed on Saturday afternoon being that I am working both Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend and didn't want to pass by the chance to go and then not get there at all.  When I got there I was a little dismayed to find that the City of Norwich had apparently decided that sprucing up the cemetery for the holiday weekend wasn't high on their list of things to do.

Stones at Yantic Cemetery

What was high, though, was the grass!  

Seriously High Grass

Seriously wicked high! I would think that the city would be embarrassed to have visitors coming to one of its more prominent cemeteries on Memorial Day Weekend with it looking as it does but maybe they figured that no one would notice.  Yea ... right ... wrong!

Gravestone of Lt. Marvin Wait

Regardless of the fact that I felt like I was wading through a sea of grass to get there, I made my way to the back of the cemetery and the grave of Lieutenant Marvin Wait whose family must have had money as he has a rather elaborate stone.  Definitely not your standard military issue.  On each side of the stone are listed the major battles that Lieutenant Wait fought in before he met his death far from his home in Norwich at the very young age of 19.

Gravesite of Civil War Lt Marvin Wait

Lieutenant Wait died in the horrific battle of Antietam which took place in Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17th, 1862. It was was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil and was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history with about 23,000 casualties - one of which was Lieutenant Wait.

Grave Marker of Lt. Marvin Wait
On one side of his stone, the inscription reads:
"In Memory of Lieutenant Marvin Wait Co. A 8th Regt Conn. Vol.
Born at Norwich Jan 21, 1843
Killed while gallantly leading his men in the bloody conflict at
Antietam, Maryland
on Sept 17, 1862"
Under the word Antietam at the base of the stone there are the words:
 "He died with his young fame about him for a shroud."

Thank you for your service, Lieutenant Wait.

Civil War Capt. John McGall

Across the cemetery can be found the stone of Captain John McGall who died at the slightly older but still young age of 28 during the Bermuda Hundred Campaign in Chesterfield County, Virginia on May 16th, 1864.  A member of the 8th Regiment just like Lieutenant Wait, I've got to wonder whether they knew each other in spite of being in different Companies within the Regiment. 

Grave of Civil War Capt. John McGall

The inscription on the back of Captain McGall's stone reads: 
"Among the many battles in which the deceased participated were those of Roanoke Island, Newbern, Fort Macon, South Mountain, Antietam, and Drury's Bluff. At the last named place on the 16th of May 1864 he sacrificed his life upon the altar of his country."

Thank you for your service, Captain McGall.

Andersonville Memorial at Yantic Cemetery

Nearby the grave of young Captain McGall is the Andersonville Memorial Gun with its concentric circles of soldiers' graves surrounding a 30-pounder Parrot rifle mounted on an iron cage.

Veteran's Stones at Yantic Cemetery

This spot in the Yantic Cemetery is dedicated to Norwich's native sons who died at the Andersonville Prison Camp in Georgia.  Thirty men from Norwich were Prisoners of War at Andersonville and of those thirty, fifteen died from starvation, exposure, disease, or execution. In early 1866 Norwich became the first Northern city to retrieve the bodies of its soldiers who had perished there when they brought back the remains of nine of the fifteen soldiers who could be identified. A public service for their re-interment was held on February 1st, 1866.

I don't have pictures of the graves of all the men whose bodies were retrieved from Andersonville but I do have a few: 

William Davis
Adam Oechler
Henry E. Champlain

In addition to the nine soldiers from Andersonville, there are 62 other members of the military who served in other wars and campaigns buried at the veterans plot with the last burial occurring as late as 1925.

Thank you for your service, gentlemen.

Memorial Day Flags

I was glad to see that the City of Norwich had at least taken the time to make sure that the grass around the Andersonville Memorial Gun was cut and that new flags had been placed at all of the graves.  

Memorial Day Weekend 2011

As I looked at all of the weathered white stones with their new flags circling the Andersonville Gun and full-size American flag, I thought that it was nice that all of these brave men were buried together so that they'd continue to have the camaraderie that only those who have served in the military know.  As they stood united in life, they now rest united in death. It just seems fitting.

As we continue through this Memorial Day Weekend, I'd like to ask once again that you remember those men and women who have fought and died to keep our nation free.  Even if you don't get a chance to visit a local cemetery, send your thanks heavenward - I'm sure they'll be heard.

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Linda! Simply wonderful. I never visit cemeteries, but I do send my thanks Heavenward to all of those brave men and women who laid down their lives in the name of Freedom!

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  2. thanks for the tour Linda

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  3. Thank your for takine me with you on this tour,I enjoyed it.

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  4. imagine that 19 year old lt., nothing but a child himself. so very very sad.

    smiles, bee
    oxoxoxoxoxo

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  5. Wonderful post, Linda. Thank you for the time and effort you take each year to remind all of us what the day is really about.

    I have a few stops to make around the blogosphere. There are soldiers past and present I'd like to thank.

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  6. You know how much I love old cemeteries just like you do and I always have a special place in my heart for the graves of soldiers who fought for our countries. They died so young and it's sad to know that after all those years, wars are still going on and soldiers are still dying young. If I lived near this cemetery, I think I would be in there every day:-) I had to smile at seeing how tall the grass is because I had to walk through butt high grass when I visited a small old cemetery in Niagara Falls! lol What we do to satisfy our fascination of old graves:-) xoxo

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  7. This is a fine tribute.

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  8. These men hadn't a clue that one day their names would be remembered by so many of us. I'm glad that they are honored and may God always keep it so.
    Thanks to all of our veterans, past, present and future. We honor you.
    ~~~Blessings~~~

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  9. Great post, honoring these patriots. I have been to Andersonville a few times...grew up just south of there. That was a sad piece of our collective US history.

    Big hugs, honey...

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