News

Groups Announce Partnership to Preserve Coliseum Artifacts

As part of an initiative to protect and preserve historic records, documents, and photographs pertaining to the Civil War era and subsequent Civil War veterans’ activities housed in the Vanderburgh County Coliseum, several local groups are partnering together in a collaborative approach. The effort, approved today at a vote of the Vanderburgh County Commissioners, is spearheaded by the:

(1) University of Southern Indiana and its Univ. Archives and Special Collections

(2) Veterans Council of Vanderburgh County, Indiana, Inc.

(3) Vanderburgh County Commissioners

(4) Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (Foster Camp)

The Coliseum is home to a large quantity of historic records, documents, and photographs of the Civil War era, but these artifacts are fragile and environmentally at risk of decay and deterioration.

The University of Southern Indiana (USI)—with its expertise, faculty, staff, resources, and facilities— will perform basic preservation and conservation on the materials to protect and restore them. Once completed, select materials will be scanned for online display.

The Coliseum, operated by the Veterans Council, houses a variety of military artifacts, memorabilia, documents, and photographs, particularly the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and its allied orders. The GAR was a fraternal organization for Civil War veterans.

“Preservation of Civil War and GAR memorials is a big part of our mission,” said Dennis Hutchinson, commander for the local camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). “We were eager to prompt this collaboration and we are excited to assist in preserving these important documents for future generations.”

“For many years local historians wanted to inventory and preserve historic items in the Coliseum. Thanks to USI’s expertise and resources, we can ensure these important records will be cared for,” said SUVCW secretary Joshua Claybourn.

About the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW)
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is a fraternal organization dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of veteran heroes who fought and worked to save the Union in the American Civil War. Organized in 1881 and chartered by Congress in 1954, SUVCW is the legal heir and successor to the Grand Army of the Republic. The John W. Foster Camp No. 2 of the SUVCW was organized on 11 July 2014.

About the USI University Archives and Special Collections (UASC)
The UASC is committed to acquiring and preserving material about the development and operations of USI and regional history, focusing on the southwestern region of Indiana. The UASC preserves and organizes materials for research and includes 600 regional collections, over 700 audio/video tapes, and 43,000 images and documents online.

About the Veterans Council of Vanderburgh County, Indiana
The Veterans Council, a non-profit dedicated to supporting the area’s veterans, leases the Coliseum from Vanderburgh County. Under the lease, the Veterans Council is responsible for maintaining the Coliseum.

About the Vanderburgh County Commission
The Commission is the executive and legislative branch of county government for Vanderburgh County. The three commissioners are Ben Shoulders, Jeff Hatfield, and Cheryl Musgrave.

Passing of brother Keith Batteiger

It is with deep regret that we report the death of a dear brother, Keith Byron Batteiger. Keith was our Chaplain in the John W. Foster Camp #2, Department of Indiana. He was born August 23rd, 1953 and passed away August 28th, 2018. His Union ancestors are Pvt. Nathan M. Newell of the 60th Illinois Infantry and Cpl. William Parker of the 2nd West Virginia. Cavalry.

Keith was a kind and friendly brother dedicated to the principles of the SUVCW which are Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty. As a final tribute here are the closing words he gave at the Tobinsport, Indiana, headstone dedication on June 24th, 2018: “May the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Ghost and the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, rest upon and abide with us forever. Amen.”

New Headstone Project

On November 5th, Dennis Hutchinson (Commander), Keith Batteiger (Chaplin), and David Hoesli (Sr. Vice Commander) installed headstones for four civil war soldiers at the Simon and Lamb cemeteries near Tobinsport, Indiana, in Perry County. Headstones were installed for James Wood, Co. “L”, 1st Indiana Cavalry at the Lamb Cemetery; Thomas Carter, Co. “C”, 12th Kentucky Cavalry; John Henderson, Co. “E”, 44th IN Infantry; and George W. Powers, Co. “C”, 10th KY Infantry at the Simon Cemetery.

Chris Cooke Helps Secure Honor for Oak Hill Cemetery

G.A.R. Memorial
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil member Chris Cooke, Superintendent of Cemeteries for the City of Evansville, announced on April 28th that the William Halbrooks Arboretum at Oak Hill Cemetery was awarded a Level II Accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. The designation is a substantial honor for the historic location and reflects substantial work on the part of Mr. Cooke. Level II arboreta have at least 100 species of woody plants, employ paid staff, and have enhanced public education programs and a documented collections policy.

Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville is a historic cemetery developed in 1853 and containing about 175 acres. The cemetery has preserved its original pastoral tranquility. The Victorian period concern for creating an evocative, contemplative atmosphere has been carefully maintained to the present day, making Oak Hill the region’s premier public burial ground and an important cultural statement.

Perhaps the most hallowed ground in the Cemetery contained the remains of soldiers who died in battle or in Evansville hospitals from battle-incurred wounds during the Civil War. There are 574 burials in the Civil War section (Section 24) with the majority dying from disease in the military hospitals. Six buried there died on the battlefield and were brought back to this section, although several from Shiloh and Ft. Donaldson received wounds and eventually died at Evansville. And of the 574 there are a fair number of the burials done after the Civil War by G.A.R. Farragut Post 27.

While most of the Civil War remains are Union men, twenty-four are Confederate soldiers. In about 1903, the Fitzhugh Lee Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument in remembrance of the 24 soldiers who died for the South. Not to be outdone, the Womens Relief Corps (an auxiliary of the G.A.R.) erected an even larger memorial for local Union dead in 1909.

In addition to his duties as Superintendent of Cemeteries, Mr. Christopher Cooke is a board member of the Indiana State Board for Funeral and Cemetery Services and past President of the Vanderburgh County Historical Society.

Foster Camp Organizes Re-enactment

The Foster Camp of the SUVCW helped organize “Newburgh Remembers,” which featured a reenactment of the Newburgh Raid. The event was designed to bring back to life the sights, sounds, and tastes of Newburgh life during the American Civil War.

New Civil War Marker in Princeton

Foster Camp’s Junior Vice Commander, Scott Hurst, recently successfully applied for a new marker plaque in Princeton, Indiana, honoring and remembering African-American troops who served as substitutes in the Civil War for white Gibson County men. The sign will eventually reside in Princeton’s new bicentennial park. Scott is also working to raise extra funds that will allow for some extra markers to go with this one that will tell more of the story.

Scott has been a Civil War re-enactor of both Union and Confederate Infantry since 1998. He traces his hereditary membership in the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War to Mathias Hipsher. He is employed by the City of Princeton.

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2015 Annual Department Encampment

This year on June 6th in Kokomo, Indiana, the Department of Indiana will be celebrating its 129th Annual Encampment. While the number alone is significant, the encampment will also feature National SUVCW Commander in Chief, Tad Campbell of Gilroy, California. Click here for an invitation letter from Department Commander William R. Adams. Click here for a registration form. The deadline for registration is no later than May 23rd.

Lincoln Day 2015

On 8 February 2015 several members from our camp took part in a ceremony at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial to honor Abraham Lincoln and his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, on the week commemorating Lincoln’s birth. Soon after the Civil War veterans would hold reunions at the site of Nancy’s grave. For about the last 100 years the event has included a brief program at the Lincoln Memorial Center followed by a short pilgrimage to Nancy’s grave site led by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Son of Jasper Civil War Veteran Dies

Hilbert J. Gramelspacher
Hilbert J. Gramelspacher

Hilbert J. Gramelspacher, the son of Union Civil War veteran Joseph Gramelspacher, died on February 1, 2015 at the age of 95 years. Brother Gramelspacher was a member of U.S. Grant Camp No. 68 in the Department of Missouri.

Brother Gramelspacher’s father, Joseph, was born in 1848 in Jasper, Indiana. He enlisted at the age of sixteen in the 143rd Indiana Infantry regiment and would never talk about his war experiences. Joseph married his wife Mary Otillia Bettag on February 6, 1917. He was 68 and she was almost 24. It was the second marriage for both of them, with Mary having lost her family to typhoid fever. Joseph was a bricklayer and his brick house is still standing in Jasper.

Hilbert was just 11 when his dad died in 1931 at the age of 83. His father showed him his rifle, but gave it to his sister and her children who now have it. Hilbert and his sister and brother received a Civil War pension until he was 16. That pension money got them through the Great Depression.

Hilbert worked in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp for two years and served seven years and four months in the U.S. Coast Guard during and after World War II. He was a radioman on the ice cutter USS Comanche on the Greenland Patrol and on the destroyer escort USS Falgout on trips to North Africa. During his working career he was a Westinghouse appliance repairman and service manager in California where he worked in the homes of several celebrities, including Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, Jerry Lewis, and Cybill Shepherd.

In honor of Brother Gramelspacher’s passing, SUVCW Commander-in-Chief Tad Campbell has issued Special Order No. 4, which orders an official period of mourning for thirty days, during which time charters are to be draped and mourning ribbons are to be attached to the membership badge. Only an estimated six real sons of Civil War Union veterans remain alive today.

Chris Cooke Profiled

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Brother Chris Cooke, superintendent of cemeteries for Evansville, Indiana, was profiled recently in the January edition of International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association’s (ICCFA) magazine. Click here (pdf) to read it.

In addition to being a brother in our fraternity, Chris is a board member of the Indiana State Board for Funeral and Cemetery Services, current President of the Vanderburgh County Historical Society, and current President of United Neighborhoods of Evansville.