News

Chris Cooke Helps Secure Honor for Oak Hill Cemetery

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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.

Sargent Family Reunion

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On Friday, 17 July 2015, members of the Foster Camp offered a presentation in Newburgh, Indiana, on the infamous Confederate raid in that town in 1862. Camp Commander Joshua and Junior Vice Commander Scott Hurst both participated in character.

The Newburgh Raid was the first Confederate military action north of the Mason Dixon line. In it, Confederate colonel Adam Rankin Johnson captured the town of Newburgh using a force of only 35 men, mostly partisans he had recruited from nearby Henderson, Kentucky. He accomplished the raid in part due to fake canons which were actually made of stovepipes, charred logs, and the axles and wheels from a broken wagon. These were place on hills that had a view of Newburgh, and vice versa, and convinced the Union soldiers in town that resistance to the raiders was futile.

The presentation was made to the Sargent Family Reunion. These reunions began in 1928; a brief news clip on the annual reunion is available here. In gratitude for the camp’s assistance the group presented Foster Camp with a check for $50.00.

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.

Midwinter Encampment

The Midwinter Encampment of the Department of Indiana will be held January 31, 2015 at the Valparaiso Memorial Opera House at 9:00 a.m. local (Central) time. The Memorial Opera House is located at 104 Indiana Avenue in Valparaiso, Indiana. Parking is available on the streets around the Opera House and also in a city lot next to the American Legion Post on the corner of E. Monroe and Franklin Street. Brothers in the department will be having lunch at the Old Style Inn located one and a half blocks from the Opera House on Lincolnway across form the court house.

Memorial Opera House History

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The Valparaiso Memorial Opera House was originally built by the Chaplin Brown Post 106 as a monument to the Union Soldiers who served during the Civil War and named Memorial Hall. Construction began in 1893 with with the G.A.R. raising an additional $9,000 to complete the Queen Anne style brick structure. Memorial Hall was completed on November 8, 1893 and its opening was marked by a parade three days later. Although the Chaplin Brown Post and its allied orders met at the Memorial Hall, it also hosted the likes of actress Beulah Bondi, John Phillips Sousa, the Marx brothers, and has been home to hundreds of local productions and events during its years. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Visit the website for more information at www.memorialoperahouse.com.

In September 2014 the SUVCW David D. Porter Camp No. 116 held its first meeting in the original room where Chaplin Brown Post 106 met. The camp was invited to again use the rooms and Hall our predecessors once so proudly graced. David D. Porter Camp No. 116 members were truly humbled and honored to be able to go home. We therefore felt it was only appropriate that we also honor the boys in blue and our ancestors by returning to have our Midwinter Encampment at the Memorial Opera House. Please join us and enjoy this beautiful building in its 1893 splendor.

Wreaths Across America

Evansville’s historic Oak Hill Cemetery held its fourth annual Wreaths Across America ceremony. The program’s mission is to remember, honor, and teach about our nation’s veterans by laying wreaths on veterans’ graves on National Remembrance Day.

Oak Hill and Locust Hill Cemeteries are overseen by SUVCW brother Chris Cooke as ‎superintendent of cemeteries for the city. We applaud Brother Cooke’s leadership with this tradition. The remains of 500 Union men, 24 Confederate soldiers, and 98 local dead are buried in three separate sections of the Oak Hill Cemetery — all victims of Civil War battles.

Evansville Civil Air Patrol’s RiverCity Cadet Squadron also assisted with the program. The 25-member squadron is comprised of cadets, aged twelve to eighteen, and eight senior members.