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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Three SUVCW members of the John W. Foster Camp No. 2 helped teach young Tiger Cub Scouts from the Evansville area about the Civil War on October 20th.
Brother Chris Cooke, Superintendent of Cemeteries for Evansville, provided a tour of the Civil War section of Oak Hill Cemetery. Meanwhile Brothers Dennis Hutchinson and Scott Hurst dressed in uniform and discussed what it was like to be a soldier in the Civil War and what it would have been like to be in a river port and “border town” during that time.
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. In 1868, the city began efforts to secure designation of the Union veterans’ areas as federal property, eventually succeeding with a Congressional appropriation and recognition in 1898. Several years later, 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. A memorial for local Union dead was added in 1909.
On September 18, 2014, John W. Foster Camp No. 2 was presented with its charter by Indiana Department Commander in Chief William R. Adams. The camp also received the Horace Greely Award at the 2014 National Encampment, which is bestowed to the department or camp with the best website. Images from the presentation are below.
Foster Camp received the Horace Greely Award at the 2014 National Encampment. This award is bestowed to the department or camp with the best website.
After the Civil War veterans sought to be prepared for any future wars and formed independent military organizations. One of the last formed in southwestern Indiana was the Evansville Light Guards. This group was organized in June 1876 by Capt. Charles Myeroff, Lieut. August August Leigh, and Lieut. Will Warren as its officers. Many of these were also organizers of the Farragut G.A.R. post. They stayed as a unit until 1883.
Below is a picture of the Light Guards, including (in no order) Philip C. Halbrook, August Leigh, A.J. McCutchan, Charles Myerhoff, and William Warren. The only man identified is William Warren, sitting in the front row, second from right.