Civil War veterans re-interred at Arlington thanks to Missing in America Project
Unseen, drum taps start their slow, strict cadence, announcing the sound of regimented footsteps and shouted marching orders.
The sky is slate, marking no shadows for the casket that leads the full-honors funeral procession. An escort platoon a few dozen deep and a horse-drawn caisson around the corner, coming to a halt in front of five unadorned pedestals on a damp Thursday morning at Arlington National Cemetery. The band begins its dirge, and with it, a funeral 100 years in the making.
A century ago, two brothers died within four years of one another. The older, Zuinglius McCormack, died in 1912; the younger, Lycurgus McCormack, in 1908. They were both veterans of the Civil War, fighting with infantry from Indiana. Zuinglius, a lawyer, fought with the 132nd Infantry Regiment and in the Battle of Jonesboro, which led to the Union's occupation of Atlanta. Lycurgus was also a lawyer, but he turned to a career printing the local newspaper after the war. He was one of 65,000 minutemen who mustered after rumors circulated that the Confederates were sending 6,000 cavalry units across the Ohio River.
When these brothers died years later, they may have been entitled to a military funeral. But, like thousands of other soldiers recently being rediscovered, they fell through the cracks, and out of memory. They died widowless and childless, and, until earlier this year, forgotten.
Enter the MIAP:
Colvin, a 51-year-old electrician and amateur genealogist, had previously received 136 names of unclaimed cremains from the Indiana facility. He wanted to identify which were veterans, running each name through various genealogy databases for clues. "It took me over a year to determine yes or no" on veteran status, Colvin says. In researching the brothers, Colvin says he developed a connection with them. "We brought them out here and had about 11 to 12 hours in the car; it was like they were friends riding in the back seat," he says. "It's nice to see them here, but it will be sad to go back without them."
Colvin and Baum volunteer with the Missing in America Project, a group dedicated to making sure every unclaimed veteran gets a proper military funeral. Since forming in 2006, the group has visited 2,782 funeral homes, amounting to a database of 16,800 names. They are slowly making their way down that list, identifying the veterans one by one, and sending the information they find to the Veterans Affairs Department for final approval. So far, 2,044 cremains have been identified, and 1,854 have been buried.
Go read the whole thing over at The Atlantic, but it is a great story of fidelity over time.
In other Civil War related news, this summer will mark the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. A few months ago a friend of mine was joking with me about the embeds that I have been doing over the past few years. He said that I should embed with his unit. I knew he was out of the military, so that rather surprised me, but I said "Sure, what uni?." Thus would start my plan to "embed" as a combatant with the 2nd Virginia Cavalry this summer in the re-enactment at Gettysburg.
I've been growing a beard for about 3 months now, and I look either like a Civil War general; or some lunatic living in a shack up in the mountains. People I have known for 15 years looked at me last week at our Spring Meetings, and didn't recognize me until I spoke. Oddly, the wife seems to like the beard.
So either way, look for the article about Gettysburg later this year in the magazine.
Here's a status on the beard, as I stand with Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta last week. Yes, me head is getting a vaguely bobblehead look to it.