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Union, Confederate widows take part in ceremony

Times Staff Writer

With no family to mourn the nameless man, two widows of Civil War veterans filled the void, offering red roses for unknown Gettysburg battlefield remains buried again Tuesday.

A white-gloved U.S. 3rd Infantry honor guard delivered crisp salutes at Soldiers' National Cemetery for a man archaeologists believe was a soldier hastily buried after dying in battle on July 1, 1863.

A crowd of 1,500 stood quietly in a light drizzle as Civil War re-enactor color bearers with U.S. and Confederate flags led a procession. An honor guard detail from Arlington National Cemetery carried the casket - which also contained nine other Civil War unknowns buried in 1991 - to its grave, and rendered a 21-gun salute and "Taps."

Photo by: Bill Schwartz/Gettysburg Times
During graveside ceremonies at Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg Tuesday, flowers are placed on the casket of Civil War unknowns by Alberta Martin, at left, and by Daisy Anderson, right.

It was Daisy Anderson, 96, of Denver, Colo., and Alberta Martin, 90, of Elba, Ala., who gave the personal graveside tribute from their wheelchairs. A deep sadness was in the faces of the women, whose husbands died in the 1930s, as each gently placed a long-stemmed rose on the bronze casket. Martin, whose husband, William Jasper Martin, served in the 4th Alabama Regiment Co. K, said later that she was stirred by the fact the man will remain unknown.

"It could have been my husband and some of my folks. It's a sad occasion, you know," she said. Anderson said her thoughts during the ceremony often turned to her husband, Robert Ball Johnson, who served in the 125th U.S. Colored Troops after fleeing slavery.

"I think it was one of the greatest things I have ever seen in my life. It made me think about slavery and what the war was about. We need to keep unity," she said.

While there is no definitive evidence the mysterious remains were from the Gettysburg battle, Park Service officials said they can "reasonably conclude" the man was a fatality of the conflict. His skeletal fragments were found last year by Curt Johnson, a ranger at Fort Clatsop National Historic Site in Oregon, as he walked in a railroad cut at the area where the battle started.

"His honor is about all we know about this soldier. Beyond the forensic evidence that he was in his 20s and died instantly from a projectile that shattered his skull, we know nothing of this young man," said the Rev. Daniel Hans of Gettysburg Presbyterian Church during the burial ceremony. "We do not know if he wore blue or gray. But we do know he bled red. We do not know if he sang John Brown's Body' or whistled Dixie.' But we do know that as we remember him now, we can all hum Amazing Grace,'" he said.

"We do not know if his heart belonged to the North or to the South. But we do know that his soul belonged to God, as we all do," the minister said. In his eulogy, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author James McPherson said the man's second burial is a reminder of a time when the nation's institutions and values hung in the balance of war.

"His death in the fighting at the Railroad Cut 134 years ago abolished that distinction between enemies," he said. "Just as the end of the Civil War two years later made all soldiers Americans again, whether they had worn the blue or the gray," he said.

Even if the man was a Confederate soldier, McPherson said, it was appropriate for him to be buried at the cemetery. He noted the South was reunited with the nation in 1865 and Southern citizens fought under the U.S. flag in all subsequent wars.

"Thus it is altogether fitting that he sleep here forever under that flag among the thousands of other soldiers who also fought under that flag," the historian said.

"It is equally fitting that two widows, one of a soldier who wore the blue and the other of a soldier who wore the gray, should place flowers on his casket," he said. The majority of soldiers who fought at Gettysburg were volunteers compelled to take up arms for the "Cause," he noted.

Photo by: Bill Schwartz/Gettysburg Times
Civil War widows Alberta Martin, left, and Daisy Anderson greet each other as they arrive at Soldiers' National Cemetery Tuesday morning for interment of unknown remains.

"However they defined their cause, they viewed it as the legacy they inherited from the American Revolution that had given birth to this nation and this flag, and its republican institutions of constitutional government," McPherson said.

"The profound and tragic irony of the American Civil War is that each side interpreted that heritage of 1776 in separate ways," he said. Southerners claimed to be fighting for liberty and independence from a tyrannical government. Unionists fought to preserve the nation.

In explaining the passions of those who fought at Gettysburg, McPherson cited quotes from men among the thousands killed in the battle. One was a Quaker soldier from New York, whose Union loyalty and anti-slavery beliefs led him to forsake his pacifist beliefs, who wrote to his mother: "If I die fighting for liberty, that is the way man should die - to save something better than life."

He died two months later while fighting at the Peach Orchard on July 2, 1863, McPherson noted. "I wish I had known those men in their lives. I would be humbled in their presence," the historian said. "They were willing to risk their lives for causes that I can understand in theory, but they believed and felt in their hearts," he said.

(Photos by: Gettysburg Times Photographer: Bill Schwartz)

Members of the U.S. 3rd Infantry "Old Guard" carry the casket bearing unknown Civil War remains to its grave site at the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg Tuesday during ceremonies for unknown remains found on the battlefield last year.

After folding the American flag, which was draped over a casket of Civil War unknowns, it is handed off during ceremonies at the national cemetery in Gettysburg for remains of a man historians believe was killed in the battle on July 1, 1863.

Civil War widows Alberta Martin, front seat, and Daisy Anderson, back seat, far side, prepare to ride a carriage in the funeral procession for unknown remains in Gettysburg.

Union, Confederate widows finally meet

Times Staff Writer

With a handshake and kiss, Union and Confederate widows of Civil War veterans met at Gettysburg Tuesday in a symbolic gesture to urge unity for future generations."I wanted to meet you so bad. I'd like to kiss you," 96-year-old Daisy Anderson told 90-year-old Alberta Martin as they greeted each other at the farmhouse Gen. Robert E. Lee used as headquarters on the night of July 1, 1863.

The frail women, one an African-American who married a Union veteran and the other white and a survivor of Confederate veteran, reached beyond their wheelchairs to embrace and kiss each other on the cheek.

"You're one of a kind. I'm glad to meet you," said Martin, a resident of Elba, Ala., whose husband William Jasper Martin served with the 4th Alabama Regiment.

As they started to settle back into their chairs, Anderson, whose husband Robert Ball Anderson served in the 125th U.S. Colored Troops, invited Martin to visit her in Denver, Colo.

"I hope this is not our last meeting," Martin replied, accepting the invitation. As they chatted about 20 minutes before going to a nearby restaurant, Martin offered her new friend a parasol, fan and 19th century locket with a photograph of herself in front of the Confederate Soldiers Memorial in Alabama.

"Is that you? Isn't that something," Anderson said. "I'll always enjoy it and keep it forever." Anderson, who has no children and lives in a nursing home, apologized for not having a reciprocal gift.

Both women received a silver commemorative medal of the event from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Sons of Confederate Veterans. Martin is considered the last known widow of a Confederate veteran. Anderson is one of two known surviving wives of Union veterans, but Civil War organizations have not been able to locate Bertha January in Tennessee.

Anderson and Martin were 21 years old and of modest means when they married men about 60 years their seniors in the 1920s. Their husbands died in the early 1930s.

The medals given to them as keepsakes of the occasion are inscribed with their names, along with their husbands' names, military ranks and combat units.

"I'll never forget this meeting. Will you?" Martin said. "No, I never will," Anderson replied. The two women watched a joint flag raising of the U.S. flag and the Confederate National flag by Civil War re-enactor units and historical groups, and ate breakfast.

Ending their two-hour visit, the women boarded a horse-drawn surrey and rode in a funeral procession to the interment of unknown remains at Soldiers' National Cemetery.

Anderson said the meeting is significant to her and hopes it will promote harmony and acceptance among Americans. "I think it shows unity and that's what we need," she said. "And it honors my husband and all the other GAR members," she said, referring to veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic. "It has to be important because that's what will keep America together," Anderson said.

The personable woman with a wide smile said her husband, who fled slavery and joined the U.S. Colored Troops in 1864, would appreciate the meeting.

"This would complete what he fought for," she said while sharing breakfast with Martin. "This is a unity meal. It shows unity. That's what we need more of," she said.

Martin, the mother of two sons, said the chance to sit and talk with Anderson was a highlight in her life. "It was a pleasure meeting her and an honor meeting here. It's something big and grand," she said.

Alberta Martin, left, widow of a Confederate soldier, and Daisy Anderson, widow of a Union soldier, extend their hands in friendship across the stone wall that marked the farthest advance of the Confederate Army at Gettysburg 134 years ago.

Noted historian James McPherson gives an address at the burial of the unknown Civil War soldier in the National Cemetery Tuesday morning. Park Superintendant John Latschar, right, listens to his remarks.

The Rev. Dan Hans, left, and the Rev. Edward Keyser, both of Gettysburg lead the hearse as it carries unknown remains found on the Gettysburg battlefield to the Soldiers' National Cemetery.

Flanked by re-enactors representing the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the hearse bearing unknown remains enters Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg through the main gates.

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