Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Civil War Soldier Finally Honored

Image from Channel 20, Springfield Illinois

After more than 120 years, the soldier whose face we all know, was finally honored at his resting place, in Springfiled, Illinois, with a headstone.

Image Courtesy of the State Journal Register, Springfield, Illinois.

Pvt. Lewis Martin was a soldier in the 29th US Colored Infantry. Born in Arkansas, this man made it to Illinois before slavery ended, and when time came willingly enlisted in the Union Army. His regiment was dispatched to the eastern theatre of the Civil War and Martin was one of many soldiers wounded at the famous Crater in Petersburg Virginia. 

Document from Service record of Pvt. Lewis Martin.
Image from Fold3.com

I originally wrote an article about Pvt. Martin in 2011.  A Springfield Illinois based historical researcher, Kathy Heyworth, contacted me about the article and pointed out that she knew where he was buried, and that he had no headstone. Ironically this soldier is buried a few hundred feet from the most visited burial at the same cemetery. The burial ground is Oak Ridge Cemetery and not too far from Pvt. Lewis, rests the 16th  president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Ms. Heyworth and others worked to obtain a stone for Pvt. Lewis and finally on Sunday, Pvt. Martin's resting place was given it's long overdue marker.

Not many details are known about his life. However, he did obtain a Civil War pension, although it was initially denied him, and even after receiving the pension he had to depend on others for help during the remainder of his life. Some of his funds were said to have been taken by his caretakers, and others. Being disabled he clearly could not work but he was able to live for a few years on his small funds nevertheless. Oddly, upon his death, in the newspapers he was merely reported to have been a heavy drinker, and the remains of the soldier were placed in the pauper's section of Oak Ridge, and with no marker pointing out his military service, or anything to indicated that he had ever lived.

Thankfully, his story has at long last received attention, and on Sunday November 3, he was given a marker and a ceremony was held to honor him. More than likely there are no descendants of this man, and it is not known if he had family at the time he died. At long last however, he will be remembered, and his stone will be seen by visitors to the cemetery.

Thank you Private Martin. We are grateful for your service, for your sacrifice and for your life.

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