Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Visiting Owens Dawson

Researching the life and times of Q.M. Sgt. Owens Dawson of the Twenty-fifth U.S. Colored Infantry has provided me an opportunity to get to know a man who died fifty-nine years before my birth. I've imagined him waiting on tables in a Philadelphia restaurant before the war, marching to the sound of drum and fife on the drill ground at Camp William Penn, mourning the untimely death of his first wife, traveling to Washington, D.C., to begin a new life, and, in his dotage, chatting up aged veterans at a Grand Army of the Republic reunion.

Today, I visited his grave site at Arlington National Cemetery, located a few miles from my home. I enjoyed a quiet moment to reflect on a life of joy and sorrow, in service of country, for the betterment of our nation.

Little could he have imagined that 105 years after his death that I would be standing at his grave site, snapping pictures of a cool marble slab that marks the spot where his earthly remains lie undisturbed, a silent stone witness to the memory of a man.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Illuminated History

Vicki Profitt has created a unique entry point into the Civil War experience by leading the inaugural "Civil War Soldiers of Pittsford Tour" at Pittsford Cemetery in Pittsford, N.Y.

What began as a project to document veteran headstones has become a larger effort to learn more about the 120-plus men who served, their contributions to the Union cause, and, for those who survived, their impact on the community.

Vicki notes, "My goal is to put together a book with the information I have collected about each soldier and offer it for sale through our historical society." She maintains a blog, Illuminated History, to document her journey. I was particularly drawn to the compelling image on her latest post, which features the headstone of Sgt. John Buckley Bacon, Fourth Wisconsin Cavalry. The stone is flanked by a post-war image of Bacon and an American flag.

It is efforts like these that keep history alive, and help all of us to better understand and appreciate our roots.

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