Sons of Union veterans mark Civil War graves in Salem
SALEM – The small group of men walked solemnly through East Hill Cemetery to place markers to remember old soldiers.
It wasn’t for soldiers usually thought of as being buried in Salem, though. They were five men who fought on the other side, for the Union.
Members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War marked the graves on May 27 in an area of East Hill in an area mainly marked by Confederate gravestones and one that is unmarked in East Hill North.
As SUV member Richard Raymond III explained, “The Confederates have a large section. They’ve got flags up all over the place; we just have a few flags.”
With the assistance of Salem Museum Director John Long, Raymond and five other members of the Roanoke chapter located and marked the final resting places that were difficult to spot among the many stones marked with Confederate flags and unordered gravestones.
“We couldn’t have found a couple of them without John Long,” Raymond said.
“These men risked their lives for their nation, and deserve to be remembered even if they were a minority in the valley,” noted Long, who guided the group to each grave. “Since 1865 we have made it a point to recognize the Confederate veterans from our valley. This is a good start to bring the Union men back into public memory.”
The men placed markers on the graves of John William Harveycutter of the U.S. Telegraph Corps, Miles Harrington of the 107th NY Volunteers, John Stotz of the 215th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Joseph A. Walsh, a member of the Great Army of the Republic, no unit noted.
Perhaps the most intriguing of the five veterans is Larkin Burwell, an African-American who volunteered for the Union Army. There is no headstone for Burwell, but after research, Long believes the soldier was buried alongside his wife, Anna, across the street from East Hill, in the cemetery behind the Salem Museum. On Sunday, the group placed a marker over the place they believe Burwell is buried.
All served in what in those days was known as the Grand Army of the Republic. The markers SUV members placed Sunday simply say, “US Veteran.”
Museum Director Long noted that although largely forgotten in the history books, those Union soldiers with ties to Salem men did their part in preserving the Union and afterwards became vital parts of the community in Salem.
John Harveycutter (1840-1910), Miles Harrington (1835-1916), Joseph Walsh (1838-1890), John Stotz (1841-1911), and Larkin Burwell (died 1923) all served for the North in the Civil War but later lived here in Salem. David Moeller, research assistant at the Salem Museum, took the lead in identifying the Union veterans buried here on southern soil, Long pointed out.
John Harveycutter, a veteran of the Union Telegraph Corps, is probably the best known of the five, he said. After the war, he moved to Salem to work in the telegraph business and was appointed by Union forces to Salem town council. Though a former enemy on the battlefield, he became a vital part of the community and was widely respected in Salem. Many descendants still live in the valley, including Salem Director of Civic Facilities Carey Harveycutter.
“John Harveycutter is a wonderful example of how the nation came back together after the war,” said Long.
Post-war records show that Burwell served – and was wounded – as part of the 127th Colored Infantry of Pennsylvania, though he was a native of Virginia.
“We don’t know if Burwell was an escaped slave, a free black resident who enlisted, or was seized as ‘contraband’ by the Union army,” Long said, “but at any rate, he did his duty and helped to free his people,” said Long. Burwell seemed to be little more than 16 or so when he enlisted, Long added.
Herrington served with the 107th New York and was made a prisoner of war on Sherman’s March to the Sea. Stotz was in the 215th Pennsylvania. Walsh served in the 4th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, and his gravestone proudly proclaims him “Three years, nine months, 21 days.” Little is known of how or why these men moved to Salem after the war.
Each of the five graves is now indicated by a flag and a stake-style US Veteran marker. Long said other Union veterans buried in Salem may be identified in the future and receive similar recognition.
In addition to Raymond, Sons of Union Veterans Roanoke chapter members who took part in the memorial on May 27 were James Tate III of Roanoke, Camp Commander Richard Uppinger and grandson John Church, both of Galax; Philip Sheridan of Smith Mountain Lake and Russell Hurd of Daleville.
Uppinger said the Roanoke chapter of the SUV meets every other month at St. Thomas of Canterbury Anglican Church in Roanoke. Every November the group meets to read the Roll of Honor containing the names of all ancestors of the Union soldiers at Camp 20. These soldiers were led Joshua Lawrence, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, who was the hero of Little Round Top and whose efforts led to a Union victory at Gettysburg. Anyone descended from a member or volunteer for the Union Army can join the organization.
The group plans another memorial event on Memorial Day 2013 at the Fairview Cemetery in Roanoke. Raymond said that cemetery is one of only two known locations in the Roanoke area where Union soldiers are buried.
– Marissa Baker, intern