"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Morning stories in an old cemetery

It's amazing to me the stories you can find when you don't expect them. A graceful buck pranced across the road in front of me when I took a short  drive in the cool of the morning, into the "rural" roads east of the house near Lake Arcadia. Trees on both sides, no traffic, quiet.
Then I noticed a small cemetery I'd either not seen or ignored in the past. I backed up and parked, noticing some old tombstones among newer ones. "Oakwood Cemetery" the gate sign said, and an American flag flew in the distance.
What really caught my attention was just inside the gate, the distinctive shape and shield of a Civil War veteran's gravestone. In front of it, on the ground, lay a small American flag. I stooped, picked it up, and planted it in front of the grave.
This veteran served in the 27th Missouri Infantry and died at age 48 in what was then Indian Territory in 1894.
Coming back to town I looked it up on the Internet. You never know if a Missouri unit was Union or Confederate, since the border state had slaves, and citizens served on both sides. The 27th Infantry was a Union company, organized by volunteers. These volunteers came from Schuyler County, in Northeast Missouri up on the Iowa border. It was organized in late 1862 in St. Louis, and served in Missouri until called to serve in the Army of Tennessee's siege of Vicksburg in 1863. That means this vet saw some heavy fighting under Grant. 
There's a marker to his unit at Vicksburg battlefield. and then he served under Sherman in the march on Atlanta, and up into the Carolinas. He may have seen the surrender of Gen. Joe Johnston in late April, and was mustered out in June 1865. The unit lost two officers and 35 soldiers in combat, and 135 to disease.  27th Missouri Infantry service record
1892 infant grave
I don't know when Private Rees Hildreth came to Indian Territory, or the rest of his stories, but he enriched my life this morning.
His is not the oldest grave in the cemetery.  I wandered around, shoes getting wet from the sparkling morning dew, taking photos, thinking. The oldest I found was of an infant, the next grave over, who died in 1892. But then there are a large number of infant graves in this cemetery, but that's another story.

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