Hudson honors its Civil War veterans


It’s interesting how your priorities change with the years and maturity. Take Saturday nights as an example.

Seventy years ago on a Saturday night I would have gone to the movie at the Croswell Theater in Adrian or gone roller-skating at the Hilltop rink on U.S. 223.

Sixty-five years ago I would have joined a group of girlfriends to drive to the Devils Lake dance hall, providing someone had a car with enough gas to get us there and back. Fifty, 40, and even 30 years ago my interests focused on nights out at a Toledo restaurant. I would have dressed to the hilt and probably chosen a restaurant with a dance floor and live music, such as the Willows, the Hillcrest Hotel, or the Northwood Villa.

I was reflecting on how priorities change as I walked through Maple Grove cemetery in Hudson, Mich., last Saturday night. I didn’t have to drive far or dress up, and the cemetery tour cost only $5.

The annual tours, sponsored by the Hudson Museum and the William G. Thompson House Museum, recognize the 200 Civil War veterans from the Hudson area who are buried in Maple Grove.

The volunteer re-enactors who were stationed at six grave sites throughout the cemetery each told a heart-rending story of their war experience as a Michigan enlistee. Hearing the plight of the men who left families and productive work and endured dire hardships fighting for their country’s freedom stirs the patriotic juices.

“This is sacred ground,” Robert Elliott said. “Walk slowly and quietly.” Mr. Elliott portrayed George Brewster, Co. F, 18th Michigan Infantry.

Hudson Museum curator Hazel Monahan believes that Hudson is an especially patriotic community. Hudson became a military town overnight when troops were needed for the Civil War, she said, and at the beginning of World War I more men enlisted in Hudson than in any other city in Lenawee County. Because of Ms. Monahan’s dedication the Hudson Museum is considered to be one of the most outstanding in Michigan and features Civil War memorabilia.

Ray Lennard, curator of the Thompson Museum, is a knowledgeable Civil War history buff.

“It is the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War," he said. "The tours are a great way to learn more about what the local troops did. We are often told by participants on the tours that they wished their history classes were taught this way.”

When we reached the grave of Charles Voss, Co. K. 10 Ohio Cavalry, Mr. Lennard was standing at attention to portray Private Voss’ war career. Speaking as Mr. Voss’ “ghost,” he apologized for being a native of Kentucky and explained that before joining the war effort he enjoyed long lines of customers at his bakery. He recalled that he willingly gave bread to the Union soldiers, but regretted it when the Confederates cleaned him out.

Because Kentucky was considered a border state that was not on either side in the war, he crossed the line into Ohio and joined the 10th Ohio Cavalry, served as a baker, and was on Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”

“Then I moved to beautiful Hudson and opened a bakery,” Mr. Lennard said in the portrayal.

The tour was old hat for Marty Bertera, who portrayed Capt. Samuel DeGoyler, Co. F 4th Michigan Battery.Mr. Bertera travels throughout Michigan giving Civil War lectures, has written two books on the 4th Michigan infantry, and is the co-author with Ms. Monahan of Cleaning Up the Muss, a book based on Civil War letters written home by Dr. D.P.Chamberlain of Hudson.

Before he enlisted in 1862, Captain DeGoyler owned a spoke factory in Hudson. He was captured at Bull Run and sent to Anderson prison in Georgia. After being held in terrible conditions for 23 days, he and a buddy escaped. They floated for eight days on driftwood in rivers until they reached the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., where he met President Lincoln.

“He said I was the best artillery man at Vicksburg,” the captain boasted.

The other re-enactors were Ben Mitchell, who portrayed William Campbell, Co. B, 18th Michigan Infantry, and Summer Housler, who spoke as the wife of Harry Kinne, 111th New York Infantry.

In Ms. Housler’s portrayal, she said her husband was 16 when he lied about his age to enlist. At the battle of Gettysburg, he laid in the field for eight days until the burial unit arrived for him and found him to be alive. The Kinnes moved to Hudson after the war and he became a pharmacist.

For several years Ms. Monahan has selected six or eight Civil War graves to recognize on the annual tour. The August, 2014, tour will complete the list in Maple Grove and she plans to concentrate on the 100 burials in Calvary, the Catholic cemetery in Hudson. Ms. Monahan said that 300 Civil War veterans may seem like a big number for a small town like Hudson, but that there were even more native sons who were killed in battle or from disease and were buried elsewhere.

An additional eight veterans are in unmarked graves. Ms. Monahan hopes that families will contact her at the museum (517-448-8858) with information about them.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

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