Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mountain View Cemetery: Grand Army of the Republic

Grand Army of
the Republic plot

Asection at the Mountain View Cemetery is set aside for members of the Grand Army of the Republic, or put more plainly, veterans of the Union forces in the American Civil War (1861–1865). The GAR was the first veterans' organization in the United States, and was one of the first advocacy groups supporting voting rights for black veterans.

This past weekend after the Oakland Urban Paths walk with geologist Andrew Alden, I stopped by Mountain View Cemetery to do some more exploring and take some new pictures for the Taphophile Tragics meme. I knew that Mountain View Cemetery had a section for Union veterans of the Civil War, but I'd never seen it except at a distance, so that was my goal.

The plot was set aside for Union veterans in 1880 and burials began that fall. In 1893 the GAR dedicated a monument topped with shroud-draped urn (a symbol dating back to Roman times). Just in time for Memorial Day 1897, the plot was given a makeover, ringing it with 750 cannonballs and placing howitzers at the corners. The GAR organization was dissolved in 1956 when the last member died, and as time will do, things slowly wore down after that.

Then in 2003, Eric Kos and Dennis Evanosky gave it another makeover. Working with the cemetery staff and the Department of Veterans Affairs, they mapped the plot and replaced the broken and missing stones. Even the howitzers were restored.

Obediah Summers

What I found particularly noteworthy was the marker for Obediah Summers. He was born into slavery in 1844 in Clay County, Missouri. At age 20 in 1864, he enlisted in Company A, 18th Regiment of the United States Colored Infantry (USCI). After the war he became a Methodist preacher, and eventually moved to Oakland. He later served the California State Legislature as its first African-American chaplain. But he wasn't originally buried in the GAR plot. During the 2003 makeover, Eric and Dennis, working with Mt. View staff, discovered Obediah's grave. Obediah's granddaughter Myrna Adams petitioned to have his remains moved to the GAR lot, a request that was granted in 2005, when Obediah was able to join his fellow veterans.

See other Taphophile Tragic entries from around the world.


Oakland Daily Photo said...

I really like this part of the cemetery and am glad you've featured it.

Julie said...

That ring of cannonballs is a mighty impressive sight, Gene.

One of the headstones had three interlocking ovals. Is this a known symbol, please?

I am starting to realise that things I regarded as quaint parlor itmes of the 19th century are actually symbols of death through the eons. I must get my act together more on this. I am photographing more and more, just not doing enough reading and identifying.

The Summers story is sobering, but has a satisfying outcome. I am glad his descendants were involved.

That small GAR section with its Howitzers is very moving. It is not designed to within an inch of its life, it follows the lay of the land. I like this.

Once again, a terrific post for us to learn from. Thank you.

Gene said...

The 3 links are a symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization. The links sometimes appear with F L T in them, which stand for Friendship, Love and Truth.

SeaThreePeeO said...

Fantastic post!

Herding Cats


tapirgal said...

It's a pretty area, and reverently preserved to honor the soldiers. A nice memorial in the cemetery and on your post. I like the heartwarming conclusion to the story about Obediah. It's nice that you found it.

VioletSky said...

The border of cannonballs is nice touch, and tribute.

CaT said...

yes, i like the cannonballs too. would never have thought of that, haha!

Sondra said...

They have done a lovely restoration!! I come across many CSA vets stones while visiting various cemeteries in my area. Not too many Union vets tho..

Unknown said...

Those cannonballs must weigh a ton. I think I read somewhere that they're 10" diameter—much bigger than the howitzers placed at the corners which are 4" diameter or so.