On Veterans Day, two new grave markers were dedicated to two Civil War veterans resting in St. Stephen's cemetery.. The markers were granted by the Veterans Administration thanks to the dedication and research of George Pouder. Below are their eulogies, which were researched and delivered by George Pouder at the gravesides.
Eulogy for Albert Ransom
Albert Ransom was 19 when he enlisted, and had already fought along with his 120th Infantry at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg before he was captured at the Battle of The Wilderness.
He was held in an open field, the notorious cattle pen of Andersonville, Georgia. No buildings sheltered the captured Union soldiers in Andersonville, the water was polluted, the rations were meager and contaminated and their Confederate guards were trigger happy. The camp was planned to hold 10,000 prisoners, held 31,000 and eventually was overflowing with 45,000 . 13,000 Union prisoners died of starvation, exposure, infections of their wounds, dysentery, and lack of medical care.
Civil war soldiers (as well as some soldiers in other wars) frequently carried pocket editions of the Bible. The book was usually placed in the jacket pocket over the heart to protect it from bullets or shrapnel. Museums often display soldiers’ Bibles that had effectively stopped a bullet and saved a life.
I like to think that Albert was comforted by reading the psalms during his captivity. A line in Psalm 79 might have been his favorite.......
"let the sighing of the prisoners come before you and preserve those appointed to die”.
Yes, the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners. Ransom survived seven months imprisonment and then spent another seven months recuperating in a Philadelphia army hospital. He had persevered, but came home so tormented by his experience that he was unable to recall his time in Andersonville, or the regiment in which he had served.
Today we would call it PTSD.
He slept in obscurity in this unmarked grave for 110 years before he received the gravestone that he earned so dearly and we now see. Father Nils found an old cemetery map that showed the Ransom plot. Documenting his eligibility for a V.A. gravestone revealed many new facts about his life. They clearly portray a captive who suffered more than any other soldier in this cemetery. Without doubt, he is one of the most heroic of the Civil War veterans buried here.
Today we dedicate the army’s gravestone, a tribute to Corporal Albert Ransom, recognized at last. He takes his place, front and center, along with our 23 North Castle Civil War soldiers at peaceful rest in their churchyard bivouac.
Euology for William Freeland
Private William Freeland, farmer, came from a patriotic family. His older brother, John, answered President Lincoln’s appeal for volunteers in 1862. When his term expired in 1864 John reenlisted in his 5th New York Heavy Artillery. William, 22, then decided to sign up to serve alongside his brother.
Their widowed mother, Maria, had depended on Billy’s help on the farm; now she would be left alone to raise her two young daughters, Sarah and Anne.
John survived the war but William died of typhoid in Harpers Ferry just seven months later. The army sent his body back to Armonk and Maria buried him here next to his father on November 4, 1864. She was given his only possessions, a small note book, a greenback dollar and the Bible he had carried in his pocket. Maria bought a gravestone for him and requested that it be engraved with two crossed cannon to proudly commemorate his service in the artillery. We have preserved his mother’s tribute to her son at the foot of his 2016 replacement.
It is comforting to know that after Billy died Maria was awarded a U.S. government mother’s pension that she received until her death in 1891.
At some unknown date Billy’s gravestone toppled forward and lay face down. After his mom died people soon forgot that a Civil War soldier was buried here. Bill seldom got his flag on Memorial Day.
Father Nils submitted the documentation and applied for a veteran’s gravestone for Freeland. The VA rejected the request because “the veteran already had a stone,” even though it was face down, had broken and could not be read. The application was resubmitted along with more data and the additional photos that persuaded the VA to approve the stone you see before you. It will be dedicated today.
Finally, here is closure for an American family’s tragedy. It is exactly 152 years ago this week since Billy came back home to North Castle to rest .
His artillery comrades Privates Ferris, Raymond, Riley, Mathers and two Stilsons surround him and share their last encampment.