Sons of Union veterans hold ceremony for Union dead affected by landslide

Published 2:11 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

It was a small, quiet afternoon ceremony on March 25 in the National Cemetery at the Vicksburg National Military Park as men dressed in Union blue honored soldiers whose bodies would soon be relocated so the landslide that disturbed and exposed their graves can be repaired.

“We assemble once more to pay to our ancestors our tribute of love and respect, and within these sacred bonds to pledge our dedication to their memory and to the principles for which they fought,” said Henry Duquette, national graves registration officer of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the organization conducting the resumption ceremony.

“We need to remind our people of their duty to these soldiers, sailors and Marines who wore the blue and were dedicated to the flag for which they fought and to the country for which they died,” Duquette added.

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The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is a consultant to an ambitious National Park Service project to repair and restore an area of the National Cemetery reserved for U.S. Colored Troops that was damaged by a landslide following heavy rains caused by weather events in 2020 and 2021. The slide affected some 50 to 80 graves.

The project involves disinterring the graves and relocating the remains so the slide area can be stabilized and repaired. After the repairs, the remains will be reinterred. The project also seeks to learn more about the soldiers buried in the section and possibly identify some of the remains.

“Today, we are truly overwhelmed and humbled,” said George Huttick, commander of the SUVCW’s Department of Tennessee. “No words can adequately express our collective feelings over a lifetime of studying the pain and suffering of the American Civil War. Nothing can prepare one for the silent testimony of row upon row of markers of white, both large and small.

“Those who fought in the American Civil War are part of us; part of our history. No number of wreaths, flags, no amount of music or memorializing will ever do them justice,” he said. “But it is good for us to honor them and their sacrifice. We are bound by oath to stand in eternal solidarity with our brothers and safeguard their memory for their legacy so their legacy will never die.”

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is a fraternal organization dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of the Union veterans who fought and worked to save the Union.

The organization was formed in 1881 and chartered by Congress in 1954 as the legal successor to the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans including U.S. Colored Troops and was the country’s first veterans organization.

Starting in April, the National Park Service will begin a multi-year, multi-phase project to stabilize portions of Vicksburg National Cemetery in Vicksburg National Military Park to address grave disturbances and erosion caused by the severe weather events.

The park will begin the stabilization project by temporarily relocating approximately the 50 to 80 endangered burials this summer and constructing a soldier pile and lagging wall early next year to prevent further erosion.

Once stabilization is complete, the park will reinter the bodies and complete other mitigation measures. The Park Service has committed approximately $4.686 million for the first two phases of the project.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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