It may come as a surprise to some that not all Delawareans who fought during the Civil War have grave markers indicating their service. To rectify this situation, Glenn Layton and Dan Cowgill have taken on the immense task of identifying everyone from this state who donned a uniform between the years 1861 and 1865.
Layton, of Camden-Wyoming, is the former commander of the 2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry (www.2nddelaware.com), a group dedicated to preserving Civil War history through education. He also served for three years as head of the Col. David L. Stricker Camp #64, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Delaware (www.facebook.com/strickersuvcw).
He explained that he and Cowgill “are spear heading an effort to locate Civil War veterans buried in Delaware cemeteries who have not been honored with a marker or headstone indicating their service.”
This ambitious undertaking has only been under way for about a month, but Layton and Cowgill, who is from Middletown, have concluded that it will likely take years to complete. There have already been efforts by others to compile lists of those who served, and to identify graves and markers by literally walking through cemeteries. These men want to take the endeavor to the next level.
The goals of this project are, first, to locate/identify Civil War soldier’s graves in Delaware that are not currently indicated as Civil War-related; secondly, to mark those graves as Civil War veterans or a Grand Army of the Republic participant (GAR being a post-war veterans group); and, third, to raise funds and find sponsors to help pay for the markers. placing a Veteran’s marker or GAR marker to honor and remember each soldier’s sacrifices for his country, to register the soldier’s burial location on the SUVCW Graves Database.
Layton and Cowgill have started visiting burial grounds and related their experience: “In our first cemetery, we are finding and confirming the service of over three dozen veterans. The next step is going to be to determine the best method for getting approval to place a marker and to raise funds to buy markers for placement.”
They figure that “By donating our time and resources, we will be able to place a Civil War marker for about $15.” They plan to encourage interested individuals or groups to sponsor one or more soldiers. They also will seek out “family members who can provide us with their ancestor’s name and would like to have a marker placed.”
The project organizers will maintain records of those identified locally, and will also cross-reference and update a national database managed by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. If a Delaware Confederate soldier’s grave is identified, they will notify and coordinate with the Delaware Sons of Confederate Veterans. These will be marked differently, since Confederate graves are typically marked with an Iron Cross.
Cowgill elaborated on the research challenges they face. Because some of the websites they will be using are not complete, “verifying the quality of that information is time-consuming.” As a result, they will be doing a lot of walking the grounds, so to speak, to literally identify individual graves, and they also “need to verify that the soldier served honorably”
Layton added, “There were over 6 million men and a few women (maybe as many as 400 of the latter) who served for the North or South. Our contribution to honoring this massive service and our initial goal is to identify the graves not marked of soldiers in Delaware regiments. That is our priority.
“We will catalog any grave we find but what has to be understood and this is a big deal, [and] it takes a huge amount of research to verify that a person buried a hundred-plus-or-minus years ago was indeed a veteran of the Civil War. No disrespect is meant to soldiers from other states or fought in units outside of Delaware. It is just a matter of keeping our goals realistic.”
Cowgill sums up the project and its needs in this way: “We will reach out to the public during community events (e.g., Dover Days, Camden Days, etc.) and through our Facebook page, seeking donations or ‘marker sponsorships.’ We encourage anyone in Delaware with family ties to a Civil War soldier’s grave to share that information with us, and consider honoring him by sponsoring the marking of that grave.”
Needless to say, a lot of help will be needed, and those who are interested in participating in some way are encouraged to do so. To volunteer your services on this project or contribute donations, contact Glenn Layton or Dan Cowgill at DESoldierGraves@yahoo.com or StrickerCamp64_SUVCW@yahoo.com. You can also go to https://www.facebook.com/strickersuvcw for additional information.
Bethany Beach resident Thomas J. Ryan’s latest book is “Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign” (May 2015). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website www.tomryan-civilwar.com.