Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Graves of the Unknown

The Marietta Register (Semi-Weekly), June 14, 1887

Editor of the Register:

We have heard these words lately, and they will be heard at the return of every Memorial Day. They excite in us a feeling of sadness; for they suggest the idea of a man engaging in the service of his country, who, being killed or dying with disease, far from home, is buried in a grave unmarked and his name soon forgotten. How many such were there in the war of the revolution, the war of 1812, and the last war? If the graves of these are strewn with flowers, it is by the hand of strangers, who have no recollection of the person, and no tear to shed for the loss of a friend. Doubtless we owe them a debt of gratitude, for what they have purchased for us, by the sacrifice of their lives, and if a feeling of gratitude to them and a generous sentiment toward their comrades who survive is created when their graves are visited and decorated, then is the act commendable indeed.

Within the precincts of the Mound Cemetery are many of these graves of the unknown. A large number of them are of people who died in what was called the “sickly seasons” of 1822-23. These graves having never been marked with a headstone, and the little mound of earth that covered them having sunk in the lapse of time, there is now nothing to indicate that there was a grave. Hence, the sexton, sometimes, in digging on what he supposes unoccupied ground unexpectedly uncovers a skeleton.

One of these graves is that of Ephraim Foster, who emigrated first from Vermont to New York, thence to Marietta, in the year 1800 or 1801. He was a soldier of the Revolution, who endured great hardships with Arnold in his expedition to Canada, and was at the battle of Bennington, Monmouth and Brandywine; and as the records at Washington will testify, received an honorable discharge and a pension for meritorious conduct in the service of his country. He did not wear a cocked hat with waving plume, nor a military suit of fine clothes with bright buttons, and have on his shoulders a pair of gilded epaulets, and by his side a sword not much stained with blood; neither did he feel exceeding dignified with the title of General, Colonel, Major or Captain; for he belonged to the rank and file of the continental army. He died in the year 1823, at the advanced age of over eighty years. Though the exact place of burial cannot now be certainly known, and no monument can there be erected to his memory and invite the bearer of flowers on Memorial day to strew them on his grave, yet, so long as the records at the national Capital shall stand, there shall his monument be seen with thousands of others, who stood firmly through seven years of war, with “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor,” pledged for the acquisition of independence and liberty. But where is the monument erected to perpetuate the memory of any common soldier, in the shape of –
A marble shaft, exalted toward the sky;
That tells of noble deeds the passer by;
A grateful state should honor every name,
And write it down, upon the scroll of fame;
And all those names she sacredly should keep
Not let one fall in blank oblivion deep;;
If they could say, when at their post they fell,
Our duty known, we did our duty well.

Hiram A. Hill
Marietta, June 9, 1887

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