Grafton Lantern Tour 2016

August 4, 2016 - No Comments

by Jim Barnes

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The Grafton Lantern Tour is a memorial to the hundreds of Civil War soldiers buried in the Grafton National Cemetery located in Grafton, Taylor County, W.Va.

This cemetery  is a particularly appropriate location for such a memorial. “In 1867, Maj. R. C. Bates was ordered by the War Department to locate a permanent burial site for the Union soldiers who had died in hospitals and battlefields throughout West Virginia. Bates chose the Grafton location because it was relatively level in a region noted for mountainous terrain and it was near Maple Avenue Cemetery where many war dead had already been buried. The federal government appropriated the three-acre site in 1867. The steep slope was graded into three terraces with a walkway down the center that divides the cemetery into two equal parts. The first interments were in the lower two terraces: 1,252 Union soldiers, 613 of them unknown. Six-inch square markers distinguish the unknown remains. Approximately half the original interments came from Clarksburg, W.Va. Other remains were brought to the national cemetery from Wheeling, Rich Mountain and Fayette County.

“In 1903, Thornesberry Baily Brown was reinterred at Grafton National Cemetery. Brown was rumored to be the first Union casualty of the Civil War, having been killed May 22, 1861, when he refused a Confederate sentry’s order to halt and shot the sentry in the ear. The sentry responded by shooting Brown through the heart. The Brown monument is a marble obelisk that was erected by the GAR, Reno Post No. 7, and dedicated on April 28, 1904.

“Grafton National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.”*

Organized by Mark Tennant, the tour provides a wonderful reminder of the sacrifices made by those individuals and also an insight into the origins of Memorial Day. The tour begins with an introductory speech by Mark, followed by my attempt to portray General ‘Black Jack’ Logan delivering his speech to the Grand Army of the Republic establishing a Decoration Day, which later became Memorial Day.  This is followed by a tour of the cemetery by the light of candle lanterns.  Stopping at various graves, Mark,  other reenactors, and historians narrate the story of the soldier there interred. Attendance for the event is usually between 100 to 150 spectators, but this year was well over 200.

*http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/grafton.asp

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