Region Civil War vets remembered with graveside Christmas wreaths

2012-12-08T17:39:00Z 2012-12-08T21:42:20Z Region Civil War vets remembered with graveside Christmas wreathsTimes Staff nwitimes.com
December 08, 2012 5:39 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The holiday season of 1862 was anything but merry for Sgt. William Foster as he suffered through a bout of typhoid fever.

Within two weeks of Christmas, Foster died of the disease, and an officer from his New Jersey Union Army regiment brought his body back to his family in Crown Point for burial.

On Saturday, Foster's grave was among 40 Lake County Civil War veteran burial sites receiving a dose of holiday spirit that they likely haven't seen in a hundred years or more.

South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail volunteers and residents gathered at Crown Point's Historic Maplewood Cemetery to place holiday wreaths at the grave sites of veterans from the 150-year-old war.

Excerpts of Christmas-time letters home from the battlefronts and soldiers' camps were read during the Saturday event, recounting the sparse rations, loneliness, disease and sickness that was common during the 1861-1865 war.

Participants who helped lay the wreaths in Crown Point learned of the stories behind many of the soldiers whose graves were decorated.

One account told of a holiday furlough home for Crown Point Col. John Wheeler, who commanded the 20th Indiana Infantry during the war.

Six months later, Wheeler died at the Battle of Gettysburg when a Confederate bullet blasted him from his horse.

Following the wreath placement at Historic Maplewood, trail volunteers also placed several wreaths at Civil War veteran graves in Merrillville Cemetery.

Both graveyards are official sites of the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail — a historic tourism and preservation trail linking together graves and other Northwest Indiana buildings, museums and sites related to the Civil War.

A grant from the Indianapolis-based Efroymson Family Fund purchased the wreaths.

In the coming week, volunteers will be placing more wreaths at grave sites in Valparaiso, Hebron and Hammond.

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