VALPARAISO — The dead of a war long ago but by no means forgotten were remembered at the Memorial Day Commemoration at the Memorial Opera House Monday morning.
Soldiers killed during the Civil War were honored by the David D. Porter Camp No. 116 of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War.
The Civil War veterans group has commemorated Memorial Day in Valparaiso since 1977, previously holding ceremonies at the courthouse and at the Porter County Museum.
It was fitting that this year’s event was held at the Memorial Opera House, which was built as a “monument to soldiers and sailors” in 1893 by the Grand Army of the Republic, the fraternal organization of Civil War veterans, said Scot MacDonald, the Memorial Opera House business director.
“It was built as a place for the residents of Porter County to enrich their lives,” said MacDonald, noting that famous visitors and speakers at the building included William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt and actress Beulah Bondi. “May our voices never fall silent thanking all those who fought for our freedom.”
Of the more than 1 million American veterans who have died in the nation's wars, 620,000 deaths occurred during the Civil War, said Pat Doyle, of the Porter Camp.
“More than any war before or after,” Doyle said.
The ceremony was marked by readings of the Gettysburg Address and the Ballou Letter, a letter from Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou to his wife, Sarah, just before his death in July 1861 at the First Battle of Bull Run.
“My very dear Sarah, the indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more,” read Bill Adams of the Porter Camp.
Porter Camp member Bernard Doyle read from the General Orders No. 11, which designated “the 30th day of May ... for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”
Presentations were punctuated by period music from the string quartet of the South Shore Orchestra and were concluded by the “firing of three volleys” and the playing of taps.
Bill Adams, secretary of the Porter Camp, said the SUVCW has 43 local members, with 300 in the state and 6,000 in the nation.
The group creates a presence at local historical festivals, parades, dedications and patriotic ceremonies. Members include those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War as well as “anyone interested in what we’re doing,” Adams said.
For the past two years, the group has also cleaned, repaired and replaced more than 200 headstones and grave markers of Civil War veterans in Porter County cemeteries.
Porter County lost 149 in the conflict, many of whom “rest peacefully beneath Porter County soil today,” said Kevin Pazour, Porter County Museum director.
Pazour noted that Porter County was the first in Indiana to “raise a company for the preservation of the union.”
“They put the needs of the nation before their own and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Pazour said.