VALPARAISO | They fought in some of the toughest Civil War conflicts in places called Gettysburg, Stones River, Shiloh and The Wilderness.
Left behind on the battlefields were limbs, best friends, brothers, fathers and sons.
On Saturday, about 70 people came together at Valparaiso's Maplewood Cemetery to honor Calumet Region Civil War veterans whose graves, headstones, stories and artifacts are now enshrined in the new South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail.
Saturday's ceremony at the gravesides of Valparaiso Civil War vets launched the trail — a historical preservation and tourism initiative. The ceremony also served to dedicate 21 new granite headstones that have replaced the worn, broken or missing markers of Valparaiso Civil War veterans since last Memorial Day.
The Rev. John Starr, of Crown Point's Adventure Christian Church, eulogized the veterans in prayer Saturday and gave special mention to the ones who sacrificed everything to preserve the Union during the 1861-1865 war.
"For love of country, for love of God, for love of family, they laid down their lives," Starr said during the ceremony.
Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas also spoke at the event, thanking the all-volunteer Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project for securing, through the federal government, nearly 80 replacement headstones for Lake and Porter County veterans of the war.
"We cannot fully embrace the future unless we remember the past," said Costas, speaking in front of the Grand Army of the Republic burial plot at Maplewood.
Costas made special mention of Valparaiso's Col. Isaac Suman, who commanded the 9th Indiana Infantry during the war and served as the city's mayor postwar. Suman is among dozens of Civil War veterans buried at Maplewood.
The colonel led local men in several major engagements, including the battles of Shiloh and Stones River in Tennessee. Suman survived a gunshot wound and his men held their ground at Stones River in an area dubbed Hell's Half Acre because of the brutal fighting.
During the ceremony, Nicki Mackowski, of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, unveiled the first of what will be several metal stands marked with QR (quick response) codes along the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail
The codes, which can be scanned with smartphones or mobile tablets, link visitors of trail sites to photos and biographical information pertaining to veterans buried in the particular cemeteries. The codes will soon be available in six Lake and Porter county cemeteries and various historical museums.
Information about region Civil War veterans, cemeteries, artifacts and architectural icons also can be accessed at the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail's new website, http://www.southshorecva.com/civilwartrail/ .