VALPARAISO | 150 years ago Saturday, Valparaiso Sgt. Anthony Smith and other Union Army soldiers were finishing one of the worst defeats their army had faced in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.
On Saturday, volunteers helped commemorate the holiday-season sacrifices of Smith and 25 other Civil War veterans with region links by laying Christmas wreaths on their graves at the city's Maplewood Cemetery.
Volunteers also placed wreaths on several Civil War veteran graves at Hebron's Salem Cemetery on Saturday.
The wreaths, purchased through historical tourism grant money by the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail, were among 80 placed at Civil War veteran graves throughout Lake and Porter counties during the past two weeks.
Among the Valparaiso veteran graves honored Saturday was that of Col. Isaac Suman, who commanded the 9th Indiana Infantry during the war. Suman, who became Valparaiso mayor after the war, survived gunshot wounds at the Battle of Stones River, a Murfreesboro, Tenn., engagement that sees its 150th anniversary on this New Year's Eve.
Another notable grave receiving a wreath was that of Pvt. George Durrell, who served with a sharpshooter special forces unit during the war known as the Sturges Rifles.
Among other duties during the war, the Illinois-based Sturges Rifles served as the personal body guards to Gen. George McClellan when he commanded the Union Army early in the war.
The wreaths are a complement to more than 80 new granite headstones and special markers that volunteers have obtained and installed to replace worn, broken or missing Civil War veteran markers throughout Lake and Porter counties since Memorial Day 2011.
The grave sites, as well as other Civil War-related buildings and local museums, are now part of the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail, a historical tourism trail and partnership of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and the all-volunteer Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project.
The trail is planning a special South Shore Civil War Expo, complete with special exhibits, local battle flag reproductions and visiting authors, during April at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.