One of the interesting projects that have been inspired by the sesquicentennial of the Civil War is the effort to recover and refurbish the gravesites of veterans. Last year, for instance, we reported on the collaboration of volunteers, college students, and representatives of state government in Pennsylvania to identify, refurbish and decorate long-neglected graves of veterans of the United States Colored Troops. Today brought news of an effort by a local chapter of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War to supply headstones for the graves of 10 veterans at Fairplains Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
At first blush, these and similar efforts across the country might seem like a macabre way of commemorating the conflict, but they do much more than that. They literally place long-dead soldiers back on our historical map, re-situating them not just in a particular locality, but in a community in a specific time and place. Rediscovering and marking their resting places can help historians and researchers who try to reconstruct the lives of these individuals, the communities they lived in, the social networks they were a part of, and the connections with fellow soldiers that they maintained or left behind after the war. Here's hoping that efforts like these continue throughout the sesquicentennial and beyond.