Share This Page

Civil War re-enactor on mission to restore Chartiers Cemetery headstones

| Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, 10:35 a.m.
Many headstones on soldiers' graves have been repaired and replaced at Chartiers Cemetery.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Repaired and replaced headstones from soldiers' graves line the Chartiers Cemetery in Carnegie.
Repaired and replaced headstones line Chartiers Cemetery.
Martin Neaman, a member of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves Civil War reenactors, points out where a headstone sunk in the ground over time at Chartiers Cemetery in Carnegie.

Martin Neaman walks through the now-straight rows of aged headstones, pointing them out by name — even those too worn down to read.

He knows when they died and the stories that brought them there. And he should — he's spent a lot of time with them over the past two years.

Neaman, a member of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, a Civil War re-enactment unit in Pittsburgh, led the charge to restore more than 120 Civil War-era headstones in Chartiers Cemetery off Noblestown Road.

It's a matter of honoring and remembering those who fought in a war that no longer has living veterans.

“The Civil War affected so many people,” Neaman said. “It touched every community.”

Neaman came upon the dilapidated Civil War stones in 2010 while looking for a different stone. Nearly all of the 133 Civil War veterans' stones had sunk into the ground. Some were completely underground, he said.

“The condition of the headstones as we found them was a sad sight to see,” he said. Soldiers and Sailors curator Michael Kraus said the problem is a widespread one, especially with older headstones.

“Some cemeteries have dedicated veterans areas, and the older they are, the more problems there are,” he said.

Stones are undermined by drainage and erosion, which can cause them to sink the way those at Chartiers Cemetery had.

“That's 100 years worth of things that can happen with the stone,” Kraus said.

Over two years, Neaman helped collect more than $15,000 to raise and reset the headstones so they not only were above ground but would not sink again. Some stones were broken, and Neaman secured new ones from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to replace them.

But, he said, his work isn't done yet.

The ground under the Civil War veterans' plots is uneven, and Neaman is worried about tree limbs that extend over the Civil War Memorial monument. He said he plans to continue fundraising for soil to even out the land and for services to trim the tree limbs.

“We're never done,” he said. “We'll never be done.”

The first Civil War veteran interred in the cemetery was Benjamin Clark, in 1883. The final Civil War vet was laid to rest there in 1924. The cemetery is home to two Medal of Honor recipients — Sgt. James Carey and Sgt. James Bronson.

Neaman said the fact that Chartiers Cemetery's Civil War graves are integrated makes them all the more special.

“At a time in the late 1800s — it was pretty remarkable,” he said.

Anyone wishing to donate to the cemetery project can send donations to: The 9th PA Reserves, c/o The Andrew Carnegie Free Library, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie, PA 15106.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.