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McKeesport ceremony to honor Civil War vets

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 3:51 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Getting ready to place flags around the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery in McKeesport, from left, are Maryann Huk, Debbie Debiak, Arlene Falvo and Ed Falvo.

From 1861 to 1865, America found itself in a Civil War that not only pitted northern states against southern ones, but often brother against brother and father against son. During those four years, there were more than 600,000 casualties.

Many soldiers were from McKeesport and nearby communities and 22 are interred in McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument Circle, where land was designated specifically for Civil War veterans.

“None of them died in battle,” McKeesport Preservation Society director Maryann Huk said, noting it is not known where they fought. “They made it back and lived in the community until they died.”

Those Civil War veterans will be remembered during a sesquicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the cemetery along Fifth Avenue in McKeesport.

In preparation for the service, members of the McKeesport Veterans' Activities Association, McKeesport Preservation Society and Elizabeth Township Historical Society will place flags at the graves of all known veterans in the cemetery.

“We will be placing about 3,000 flags on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.,” Huk said. “Anyone who wants to join us is more than welcome.”

The Battle of Gettysburg had the largest number of casualties in the Civil War — more than 51,000 total for both sides — and is considered the turning point when the Union defeated the Confederates, stopping their push into the north.

Sunday's ceremony will take place at the white bronze monument, which was unveiled on July 4, 1892. The inscription reads, “In memory of the soldiers and sailors of late rebellion 1861-1865. Erected by the citizens of McKeesport.”

Those veterans are James Spangler, Army; Samuel E. Snider, Co. Y, 4th West Virginia Cavalry; Nathaniel Finch, Major, 36th New York Infantry; Louis Radzinsky, surgeon, Navy; William H. Morgan, Army; James B. Wolf, 63rd Pennsylvania Volunteer; Alex S. Boyd, Army; James Getty, Army; George Smith, 31st New York Infantry; George B. Tate, Sgt., Co. B, 110th Pennsylvania; James W. Borland, Army; Samuel Collins, 12th Pennsylvania Regiment; Hezekiah Long, Co. H, 5th Pennsylvania Army; Cyrus White, Sgt., 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry; Jacob Friend, Pvt., Jones 155th Regiment; Theodore Nunimaker, Army; Samuel O'Hara, Army; James Campbell, Navy; Avid Fulton, Cavalry; John Campbell, Co. F, 28th Regiment; Henry Plummer, Cpl., Co. A, 110th Pennsylvania Infantry; and Samuel B. Carter, Pvt., Co. B, 57th Pennsylvania Volunteer.

Taking part in the program will be the Rev. Stephen Pikula of St. Patrick Parish in McKeesport; Huk; former Allegheny County Commissioner Larry Dunn; James Calvin, president of McKeesport Veterans' Activities Association; Edward Falvo of Elizabeth Township Historical Society; and Charles McCormick, 1st Virginia Cavalry Re-enactors.

Period poetry readings, Civil War songs and roll call and the placement of flowers will be part of the gathering. Floral tributes were made by the Junior Gardeners of the Joyful Bloomers Garden Club.

“This is the kind of presentation the (McKeesport Preservation) Society is interested in,” Huk said, “because it shares the rich, long history of this city. We have 22 veterans here who served in the Civil War and that is something to be remembered.”

The ceremony will be similar to one conducted a couple years ago by the Elizabeth Township Historical Society at Greenock Cemetery, when the 37 Civil War veterans interred there were honored.

“We had replaced 32 of the markers. Some didn't need replaced and others were so old you couldn't read the inscriptions to be able to replace the stones,” historical society historian Ed Falvo said.

Arlene Falvo, secretary of the Elizabeth Township group, said of the McKeesport monument, “It's nice that those who fought together in battle are together here.”

Debbie Debiak of the McKeesport Veterans' Activities Association said the commemoration is designed to “raise awareness. There's not too much patriotism anymore.”

Part of that awareness, she said, involves a cannon in the veterans' section of the cemetery.

“It is in horrendous shape and we would like start raising money to have it restored,” she said.

The veterans group will host the Memorial Day program on May 27 at 9:15 a.m. at the War Memorial along Lysle Boulevard followed by a parade at 10 a.m. down Fifth Avenue.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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