Grave matters: Gettysburg connection

NEW MATAMORAS-The almost 183-year-old Grandview Cemetery set in the countryside just off Grandview Hill Road is the resting place for what Matamoras Historical Society President John Miller said is a large number of Civil War veterans for such a rural area. Included in this number is his great-great-uncle, who like so many buried there, has his own individual story.

It was the summer of 1861, and on the side of what is now Ohio 260 in New Matamoras, 17-year-old Andrew VanEman Wilson, one of nine children, was working the field of a local farm when a fife and drum corps-a trio of a flag-carrier, a drummer and a fifer-marched down the road, playing patriotic music and recruiting men to join the Union Army.

Wilson ran home and immediately told his parents he wanted to enlist.

“He found out you had to be 18, so he told them his birthday was earlier than it really was,” Miller said.

Wilson’s plan worked. He was mustered into the 77th Ohio Infantry, Company C, formed at Camp Tupper in Marietta under Col. Jesse Hildebrand that September. The all-volunteer group was to serve for three years.

According to a report by Mike Mangus, a specialist for the Ohio State University published by the Ohio Civil War Central records, Wilson’s regiment moved on to Paducah, Ky., and fought in battles along the Tennessee River, Mississippi, Arkansas, Illinois and other bordering states, attempting to destroy southern railroads and fighting skirmishes with Confederate troops throughout the war.

Mangus also wrote about the 77th Ohio Infantry’s part in the capture of Mobile, Ala., and about its center position in the Battle of Shiloh, a major battle in Pittsburgh’s Landing, Tenn. that resulted in a Union victory.

Wilson eventually made it to fight in the Gettysburg campaign in the summer of 1863, where he survived the turning-point Union victory that resulted in an estimated 51,112 total casualties, according to the Civil War Trust organization.

Mangus reported that Wilson’s 77th Ohio Infantry was the last volunteer regiment to be mustered out in the Civil War.

Miller said his great-great-uncle was mentally off once the war was over.

Wilson would say, “If you had seen what I saw you’d be flying off the handle too,” Miller said.

He was mustered out in 1864 as a sergeant.

His wife, Jennie Hutchison, died at age 24 on July 18, 1880, just 10 days before the death of their 3-month-old son Joseph.

Miller, who has completed a fair amount of genealogical work, does not know if the result was complications from childbirth or an unrelated disease.

Afterward, Wilson later moved in with his daughter Stella, where he continued his work as a farmer that he had put on hold for the war, all noted in Miller’s research.

An entry in the report from an immediate family member said that “if it weren’t for VanEman’s Civil War pension, they would have starved on that farm.”

Wilson died in 1913 as President Woodrow Wilson, a known distant relative, began his term.

His headstone in Grandview Cemetery marks his 1844 birth and is flanked by a Grand Army of the Republic marker where an American flag blows in the wind along with the dozens more.

His wife, son Joseph, and parents Robert and Mary are all buried alongside him.

The couple’s three other children-Emmitt, Clifford and Stella-are buried elsewhere.

A total of 22 Civil War veterans are buried at Grandview Cemetery, including six others from his original regiment. Other veterans buried there include two from the Spanish-American War, four from World War I, seven from World War II, three from the Korean War and two from the Vietnam War.