James S. Evans, Victor Gilliam, and Albert Shearer are finally being recognized for fighting for the Union in the Civil War that ended 153 years ago.
A ceremony featuring The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Camp 22, Sacramento, will be in Union Blues Saturday at East Union Memorial Cemetery to dedicate headstones for the three Civil War veterans whose service was previously unheralded as well as 13 of their comrades buried at the cemetery at Union Road and Louise Avenue in Manteca.
The ceremony — expected to last a half hour — starts at 11 a.m. The event is free to the public as is a meal of hotdogs, chips, drinks, and dessert that will be served at the conclusion.
“People will be surprised at all of the period costumes they will see (when they attend Saturday’s event),” noted association secretary Janet Fiore.
All 16 of the Civil War veterans buried at East Union served in the Union Army. Overall, 80 percent of the Civil War veterans buried in California served in the Union Army.
Fiore said it will be a solemn and educational experience.
It is all part of the ongoing efforts by the Friends of the East Union Memorial Cemetery Association that has been working diligently using volunteers to maintain the final resting place for more than 3,200 people since the cemetery lost its state licensing as well as taking steps to secure state approval to once again sell burial plots. In addition, volunteers have been bringing records up to date, uncovering grave markers buried by decades of Bermuda grass growth and have even helped bury those who have passed away since the cemetery lost its license. State law allows only those already that have already purchased lots to be buried in a cemetery that is no longer property licensed.
Volunteers also have successful identified more than 100 graves of other veterans buried at East Union cemetery that were not acknowledged when flags were placed on previous Memorial Days. There are now 350 plus graves marked with flags acknowledging the service of veterans that have passed away. Previously only 160 veteran graves were given such honors
Fiore has a passion for history and genealogy.
Her interest in Civil War graves was the result of family history. Two relatives fought on opposite sides — one for the Union and one for the Confederacy — during the Civil War. Yet when they returned from battle they remained close and at their insistence ended up being buried next to each other.
Those planning to attend Saturday’s event are advised that they cannot park in the cemetery. Parking will be available across the street at the First Christian Church as well as on a dirt field on the northeast corner of the intersection.
Saturday’s ceremonies are part of events marking Manteca’s centennial year of its incorporation as a city on May 28, 1917
The association also has located the unmarked graves of 70 people children plus 20 veterans who lack proper headstones.
They are working to contact families of the veterans to assist them in working with the Department of Defense to make sure a proper headstone are placed on the veterans grave. The Defense Department has provided the headstones for the three Union soldiers as it has done for a number of other veterans that the association discovered did not have the proper markings and were able to work with families to make the needed request.
Simpson Stone Works in Salida has agreed to provide the cemetery with headstones for the children at $50 apiece. Of the 70 pioneer children they discovered did not have headstones, 65 are still unmarked. The other five have been paid for through donations. Those interested in donating can contact Janet Zacharias at 209.603.7338 or Fiore at 209.275.0265. Fiore can also be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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