SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Shaded by quiet trees in Springfield’s St. Michael’s Cemetery is a treasured piece of our history. Graves marking the sacrifice of Civil War soldiers surround one of just three known 13-inch siege mortars to still exist in the United States. Their loved ones died decades ago, but on Memorial Day weekend, these soldiers were not forgotten.
“We’re here to preserve and dedicate ourselves to the preservation of the history and of the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Union soldiers,” said Edward Knight, the Camp Commander of L.A. Tifft Camp 15 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
The camp is the largest chapter of the organization in Massachusetts with about 30 members.
Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War when it became a popular practice to lay flowers on soldiers’ graves.
Those wearing red white and blue medals in the Camp, like Bob Knight, are descendants of Civil War soldiers. “Oh, it’s our history’s heritage and I just love it and we just did so much years ago to preserve this nation and the union, and this is why I believe this is why I got into it, because my ancestor was a medal of honor winner at the crater,” said Knight, the camp chaplain, and a Korean War veteran.
Each Memorial Day weekend, members of the Springfield chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War make sure that they go around to different cemeteries in western Massachusetts and lay wreaths on the graves of Civil War soldiers. Sometimes, descendants call the group to request a flag or wreath on their ancestor’s grave.
“Just paying tribute to the soldiers and sailors from the Civil War and all fallen veterans. Since that time, it’s many more wars,” said Edward Knight. As part of the ceremony in St. Michael’s Cemetery, there was a declaration read, a prayer read, a gun salute and a playing of Taps.
The Civil War ended over 150 years ago, but the sacrifice of those soldiers shaped our country into what it is today. And for these volunteers, that is what should be remembered and honored each Memorial Day.