Civil War veteran receives gravestone 99 years after death

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — After resting nearly unnoticed for almost a century, Burton A. Williams is receiving a long overdue honor.

Williams was a member of Company F, 38th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War. After the war, he settled in Elkhart, married and had several children. He was a peddler by trade before he died on Aug. 1, 1917, at age 79.

His grave sat unmarked for nearly a century – one of potentially more than 100 other Civil War veterans buried at Elkhart’s Grace Lawn Cemetery in unmarked graves. But Williams is finally receiving the honor he deserves with a veterans grave marker that recently was placed atop his final resting place.

Williams will receive the full military honors offered to Civil War veterans during a special dedication service Nov. 6 in the cemetery. The public is invited to attend.

The headstone dedication will include an authentic service conducted by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Daughters of the American Revolution — both wearing outfits common during the Civil War era. The National Guard Honor Guard will provide military honors during the service.

The dedication is especially poignant for Raeanna Lane of Elkhart, who is Williams great-great-great granddaughter. The Michiana Veterans Honors Program contacted her several months ago with news that her ancestor is buried in Grace Lawn with no grave marker.

“My son is into genealogy, so we were very interested in getting Burton A. Williams a headstone,” Lane said.

Anne Davis, who coordinates the Michiana Veterans program, makes arrangements for veterans who never received a proper burial to get the headstones they deserve.

Davis and her group have been instrumental in obtaining headstones for 15 Civil War veterans and one Mexican-American War veteran. She works through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to arrange for the headstones to be installed and to help organize dedication ceremonies.

“The program was founded by my son and I while doing a high school project,” Davis said. “I also noticed that several graves don’t have any headstones near a cemetery by my house. After noticing that, I’ve decided to talk to one of the cemetery officials to see if I could order headstones for those who don’t have any.”

Besides Williams, Davis has applications pending with the Veterans Administration for headstones honoring seven other veterans: Six from the Civil War and one from the Revolutionary War. The headstones should arrive and be placed in the next six to eight weeks.

“I help these veterans because I think it’s a disgrace for the veterans to be buried in an unmarked grave,” Davis said. “They deserve to be honored and the least we can do as a society is to honor the men that served in the war.”