Event to remember 31 Civil War vets on state’s oldest monument


Thirty-one Civil War soldiers from Franklin Township are memorialized on a monument in Tipton Cemetery. The monument is the oldest Civil War memorial in Michigan. Photo by Kerry Hamilton Smith.

Hiram J. Larrue was killed by bushwackers near Grove Church, Va. John Barnam and George Mason died aboard the steamer Sultana when it exploded near Memphis, Tenn. William Penticost perished at the infamous Andersonville Prison in Georgia under deplorable conditions. They are among 31 men who shared a similar fate. Some were teenagers. Some were brothers. Some have familiar surnames — their relatives still live in the area. But they all have three things in common: they all died while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, they all hailed from Franklin Township, and all are memorialized on Michigan’s oldest Civil War monument in the Tipton Cemetery.

The sesquicentennial of what is thought to be the fifth oldest Civil War monument in the U.S. will be celebrated on Tuesday, July 5 with a host of different activities. At 6 p.m., exhibitions of various historical items will be displayed at the Franklin Township Hall on M-50 in Tipton. The commemoration will continue at the monument in the cemetery located just behind the township hall at 7 p.m. A bagpiper will play and Pastor Brian Grothe from the nearby Lifehouse Church will give the blessing. Various speakers, including historians Bob Elliott and Gary Holmes along with authors David Ingle and Marty Betera, will give historic accounts of the soldiers, the era and the monument itself.

Holmes, who is a retired history teacher at Blissfield High School, has traveled to many national cemeteries to find the resting places of those listed on the monument. He is a Civil War buff, re-enactor, and can rattle off facts about most of the men listed on the monument.

The war was particularly hard on Franklin Township families. Seymour Skinner may have been killed near Saltville, Va. because his unit served along-side African American troops. “Often Confederate soldiers would kill wounded Union soldiers just because they served with African Americans.” Holmes said. “It was brutal.”

Statewide, one of six who went to war lost their life. In Lenawee County, the odds were a bit worse with one out of five perishing. In Franklin Township, nearly half of the 68 soldiers who put on a uniform died in service of the Union, either during the war or sometimes long afterward, succumbing to wounds or illnesses sustained while serving.

There are many sad stories. Benjamin Van Wert was wounded at Shiloh in 1862 and succumbed to his wounds four years later. Consider Mapes wanted to be like his two older brothers, so at 16 he joined the infantry. In his first action a month later in the battle of Wilderness, Va., he was killed. His brothers survived the war.

“Four families lost two sons,” Holmes said. One of those families was the Smith family; they nearly lost a third son when the Sultana exploded, but he survived, having sustained burns on 75 percent of his body. The explosion claimed the lives of 42 Lenawee County soldiers — 1,800 total. When the war ended in 1865, it is thought that Mrs. Smith started the monument project when she contributed $10 — a large sum of money at the time. Holmes said others in the community followed suit and $1,700 was raised in just a year. Returning soldiers were allowed to contribute only $1 toward the project. The monument — the earliest in the state raised by public subscription — was dedicated 150 years ago on July 4, 1866.

“To me it’s the most important Civil War monument in Lenawee County.” Holmes said. 

Tipton native Linda Kronberg has two relatives on the monument, William R. and Harvey L. Warner. In 2006, she was part of a group that helped to restore and clean the monument. “We used bleach water and sandpaper,” she said. Thanks to the estate of Raynor and Wanda Hardy, the monument was completely disassembled, cleaned, repaired, or replaced. The Palm Sunday tornado in 1965 took out the top of the monument. The monument was designed to look as though a flag is draped around a pole and the finial at the top may have been knocked off by a branch during the storm. A new finial was crafted and attached to the top.

Kronberg has chronicled the monument restoration project with before and after photos, which will be on display at the township offices before services at the cemetery.


Tecumseh Herald


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