Soldiers receive posthumous honors, plaques at graveside services held at Mt. Hope Cemetery

Gib Young, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, talks about the plaque, wreath and lily decorating the grave of Corporal Edwin Sexton, a soldier in Company C, 130th Ohio Infantry Regiment, during a ceremony honoring him and two other veterans Saturday, July 25, at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Gib Young, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, talks about the plaque, wreath and lily decorating the grave of Corporal Edwin Sexton, a soldier in Company C, 130th Ohio Infantry Regiment, during a ceremony honoring him and two other veterans Saturday, July 25, at Mt. Hope Cemetery. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

A single calla lily lay on the crest of a gravestone of Corporal Edwin Sexton, a soldier long dead in Huntington’s Mt. Hope Cemetery. A wreath was laid in front of his grave and a newly-installed marker acknowledged him as the last Union soldier buried in Huntington County.

The recognition of Sexton and two other soldiers, Col. George Pride and Sgt. John Kissinger, was made in a solemn ceremony held Saturday, July 25, at the cemetery, sponsored and conducted by Champion Hill, Camp 17, of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
Jim Floyd, camp commander of the SUVCW Ben Harrison Camp No. 356 in Indianapolis, explained that the organization’s Last Soldier Project seeks to honor the last soldier buried in each county. So far, they have identified Civil War veterans in 89 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

“The purpose of the project is to locate and appropriately mark the final resting place of the last Civil War soldier buried in each county or parish in each state of this great country,” he said. “The Last Soldier Project marries the efforts of the SUVCW’s grave registration and monument restoration programs. The goal of the SUVCW National Grave Registration Project is to locate the final resting places of all Union Civil War veterans and then enter that information into the National Graves Registration Database.”

Gib Young, a member of Camp 17 of the SUVCW, located in Huntington County, talked about the three veterans who were honored during the ceremony, saying each one stood out in his service to his country.

Sexton mustered in May 13, 1864, in the 130th Ohio a “hundred day regiment.” He mustered out Sept. 22, 1864.

During his service Sexton did guard duty at Johnson’s Island and then was transferred to Bermuda Hundred and joined the Second Brigade of Third Division of the Tenth Corps Army of the James.

“He and his regiment were in several engagements according to Fox’s Regimental History,” Young said. “There were 23 killed; all died of disease, and then maybe another 30 or so that were wounded.”

However, Sexton fulfilled his term of service unscathed by bullet or disease. When he returned home to Ohio he got a job on the Erie Railroad. The railroad transferred him to Huntington, where he worked for about 30 years, residing on Henry Street.

“He liked to sit on the porch after he retired and talk to the kids who were walking to and from William Street School – or, old Horace Mann School,” he said. “He apparently never married. According to accounts, he was kind of a joker. He liked to tell stories and he was the type of guy that you couldn’t really often ask a straight, serious question because he wasn’t going to give you a straight, serious answer.”

Sexton was in charge of the 1936 Grand Army of the Republic reunion state encampment, which was held that year in Huntington.

He died Sept. 8, 1942, the last Union soldier from Huntington County.
Col. George Pride served Ulysses S. Grant as an engineer aide during the Civil War.

In 1862 Grant wrote to Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck in Washington, asking that Pride be appointed to head a corps of railroad engineers in his army.

“Pride had been a volunteer from Belmont to Shiloh. He carried an honorary title of colonel, and Grant then decided he needed to commission George Pride as a full colonel in his command, with authority over the Corps of Engineers,” Young recanted. “This was a pretty good job. We’re talking about the railroads, that was the life blood of the federal armies.”

Pride was made chief engineer of the military railroads in Grant’s department. He was put in charge of all repairs and reconstruction of bridges, beds and tracts of railroad land. All mechanics and laborers were put under his command and all requisitions for repairs and building were to be made by him.

After the war, Pride moved to Huntington and worked for the Erie Railroad.

“One of the vice presidents took a liking to Col. Pride and offered him a job here in Huntington,” Young said. “He wasn’t wealthy but he had a solid job; he had an income. But then his benefactor on the Erie died suddenly, and then, as you could probably guess, those and other administrators decided that Pride was too old and he was let go. But he didn’t leave Huntington.”

Pride died in 1906 at age 80 and was buried in a donated grave, wearing his most prized possession, a rosette given to him by Gen. Grant.

Sgt. John Kissinger was born in Huntington County. He did not fight in the Civil War, but served his country after the Spanish-American War in the 163rd Indiana Infantry.

In 1900 Kissinger was one of 18 men in the regular army who volunteered to become human guinea pigs of the yellow fever-carrying mosquito in order to test theories that the disease was caused by the insect, Young said.

“He was 23 years old at the time,” he said. “He was marked from foreign service and was sent to Cuba. He was disappointed because he didn’t want to be there; he wanted to be in the Philippines.”

Yellow fever killed more men than Spanish bullets did, Young added. Kissinger, who worked as an orderly in a hospital, became ill for eight days.

“They said that they learned more in those eight days from his ordeal than they had in the eight previous years all put together,” Young said. “Maj. Walter Reed said, ‘In my opinion, his exhibit of moral courage has never been surpassed in the annals of the army of the United States.”

He recovered and was discharged in 1901. However, he suffered attacks throughout his life, including contracting spinal mellitus brought on by the yellow fever, which paralyzed his legs for several years.

In 1929, Kissinger received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his sacrifice for his country. Believing  the sacrifice of his health was worth preventing millions of people from contracting yellow fever, he lectured across the U.S. and appeared in several motion pictures. He died on July 13, 1946, in Tampa, FL, and his body came back to Huntington for his final resting place.

The special markers on the three graves were secured in concrete by Amick Welding at no charge to the project. The SUVCW will return to the gravesites to add concrete to stabilize the plaques.