Archive

Civil War graves reveal brutal toll of war on communities like Monroeville | TribLIVE.com
Monroeville

Civil War graves reveal brutal toll of war on communities like Monroeville

TEcivilwarcashdollarsam052115
courtesy of monroeville historical society
Louis Chandler unearthed the grave of Civil War soldier Sam Cashdollar in Crossroads Cemetery in Monroeville.
TEcivilwarHaymakerWm052115
courtesy of monroeville historical society
The grave of Civil War Captain William Haymaker in Crossroads Cemetery in Monroeville
TEcivilwargravesFirstLetterPage1052115
Courtesy of Shaun Hess
Letters Capt. William Haymaker wrote to his family while serving in the Civil War
TEcivilwargravesFirstLetterPage2052115
Courtesy of Shaun Hess
Letters Capt. William Haymaker wrote to his family while serving in the Civil War
TEcivilwargravesFirstLetterPage3052115
Courtesy of Shaun Hess
Letters Capt. William Haymaker wrote to his family while serving in the Civil War

Louis Chandler knew he’d found the right grave when he saw the letters “VO” on the headstone he’d pried out of the ground.

The letters meant the remains buried there belonged to a soldier who’d served with the Pennsylvania Volunteers — in this case, one Samuel Cashdollar.

“It was two weeks before Memorial Day, so I wanted to get (a marker) up for him.”

That was last year. Chandler was attempting to locate Cashdollar’s grave as part of an effort to map the graves of all 31 Civil War veterans buried in Crossroads Cemetery and register the GPS coordinates to provide a record for other historians.

Farther east, the Westmoreland County Historical Society has undertaken a similar effort to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which will be in June, according to executive director Lisa Hays.

She said the group has worked with local historical societies and volunteers, taking stock of Civil War veterans buried in a number of cemeteries in Greensburg and surrounding areas.

“Probably right after the Civil War, it was incomprehensible to our citizens that we might lose track of these veterans and their service,” she said.

About 60 men from Patton Township — the precursor to Monroeville and Pitcairn — served in the conflict at a time when there were only about 30 families living there. Every one of those families would have been affected, Chandler said.

“From our perspective, we really don’t understand how big this conflict was, compared to the population.”

Searching in the area of the cemetery occupied by Cashdollar’s relatives, he saw a strip of limestone poking out of the ground, he went to work, prying the stone out with a crowbar and then washing it off.

He placed a medallion in the ground next to the stone that marks a grave as a Civil War veteran’s. The medallion came from the American Legion.

Not far from Cashdollar’s grave is that of Capt. William Haymaker, from whose letters Chandler drew while writing a book published last year.

He said the person who emerges in those letters shows that it wasn’t only the size of the Civil War that distinguishes it from some more modern conflicts.

Chandler served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, from 1964 to 1968, doing a stint at a listening post on the Black Sea coast in Turkey.

“You know, Vietnam was a weird war. I marched — not in uniform — in anti-war demonstrations when I was in the service,” he said.

“Now, I would have followed orders, but I thought the war was unconscionable.”

He didn’t see any of this ambivalence in Haymaker’s letters. “People like Haymaker, man — he was waving the flag.”

The letters Chandler used in his book came from Haymaker’s great-great-great grandson, Shaun Hess, who copied the text from the original letters on file in the University of Pittsburgh archives.

Hess, 48, lives in Salt Lake City. His ancestor’s letters to his wife Mary tell war stories of losing friends or being shot. But Hess said most of the letters show a deep concern for his family back home.

“Do I see myself in him? Absolutely; those values are values that everyone should have,” Hess said.

Gideon Bradshaw is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2369 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.