RIPR News
7:49 am
Mon May 30, 2011

Civil War observance on Memorial Day

PROVIDENCE, RI – This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. So it was only appropriate that at least one of this year's Memorial Day observances be held at a Civil War grave.

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War took care of that in Woonsocket.

As a bagpipe sang a mournful tune, about two dozen people gathered in an overgrown, forgotten cemetery in Woonsocket to honor Private Henry C. Davis - whose death in 1861 is thought to be the first Rhode Island casualty of the Civil War.

He was only 17 and the war just two months old when he succumbed to an unknown illness at a Washington military camp.

Stephen Hackett, a member of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, says two thirds of Civil War deaths were due to bacteria..not bullets.

"The big three for the total war were typhoid fever, diarrhea and pneumonia," says Hackett. "Now I know diarrhea isn't a disease per se but that condition would weaken the body so much it would cause some soldier to expire. And they got it by drinking impure drinking water."

Although there is no headstone, Davis and 13 other Civil War victims are thought to be buried in St. James Historic Cemetery in Woonsocket - a graveyard that has been abandoned for more than 100 years.

Small American flags were planted in the ground for each Civil War victim.

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