Replacement of lost grave medallion salutes Civil War veteran
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE — One hundred and fifty years ago, J. Adam Hollander was a fresh-faced German immigrant who volunteered to fight in a country that had been his home for just a few years.
Hollander fought with a Wisconsin regiment for three years, luckily escaping injury, though he became so sick from typhoid fever he woke up to see his coffin waiting by his hospital bed.
A coffin would not be needed for Hollander until 1922.
This much Jean Hibben knows about her great-grandfather. She also knows he received a burial befitting a Civil War veteran, as well as a brass GAR medallion, for Grand Army of the Republic, placed next to his grave at Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery.
At some point the medallion was stolen or lost. Hibben, a professional genealogist living in California, noticed it was missing. She didn't think that was right.
And so on Thursday afternoon, Hibben and her brother stood silently next to Hollander's grave marker and listened as two members of the local chapter of Sons of Union Veterans, dressed in blue Civil War uniforms, read a proclamation during a short ceremony. A new brass GAR marker was placed in the ground next to Hollander's grave.
"We honor your memory, Private Hollander," Tom Mueller said before he and Brian McManus, commander of the C.K. Pier Badger Camp No. 1, stood at attention and saluted.
The Sons of Union Veterans will provide GAR medallions for the graves of Civil War veterans if their families request them. It doesn't happen very often — one was provided in September in Racine County and another last year at the re-dedication of a Civil War grave last fall at Forest Home Cemetery.
The sesquicentennial of the Civil War is renewing interest in the terrible conflict that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. It's also spurring some people to investigate their family's roots, particularly now that many records are online.
Hibben is the lead researcher for "Genealogy Roadshow" on PBS. She ended up with many of Hollander's records and has his GAR songbook. She thought it was only right that another GAR medallion be placed at his grave.
The war "was an important part of his life," said Hibben, whose mother was Hollander's granddaughter. "He deserves to have that marker on his grave."
Six years after immigrating to America from Bavaria at the age of 13, Hollander joined the 24th Wisconsin Infantry to fight in the Civil War. A private in Company I, he spent three years in the 24th as the unit fought in numerous battles, including Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Stone River.
Among the officers in the 24th Wisconsin was the father of World War II Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who added an extra "a" to his last name.
"The 24th was called the Milwaukee regiment. It was raised out of some of the best families of Milwaukee at that time, including Arthur McArthur," said Lance Herdegen, an expert on Wisconsin's Iron Brigade.
"The 24th served in the western theater and was famous for its charge up Missionary Ridge. Arthur McArthur yelled, 'On Wisconsin!' as he charged up the hill. Tradition has it, that's where the song came from," said Herdegen, whose latest book is "The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory."
After Hollander immigrated to the U.S., he took up his brother-in-law's trade as a barber and eventually opened a well-known barbershop and women's wig business in Milwaukee's Third Ward called Hollander's Human Hair Emporium.
In 1875, he joined a GAR Post and frequently attended reunions of the 24th Wisconsin. The last reunion he attended was in 1912 on the 50th anniversary of the start of the war.
The unit's commander, Arthur McArthur, came to the reunion but died shortly after falling ill during the middle of his speech. The veterans at the reunion wrapped McArthur's body in the flag he had carried up Missionary Ridge.
On a visit to Milwaukee several years ago, Hibben noticed the GAR medallion was missing from Hollander's grave, so she emailed the Sons of Union Veterans. Mueller, whose book about Wisconsin veterans, "Duty, Honor, Country and Wisconsin," was recently published, communicated with Hibben and helped arrange Thursday's brief ceremony.
McManus orders the GAR medallions at a cost of $16.50 for aluminum and $29 for brass. Some families make donations to the group to defray the cost of the Civil War medallions.
McManus, whose parents both served in the military during World War II, said the GAR medallions are a fitting way to remember Civil War veterans.
"I do it so I can remember my ancestors and their sacrifices and honor all the people who paid the cost for the freedom that we have," McManus said.