Union soldier honored at Kansas cemetery
The Hutchinson News, Kan.
HUTCHINSON, Kans. — A brisk breeze kept a slight chill in the air as the Union color guard marched in perfect sync through Eastside Cemetery.
Hands were placed over hearts and in salute as a Civil War-era United States flag was carried by. The guard circled a plot at the cemetery before pausing in front of the grave of a fallen infantryman. On Saturday morning, John Crooms was remembered for his service in the Fifth U.S. Colored Cavalry, Company C in the Civil War with readings, a musket-gun salute and a playing of "Taps."
"We wouldn't have the country we have today if it weren't for men like him, who joined and served during the Civil War," said Tom Schmidt, past deputy commander of the Kansas branch for Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
Crooms was born into slavery in Kentucky, but died at his own home in Hutchinson. Because of his — and other Union soldiers' — bravery in the war, he was able to will his land to his children.
He died a free man.
"To think about where he started and where he ended up is the American dream," Janice Lovelace, Crooms' great granddaughter said.
Lovelace was in Hutchinson to see Crooms' newly marked grave and to see if she could find out more about her ancestor's history. The passion to find more about her family's history led her to Hutchinson, where she learned Crooms' grave was unmarked.
She notified the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, formerly Grand Army of the Republic, to change it.
The group made sure Crooms had a headstone by Memorial Day, and Doug McGovern, Kansas Civil War Memorials Officer of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, set up a memorial service.
The group often performs memorial services for Union soldiers. Most times the soldiers do not have relatives readily available to attend the service.
"This is different than any we've done before because you were here," McGovern told Lovelace after the ceremony. "That makes it a lot more special."
She was joined at the ceremony by Brad Schall, the past commander in chief for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Schall has family buried at Eastside Cemetery, including a great grandfather who fought alongside Crooms.
His family brought him to the cemetery when he was young so he could know the history of his family and of several people buried there.
"One of the things that makes it a great place is the Civil War soldiers that are here — our history here," Schall said. "It has soldiers from every war since Hutchinson and Reno County was a viable part of history."
The Civil War soldiers buried at Eastside Cemetery include Corp. Franklin Hogan, a Medal of Honor recipient who risked his life to capture the flag of the Sixth Virginia Confederate Infantry on Oct. 1, 1864.
Now Crooms, who fought and was injured in the Battle of Saltworks, will have more than just a headstone. People will go by his final resting place and know what he did — fighting for the freedom of himself and others.
"It's wonderful to have that history in my family," Lovelace said.
See a slideshow here: http://www.hutchnews.com/www/soundslides/Crooms_project/index.html