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Civil War veteran gets memorial service in Illinois 151 years after death

By ADAM POULISSE | Rockford (Ill.) Register Star | Published: May 13, 2018

ROSCOE, Ill. (Tribune News Service) — Sgt. John Valentine Artlip died in 1867 of ailments he suffered while fighting in the Civil War.

He was buried by the state in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Roscoe Cemetery — without honor, without the respect due a Union veteran.

Artlip’s great-great-grandson Ken Artlip, of Muskego, Wis., spent the past half-century searching for his ancestor’s final resting place. After years of misinformation, misdirection and lost records, Artlip located his relative’s precise location last year.

On Saturday afternoon — 151 years after Sgt. Artlip succumbed to wartime illnesses at the age of 30, and was buried unceremoniously — he was given the decorated memorial service he never had.

A Grand Army of the Republic headstone that was procured 128 years ago by Sgt. Artlip’s widow was moved from an empty grave in Beloit to his official burial site in Roscoe that had gone unidentified for more than 100 years. Descendants of Union soldiers — dressed in Civil War garb — presented Sgt. Artlip with a three-volley gun salute and played taps on a bugle.

“It means a lot,” Artlip said. “I looked for him for 50 years. I was determined to find him and I found him. He’s a hero. He’s my hero.”

John Artlip, a farmer in Cortland, enlisted in 1861. A year later, he fought in the bloody Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. He was wounded in both legs by an exploding artillery shell and was given a disability discharge. In 1864, while deployed in Louisiana, he came down with tuberculosis and returned home too sick to work. He died shortly afterward, leaving behind his wife and 8-year-old son and a failing farm.

“The family was destitute,” Ken Artlip said. “They didn’t have any money. They just buried him.”

Tracking down Sgt. Artlip’s unmarked final resting place was no easy task for his relatives. In the 1960s, Artlip was told by family his great-great-granddad was buried somewhere in Roscoe Cemetery. He was misinformed that the grave had been paved over.

Artlip contacted the state for help, and officials gave him an exact plot number in what used to be the pauper’s section of Roscoe Cemetery. Decades later, Artlip reached out to the cemetery and was told that some records had been lost in a fire and there was no way to know which unmarked grave was his decorated relative’s. He let it go for a while.

Last year, Artlip tried again and met with Roscoe Cemetery Board Chairman Jerry Walker, who located an old grid that matched the grave number the state had on record with an exact spot in the pauper’s graveyard.

“We enjoy this not for the (attention), but just to be able to help people and be there with them,” Walker said.

Before Sgt. Artlip’s gravestone was moved from its empty home in Beloit to Roscoe, his grave was marked with a stone inscribed with the initials “B.S.P.” for buried state pauper.

“He’s not here anymore. He doesn’t know what’s going on,” Artlip said. “But it’s important to our family.”

During the dedication ceremony, Artlip held up his great-great-grandfather’s journal.

“After reading this, I know he is with Jesus,” Artlip said. “He doesn’t (write) about death, war, unhappiness or disease.”

Members of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War John A. Logan Camp #26 in Rockford helped provide an authentic memorial ceremony for Sgt. Artlip.

Camp Commander Terry Dyer said providing these memorial services is “most important” for the patriotic and educational organization.

“This is what we were told to keep green in our minds: To always honor the veterans of this war,” Dyer said. “Their memories can never be repaid for what they did for this country. We were not the United States prior to the Civil War.”

©2018 Rockford Register Star, Ill.
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