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Maine city rededicates corrected gravestone of Civil War Medal of Honor recipient

By STEVE SHERLOCK | Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine | Published: October 15, 2017

AUBURN, Maine (Tribune News Service) — Company F of the 19th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment was on the left flank of the Union lines during the Battle of Bristoe Station in Virginia on Oct. 14, 1863, during the Civil War.

With the Confederate lines faltering in front of him, Cpl. Moses C. Hanscom from the Danville neighborhood of Auburn moved in and captured the colors of the 26th North Carolina regiment.

That effort earned Hanscom the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor. He was presented his medal by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1864.

Hanscom's gravestone overlooking the Androscoggin River at Oak Hill Cemetery in Auburn noted he was a Medal of Honor recipient, but the government misspelled Hanscom's last name as "Hansom."

The city of Auburn rededicated his corrected gravestone Saturday on the 154th anniversary of his heroic act during the Battle of Bristoe Station.

Several dozen people attended the graveside ceremony, including three of Hanscom's descendants.

"I was really surprised there are so many people here," said Carol May, Hanscom's great-grandniece. "I thought there would be maybe five of us standing here admiring the new stone."

May, who traveled from California for the ceremony, was joined by cousins Sharon Gray of Turner and Jean Millett of Norway. The two Maine cousins and May had never met before Saturday's service.

Capturing the opposing force's colors or flags was a significant achievement during the Civil War, May said in her remarks during the ceremony.

"In those days they did not have radios, so they followed the flag," May said. "The words 'rally around the flag' was not just an expression. If the flag was lost, the troops would be in disarray."

It is unclear when during the skirmish Hanscom captured the flag. The one-day battle was such a devastating loss for the South that Gen. Robert E. Lee surveyed the site after the battle and reportedly told one of his generals, "Bury these poor men and let us say no more about it."

Hanscom was a half-brother to May's great-grandfather, who moved to California in 1889. May knew nothing about her great-grandfather's half-brother until about 20 years ago while researching her genealogy.

She visited the grave in 2000 and discovered the misspelled name but thought there was nothing she could do about it.

An employee of the Auburn Parks Department also noticed the error several years ago and told his supervisor, Leroy Walker, who was about to retire from the department.

Walker, now an Auburn city councilor, contacted the federal government to request a replacement marker. It arrived after Walker left and remained in the corner of the garage at Pettengill Park until it was discovered a couple of months ago.

May's Maine cousins were aware of Hanscom's exploits, but they did not know until recently where he was buried.

The ceremony included the reading of letters sent by Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Tim Gallant, Poliquin's representative, presented the family with an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol.

Hanscom survived the war but died in 1873 while studying to be a clergyman, like his father. His Medal of Honor is on display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

ssherlock@sunjournal.com

©2017 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
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Cpl. Moses C. Hanscom's corrected gravestone.
CITY OF AUBURN, MAINE

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