Gravestone dedicated to US Civil War veteran, 101 years after his burial in London
By CHRISTOPHER DENNIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 28, 2019
LONDON – A lone bugler played taps on Saturday in a London cemetery as, more than 100 years after his death, a headstone was dedicated to the memory of a soldier who fought in the U.S. Civil War.
Seth Watson Herrick served in the 2nd Maryland Eastern Shore Infantry for three years during the war between the states. Born in Maine in 1834, he enlisted in the Union Army when he was 27 and rose through the ranks to become a major. After the war, he moved to the U.K., became a British subject, and died a poor man 101 years ago.
When Herrick was buried at Hendon Cemetery in north London in 1918, no headstone was erected to mark his final resting place. On Saturday, that was put right with the dedication of a simple gravestone, provided by the Veterans’ Affairs Administration in Washington, D.C.
Among the dozens who attended the ceremony were Lt. Col. Jesse F. Moore, Assistant Army Attaché from the U.S. Embassy in London; the mayor of the London borough of Barnet, Reuben Thompstone; British amateur historian Michael Hammerson, who found Herrick’s grave and was instrumental in arranging for a headstone to be erected, and Herrick’s great-grandson, Robert Herrick.
“It was a real honor to have my great-grandfather remembered in this way by this group of people,” said Herrick, who traveled from California to attend the ceremony.
Herrick knew his great-grandfather was buried in London but didn’t know exactly where until Hammerson contacted him to say he had found Maj. Herrick’s burial place. Hammerson has spent years studying Britons who fought in America’s Civil War and has located hundreds of veterans’ graves in England, Scotland and Wales. Only about 20 percent of the burial places have commemorative headstones, he said.
In 2015, Hammerson found the grave in north London of a U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, Maurice Wagg, and arranged for a headstone to be erected at the unmarked site where his body had lain for nearly a century.
Hammerson also found the burial place of German-born American Adam Worth, who, after being erroneously reported as killed in action, left the army for a life of crime. Worth ended up in London, where he died and was buried in a mass pauper’s grave in Highgate Cemetery.
The grave of Ferdinand Thomas Barzetti, who fought under a false name so his mother wouldn’t know he’d enlisted, was also identified by Hammerson, as were the graves of two soldiers who fought in black regiments and four women who served as nurses in America’s bloodiest conflict.
Herrick’s grave was the 250th that Hammerson has located.
“I managed to get hold of a copy of Maj. Herrick’s pension file and it had a claim for the funeral that said where the burial was,” Hammerson explained. “In most cases, it is nowhere that easy.”
Historians estimate that that up to 50,000 men from England, Scotland and Wales served in the American Civil War, mainly on the Union side.
“One is always pleased ... being able to identify them and let the local community know,” Hammerson said. “On the whole, [the community] seems to be interested to find out that they have a Civil War veteran, and that can be a focus for historical and educational activities.”
The gravestone of Union Army Maj. Seth Watson Herrick at Hendon Cemetery in north London is seen after a dedication ceremony held Saturday, July 27, 2019. Herrick, who served in the 2nd Maryland Eastern Shore Infantry for three years during the Civil War and became a British citizen afterward, was buried 101 years ago without a headstone.
CHRISTOPHER DENNIS/STARS AND STRIPES