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Dedication ceremony held for Virginian buried in Illinois

Posted on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 8:54 am

Suzie and Jeff Cheeks of Gettysburg stand in their Civil War garb while honoring Virginia infantryman Private A.K. Bryant at his grave in Illinois.

A ceremony to dedicate a military tombstone marking the grave of Private A.K. Bryant of the 50th Virginia Infantry was held on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29. The dedication at the small Bock Cemetery near the Illinois/Indiana state line opened with the unveiling of the stone. Two of the Confederate veteran’s descendants, Renie Latoz and Sandy McElroy, removed a family heirloom quilt to reveal the newly placed stone.

The ceremony was presented by the Ward Hill Lamon Civil War Roundtable and Illiana Civil War Historical Society. First National CSA and USA Flags were placed, two handfuls of soil from Gettysburg where Private Bryant had marched (by permission from private property) and flower petals were strewn on the grave by Rhea Weatherford and Suzie Cheeks. A wreath and flowers were presented by the CWRT. A commemorative medallion minted by David Tatum, Jr. of Virginia was placed on the headstone by 9-year-old Duncan Auter. A scripture reading was given by Tara Auter, and Larry Weatherford presented the Dedicatory Remarks.

“It was a little eerie,” Auter said, “as Larry was talking about Gettysburg, a burst of wind came through at the perfect moment and a medallion on the page marker in the 1862 Bible I was holding suddenly flew off the end of the fabric marker in the direction of the stone.”

A three- volley salute was presented by an Honor Guard of reenactors dressed in blue and gray, commanded by Eugene Bencomo. The names of eleven other veterans buried at the small cemetery were read, and another volley was fired in their honor.

Suzie and Jeff Cheeks of Gettysburg, who are members of the Illinois groups took part in the event, and also represented Civil War Historical Impressions, a group which features Living History presentations at Gettysburg and other Eastern battlefields and locations. Harry Sonntag, founder of CWHI, said, “We were pleased to have our members reach out to honor this Virginian who traveled west with his family after the War.”

Weatherford said that more dedications are planned for the late summer and fall. Those will include stones for an African-American Civil War soldier who stayed in the Army after the War to serve as a Buffalo Soldier, an Illinois Union Colonel, and another Virginian who was at Gettysburg.

-By Tara Auter

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