By Terry Rogers
On Saturday, November 9 volunteers from the Milford Lions Club along with the General Alfred T.A. Torbert Camp No. 1862 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, spent the day clearing the Union Cemetery, located off of South Rehoboth Boulevard. The small, private cemetery may be accessed through a fence built by the Sons of the Union Veterans at the back of Jor-Lin’s parking lot.
“It was a privately owned cemetery,” explained Marvin Schelhouse, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and an expert on the Civil War. “We took on this project along with the boy scouts a few years ago because the cemetery had become overgrown and neglected.
According to Schelhouse, there are thirteen Civil War and one Spanish-American War veterans buried in the cemetery. The last time anyone was buried there was in 1943, over 60 years ago. Mr. Schelhouse explained that during the time the cemetery was not maintained and some families exhumed the body of their loved one and moved them to Odd Fellows Cemetery, but many left the tombstones behind.
Mr. Schelhouse demonstrated that the Civil War tombstones have the same shield as the Spanish-American War, and to differentiate between the two, the government simply added the words “Span. Am. War” to the bottom of the stone. Mr. Schelhouse pointed out the difference using the tombstone of George L. Hobbs, a Spanish American War veteran buried there, next to Nehemiah Hobbs, who served in Company 1 during the Civil War. Mr. Schelhouse provided many interesting historical facts about some of those buried in the cemetery.
“Nehemiah Hobbs was my great-grandfather, and he was part of Company 1, a unit that was called up when General Early was trying to invade Washington in 1864,” Mr. Schelhouse explained. “It was what was known as a ‘100 Day Regiment,” as they were only called up for 100 days.” Mr. Schelhouse pointed out the tombstone of Henry Paisley, a member of Company 8 Delaware who was stationed at Fort Delaware as guards during the war. Joseph Richter fought, buried at the Union Cemetery, was involved in the bloodiest battle of the war, the Battle of Antietam. W.H. Voss, who served in Company 3 Delaware, was at Appomattox just before General Robert E. Lee surrendered and was wounded in the battle.
Captain William H. Harris and his wife, Isabella H. Harris are both buried in the cemetery as well. Captain Harris, who was born in New York in 1842, served with the 193rd New York Infantry, Company K, and on the 1880 census is listed as a fruit dealer. He died in 1895 in Milford, where it is assumed he moved after the war. Many of the tombstones in the cemetery are inscribed with “Company G,” which Mr. Schelhouse explains was a Milford unit during the Civil War.
“There is really no way to tell if these men died during the war or were simply buried here after their deaths, as the government places veteran stones for any veteran who dies, whether it is in the line of duty or other causes,” Mr. Schelhouse explained.
The Milford Lions Club honored the Milford veterans who served their country by cleaning up the Civil War cemetery and placing flags on each of the graves. According to Milford Historian, Dave Kenton, Thomas Humphreys, who moved to Delaware from Pennsylvania, founded the Union Cemetery. Mr. Humphreys may have been related to Union General Andrew A. Humphreys who led the Union II Corps during Grant’s final attacks in Virginia leading to the events at the Appomattox Court House in April 1865. The Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran’s group was very influential between 1865 and 1910, pushed for the creation of the Union Cemetery. Thomas Humphreys donated the five-acre plot to the group.
A memorial at the entrance to the cemetery shows that Boy Scout Troop 102, along with Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War dedicated the cemetery in honor of the veterans of the Civil War who were buried there. The dedication occurred on June 16, 2001. Milford Parks and Recreation handles mowing and maintenance on the cemetery, although Boy Scouts and other organizations perform clean up projects there on occasion. Mr. Schelhouse explained that four young men became Eagle Scouts due to their work on the cemetery project.