Battle of Richmond mass grave memorial dedicated: ‘Today, we are not forgetting’

Originally published by WEKU.

“When you hear the command, ‘Attention company,’ you come to this position, at attention.”

Members of a firing detail from Kentucky’s Camp 5 of the Sons of Union Veterans, garbed mostly in Union blue, rehearse their movements. John Buckler is the commander of Camp 5.

“As Memorial Day fast approaches, I believe it’s essential that we gather here to remember the soldiers who gave the last full measure to ensure that generations of their countrymen would live free. The words ‘lest we forget’ are used by the Sons of Union Veterans on ribbons, badges and other items. Today, we are not forgetting.”

Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe, a pastor, delivers the invocation.

“We pray that you will encourage the memories in our hearts and minds. As we think of those things that are brought us to where we are. We pray even in this setting for peace on earth.”

On August 30, 1862, in the recently established Richmond Cemetery, peace came only after the third and final stage of a complete Confederate victory at the Battle of Richmond. Battle of Richmond Visitors Center Curator Phillip Seyfrit tells the story of the not so restful resting place.

“The vast majority of those buried here after the battle were moved to two large mass graves in what then was the back of the Richmond cemetery. They were moved here after a period of time.”

Seyfrit explains that two or three years after the Civil War, remains of the Union soldiers were moved from the mass grave to Camp Nelson. He says it’s likely some remains are still in the Kentucky soil here.

“We forever consecrate this ground in their memory and honor. But today we are also doing something else that for those of us in 2024 may be the only opportunity we ever get to do. We are dedicating the newest American Civil War monument in the United States.”

The granite monument is flush to the ground, inscribed with the words, “Site of the Battle of Richmond. UNION MASS GRAVE. 1862-1868.

“Firing detail.”

“Shoulder arms. Ready. Aim. Fire.”


Over the next minute, two more rounds are fired at the site where some of the last shots of the Battle of Richmond rang out.

Camp 5 Chaplain Roger Hurt gives the benediction.

“Thou in thy infinite wisdom raised up men who were ready to do battle and if need be, to die that this country might be preserved.”

Using an electronic insert, Richard Lima bugles taps.

For Seyfrit, it’s the latest chapter of a journey that started when he visited Gettysburg during America’s bicentennial. He’s been battlefield curator in Richmond for 17 years and says what he likes most about the job is meeting visitors.

“It could be just a normal tourist, with a little Civil War interest. Or you can have a descendant of a soldier who might have letters from their soldier from then. And sometimes you get an occasional dignitary, depending on what you want to call a dignitary, but everybody’s important and everybody’s a rockstar.”

As attendees depart, Blythe pauses to discuss the irony of his presence. In 1862, he likely wouldn’t have been a pastor, and the idea of him being mayor might have caused the battle caps of soldiers north and south to spin. Robert Blythe might have been a slave.

“I think yes, indeed, I think there perhaps might have been some, even African Americans who hoped for the day that this day would come. And what I enjoy, what I enjoy, is that there are many who don’t see me as the African American mayor, just the mayor of Richmond, just the mayor of Richmond, and what a blessing.”

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Originally published by WEKU.

Republished with permission.