‘Today we will right that wrong’

Two 19th-century veterans get headstones

CONSTANTINE TOWNSHIP — “Today we are honoring the memory of two men who answered the call to serve their country,” Jon Mieras, service officer of the Constantine American Legion Post #223, told the audience at a gravestone dedication service for Pvt. Stephen Corwin and Pvt. Augustus Smith Sunday, Oct. 16 at Brick Chapel Cemetery. “Men who suffered the privations of war to preserve this Union of States and returned home to peacefully live out their lives. Men who through reasons lost to the passing of time were buried in this cemetery without gravestones to mark their resting places to be forgotten for almost one hundred years. Today we will right that wrong and will honor these brave men as should have been done all those years ago.”
Corwin was born in Wayne County, N.Y., in 1818. By 1855 he was living in Brady Township. Here he was a farmer and married Catherine Cole on Dec. 17, 1855. Catherine passed away shortly after their marriage. Corwin then moved to Mendon and married Mary Butts on Nov. 16, 1858. He had at least four children with his first two wives. Mary also passed away at a young age. Corwin married for a third time; his third wife was Lucinda Forman and they had two sons, Edwin and Robert, and a daughter, Hattie Mae.
He enlisted in Co K, 11th Michigan Cavalry and was mustered into service in October 1863. His unit was attached to District of Lexington, Ky., 23rd Army Corps, Army of the Ohio, to April 1864. First Brigade, First Division, District of Kentucky, 5th Division, 23rd Army Corps, Department of the Ohio, to August 1864. Fourth Brigade, District of Kentucky, Department of the Ohio to February 1865. Second Brigade, Cavalry Division, District of East Tennessee, Department of the Cumberland, to July 1865. His regiment was complimented by Gen. Burbridge for gallant conduct in cutting its way through greatly superior numbers when completely surrounded by the forces of Gen. Cerro Gordo Williams.
Corwin sustained a broken hip and leg during his time in the service, was discharged because of a disability at Camp Nelson, Ky. on Dec. 23, 1864. He was granted a pension in 1893 and died in April 1899.
Smith was born in Germany, the son of Philip H. and Mary M. (Stasinger) Smith.
He enlisted in the Third U.S. Dragoons, a regiment Congress authorized in March 1833 to supplement the two regiments of Dragoons maintained by the standing army. The Dragoons were composed of soldiers who could ride to battle and fight either on horse or on foot and were utilized primarily as a form of mounted infantry. This was intended to be an elite unit, and was recruited from a better class than the rest of the Army, throughout the different states. The regiment has a history in the United States Army that dates back to May 19, 1846, when it was constituted in the Regular Army as the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen at Jefferson Barracks, Mo.
After Smith mustered out of the Army he settled in Constantine and became a farmer. He married Philipea Mabes, and was the father of five children: Christ, Emma, William, Mennie and a child who died in infancy. Smith died on Oct. 9, 1899.
Larry Money, Michigan State Commander of the American Legion, said “we love our freedom and appreciate all those who fought to preserve it.” He expressed hope that in 150 years volunteers would look on his aging headstone and if it needs to be replaced, they would do it “because I served in the U.S. Army.”
Mieras said there were very few instances when American were united for a common good, and this was one of them.”
Richard Denney, commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War March to the Sea Camp #135, led a memorial dedication service which included placing an evergreen wreath as a symbol of undying love for comrades in the war, a rose as a symbol of purity, a laurel wreath as a symbol of victory and a flag on behalf of the Grand Republic.
“Let us cherish their examples as patriots and defenders of things they believed to be right,” he said.
The Michigan Army National Guard Honor Guard and Post #223 performed military honors.
Anne Davis and Jan Northrup of the LaGrange de LaFayette chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Tri-State Genealogical Society did the research on the two men. Rebecca Shank of the Abiel Fellows DAR chapter assisted the LaGrange chapter with the floral presentation. Rev. Ed McCutchan of Constantine United Methodist Church provided the invocation.
National Veterans Service Officer Charles Klechak, St. Joseph County Veterans Service Officer Stoney Summey, Pete Davis and GreenMark Equipment, and Chuck Snyder were integral in securing the stones and getting them in place.
Elena Meadows can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or news@threeriversnews.com.

Three Rivers Commercial-News

124 North Main Street
Box 130
Three Rivers, MI 49093

Telephone: 269-279-7488
Fax: 269-279-6007
General email: info@threeriversnews.com