HUMBOLDT — One of the most prominent grave sites at Humboldt’s Mount Hope Cemetery now has a headstone.
At a somber ceremony Saturday, members of Humboldt’s Camp 9 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and descendants of the late John W. Howard dedicated a headstone in the Civil War soldier’s memory.
The ceremony caps a monthslong effort by local historian Carolyn Whitaker who had discovered that Howard, who served with the famed Company I of the Michigan Brigade Sharpshooters during the Civil War, was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery with his wife, Jane, but neither had a headstone.
Whitaker found a descendant of Howard living in Oklahoma, met with him in person during Humboldt’s Civil War Days celebration in June, and saw that the tombstone was erected earlier this fall. Camp 9 members paid the fee for the marking of the grave.
Howard was born in Ohio, the oldest of six. He enlisted in the Civil War in 1862. He and his fellow Company I members would be paraded through Washington, D.C., when not on the way to battle to show off their marksmanship skills, Whitaker noted.
In order to be a part of the elite unit, soldiers had to hit targets from 600 feet while at rest, or from 300 feet if shooting freehand — an amazing display of accuracy considering the weapons of the time.
Howard’s final battle with the Confederates in Virginia in 1864 was a testament to his duty under duress, noted great-great-grandson Gary Howard of Texas.
Gary Howard read an affidavit about John Howard’s final battle.
Without time to reload his weapon, Howard went after the enemy with his bare hands. He wound up being shot in both thighs, badly hobbled and taken prisoner, where he suffered from scurvy during his yearlong prison sentence. He was paroled at about the time the war ended.
He and wife Jane came to southeast Kansas in the 1890s, where Jane’s sister had lived.
Several descendants still live in the Humboldt area, and scattered elsewhere in Collinsville, Okla.
AS PART of the ceremony, Randy Downey, Humboldt Camp 9 member, laid a rose on the newly planted headstone. Frank Schomaker placed an evergreen wreath and Eddie Henderson a grapevine wreath.
Howard’s descendants, Dennis Shoemaker, Bill Worstell and Carol Worstell were presented a flag and flowers, which they, too, placed at the gravesite.
“It is necessary that we shoudl leave Comrade Howard to rest in honor,” Chaplain Conrad Fisher said. “Over him will bend the arching sky, as it did when he pitched his tent, or lay down by the way, weary and footsore, or on the battlefield for an hour’s sleep. As he was then so he is still in the hands of almighty God, the Heavenly Father. Let us also then remember those honored dead who did not return to hearth and home, but lie in resting places known only to God.”
Members of Chanute’s American Legion Color Guard rode motorcycles adorned with American flags to lead the procession to the gravesite. Chanute Spur & Saddle Club members, led by David Gant, followed the procession, featuring Howard’s relatives who attended Saturday’s ceremony.