With the work on my regimental history of the 65th New York volunteers completed, but for fixing some typos and updating a few small things for a 2nd edition of No Flinching From Fire, it seems clear that a continuing connection to the men of the 65th NY is going to be my lot. At least until I start the research for the General John Cochrane biography in earnest (I think not until my retirement starts), it seems that searching out the resting places of the 1st U.S. Chasseurs will be a continuing quest. I do feel strongly that placing flags in honor of these veterans of the worst conflagration in American History, our own Civil War, is a cause worth pursuing. But I also admit the detective work in finding their graves, both in researching online and in driving to and tramping through many beautiful and sometimes largely forgotten cemeteries, is fun for me. And having written a book about their exploits and travails, I feel a connection to them. Most especially, the fact that my daughter Rachel seems, at least for now, to take as much pleasure in this research and in the travels to find these men’s resting places as I do, makes me think we will keep it up.
The trip we took on a Sunday afternoon to Rockland County, just across the Hudson River from us in Westchester, was another surprisingly fruitful one. Rachel’s own research with the 65th NY regimental roster and on Findagrave.com has located over 120 Chasseur graves around the country to this point, and two epic trips to upstate New York in recent months have allowed us to visit many of them. Whether we get to see the several graves in Michigan is open to question. But Rockland County is local for us, and the fact that Private Edward Weiant’s grave at Mount Repose cemetery in Haverstraw is right next to Saint Peter’s cemetery, where my grandfather Captain Michael Barry is buried along with my grandmother Loretta Barry, made a trip there even more desirable. Rachel had never visited the graves of her great-grandparents, and I had not been there since childhood.
We had a photo of Private Weiant’s grave in Mount Repose cemetery for a Findagrave volunteer. But no gravesite was noted, and it was clear from my perusal of Google maps that the cemetery was vast. I thought this grave would certainly take time to find. However, there were hints in the graves and marks in the background of the photo. We drove and walked for about ten to fifteen minutes around Mount Repose. Leave it to Rachel to find the large and notable obelisk with the unique shape at its top which was in the Findagrave photo background. And what I thought was a drainage ditch in the photo may well have been the roadbed of the very cemetery path we were on. We figured we had located the correct general area; after that it was a mere minute or two before we had Private Weiant’s grave located. Weiant served from January to August 1863, and thus likely fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, two of the battles where the 65th were at key spots and took casualties.
After our surprisingly easy locating of Private Weiant, we headed north for a few minutes to Stony Point. Scene of a successful Revolutionary War battle against the British; it was the gravesite of 65th New York soldier Corporal Leonard Brooks we were after. Brooks, who had enlisted in July 1861, when the Chasseurs were first organized, served until November 1862, when he died in a hospital in Washington, D.C. Buried in the beautiful Mount Rest church cemetery, surrounded by woods and steep hills, his resting place was a scenic one. We parked next to the First United Methodist Church, abutting the cemetery, and, using our Findagrave photograph, managed to locate Brooks’ gravesite in a minute or two. Having forgotten my phone in the car, I walked back up the hill to grab it so I could get a photo. As I got back to the car, Rachel called me and gestured in a by now familiar wave down to where she was. In Arlington National Cemetery, upon discovering Division commander General Frank Wheaton’s grave, she had waved me over in the same way. I knew it was a good thing. Sure enough, she had discovered the grave of Private James Leet, who had served three years with the Chasseurs from August 1861 to September 1864. This was an unforeseen bonus of the trip.
We had found our two Chasseur graves, along with my grandfather Michael Barry’s, and here was an unforeseen bonus. And it was a beautiful, sunny, cool early fall day. The Mount Rest cemetery crawled up the hillside into the woods, with some few graves actually now within the woods along the cemetery’s fringe. With several more Civil War veterans’ graves visible around the cemetery, marked by Grand Army of the Republic flagholders holding American flags, and with the afternoon still young despite us already finding all the gravesites we had come for plus one, Rachel and I decided to walk around the lovely cemetery to see what else we would find. After finding several civil war veterans’ graves, and walking up to the edges of the cemetery where it abutted the woods, Rachel and I made our way back down on our way back to the car. With experience we knew that any veterans’ graves marked with flags were worth checking out. Heading down the hill and almost done, having scouted out graves of veterans of the 95th New York, the 6th Artillery, and a few other New York regiments, Rachel spied another decorated small grave near the woods.
Sure enough, Rachel had found another Chasseur grave! A veteran of the entire service of the Chasseurs, and a musician to boot, Albert Rose achieved “Principal Musician” and veteran status by the time he mustered out. Between our last trip upstate and this brief trip to Rockland County, Rachel was en fuego. I was so glad we decided to do this trip, and that we both sought to walk the rest of the lovely Mount Rest cemetery, as finding not two but four Chasseur graves on this beautiful fall afternoon made the trip well worth it. I am very happy Rachel came along with me again; she has a gift. And she had given me yet another one too.