BY ED COLEMAN
During the American Civil War, an estimated 10,000 men and women from what then were the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, served in Union and Confederate forces.
This figure may be an exaggeration – there are even higher estimates, if you include the remainder of Canada. Exact numbers will never be known, but over 100 Nova Scotians fought in the war between the States, most of them on the Union side in the 20th Maine Regiment. Many of these Nova Scotians hailed from the Annapolis Valley.
For the most part, Civil War participants from Nova Scotia remain unrecognized for their service; in many cases, their burial sites are unknown. To rectify this, the 20th Maine Reenactment Infantry Regiment formed in New Brunswick to help preserve the memory of Civil War volunteers. The regiment, which has members here in Kings County, took on the project of identifying Civil War veterans and locating their burial sites in the Atlantic provinces.
The Maritime Civil War Living History Association also participated in the search for gravesites of Civil War vets in Atlantic Canada. Association member Terry Middleton says, when the search began, they were aware of only seven veterans. After several years of searching, the association located over 100 gravesites through many different ways, Middleton says, but the main avenues were census and cemetery records, genealogical societies and the internet.
Since they began honoring civil war vets, Middleton says, the association, through the 20th Maine Reenactment Regiment, has “performed about 20 graveside services in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” reenactments of graveside services held during the Civil War. Regiment reenactors salute by firing volleys with black powder muskets. Plaques with the letters GAR, signifying the Grand Army of the Republic, are planted at the graves. A chaplain also performs a reading, repeating the same ceremony, word for word, conducted over Union soldiers.
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Just such a ceremony, with the reenactors dressed in authentic period uniforms of the Union Army, will be conducted June 12 at the graves of four Kings County veterans of the Civil War.
At noon, members of the 20th Maine (No. 1 Company of New Brunswick) will reenact the traditional Civil War memorial service at the grave of Ardent Calvin Tupper in Scots Bay. The unveiling of a monument donated by a Kentville business, the White Family Funeral Home, will follow. Ardent Tupper was born in Scots Bay in 1843. He volunteered for service with the 20th Maine, mustering when he was 21. During his service, he carried a diary measuring about the size of a deck of cards, noting in it, among his many adventures, he was present at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. After the war, Tupper lived in Scots Bay until his death in 1917. His family still has his diary.
Following the ceremony at Scots Bay, members of the 20th Maine will proceed to Chipman Corner, north of Kentville, to honor a Centreville native, Civil War veteran William Martin Kinsman, for a 1:30 p.m. service. Kinsman was born in Centreville in 1838. Jamie Rose, one of his descendants, says “wanderlust took Kinsman to the States, where he joined the American army nine months before the Civil War began.” Kinsman served in the 1st Massachusetts Light Artillery through the entire war, returning to Kings County in 1865. The war took a toll on Kinsman, Jamie Rose says, and he returned in ill health, dying in his early 40s.
Another service will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the grave of a black Civil War veteran, Ben Jackson, in the Stoney Hill Baptist Church in Lockhartville.
Of the four Civil War veterans being honored, Jackson is probably the best known. Lockhartville is believed to be the birthplace of Jackson, hailed as a Civil War hero. Hantsport historian Joey St. Clair Patterson says Jackson served in the Union navy for “one year and 12 days,” fighting in several sea battles. In one battle, Patterson says, Jackson grabbed a live shell that landed on his ship and threw it overboard, “thereby saving the ship as well as many lives.” Jackson was awarded the Civil War Campaign Medal and received a pension the remainder of his life. A memorial stone honoring Jackson will be placed at his grave during the service.
A concluding ceremony will take place at the Hantsport Riverside Cemetery beside the grave of Dr. Frederic Burgess. Burgess was born on the Kempt Shore in 1841. He was studying at Harvard for a medical degree when the Civil War began, and he joined up as an assistant surgeon - his class was graduated early to supply the Union Army with doctors After the war, he returned here and served the Cheverie-Hantsport area as a doctor until his death in 1908.
Meanwhile, the search is ongoing for the graves of other Kings County men who served in Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.