By Jon McGinty
Every year since 1957, patriotic and fraternal organizations have gathered in Springfield, Ill., on the weekend nearest April 15 to commemorate the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death in 1865. Ceremonies are held in Oak Ridge Cemetery at Lincoln’s tomb and include members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) and the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S. (MOLLUS).
This year marks the 149th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination and occurs during other sesquicentennial events commemorating the Civil War. Members of Logan Camp No. 26, SUVCW, which meets monthly in the Post Room at Rockford’s Memorial Hall, have provided the Honor Guard for these ceremonies since 2010.
These members of the Sons of Veterans Reserve (SVR) wear authentic uniforms which replicate those worn by the Rockford Zouaves, one of the first volunteer units from Illinois to enlist and be sent into battle during the Civil War. Local members include: Steve Aarli, Leonard Cassaro, Hugh DeGroff, Terry Dyer, David Eisele, Steve Haight, Bill Johnson, Tom Oestreicher and Phil Thompson.
Following the ceremonies in Springfield, several groups proceed to nearby Petersburg, where the founder of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson, is buried, to conduct commemorative services at Rose Hill Cemetery. Stephenson founded the veterans’ organization in 1866, and it soon became the largest such group in the country.
A fund-raising campaign is under way to finance the reconstruction of the Stephenson gravesite. Local historian Terry Dyer has been instrumental in organizing and promoting this statewide effort.
From the April 9-15, 2014 issue