Abner Delos Austin’s Civil War Memorial Re-dedication Ceremony – A Day to Remember

Today, a memorial service took place at Clarenceville Cemetery in Livonia, Michigan at the gravesite of my Great Great Grandfather and Civil War veteran, Abner Delos Austin (24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Company I). The ceremony was coordinated by local Civil War living historians and was attended by approximately 40 guests along with my husband and my father, Edward V. Austin of Wauseon, Ohio. It was a glorious afternoon that was warm in more ways than one; warm with the Indian summer sun and with the full hearts of everyone who attended.

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Civil War living historians Mike and Karen Gillett take a stroll in Clarenceville Cemetery prior to the start of the ceremony.

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Civil War living historians gather before the start of the event, including some gentlemen sporting the black Hardee hats made famous by my Great Great Grandfather’s regiment, the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, which was part of the Union Army’s Iron Brigade.

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Civil War living historians gather before the start of the event, including some gentlemen sporting the black Hardee hats made famous by my Great Great Grandfather’s regiment, the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, which was part of the Union Army’s Iron Brigade.

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Civil War living historians preparing for the musket volley.

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Civil War-era civilian living historians and lovely ladies Rebecca Assenmacher and Karen Gillett.

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The Livonia Police Department graciously provided us with security and members of the local press were on hand to cover the event. The flag bearers were from the United States Marines Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

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Flag bearers from the United States Marines Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

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Flag bearers from the United States Marines Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

The highlights of the ceremony were the addresses given by two gentlemen who have become dear friends of mine and whom I am very blessed to know. Mike Gillett, Chaplain of the Fort Wayne Battalion, an umbrella group of Michigan Civil War living historians, spoke and provided the prayer. Living historian Dave Tennies, portraying Michigan Senator Jacob Howard, was also a keynote speaker. Both Mike and Dave spoke about Abner as if they knew him personally. Their words were deeply touching.

In many ways, I couldn’t help but sense Abner’s presence while Mike and Dave spoke. It was a wonderful feeling! Surely, if Abner was watching and listening, he was pleased.

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Living historian Dave Tennies, portraying Michigan Senator Jacob Howard, was keynote speaker.

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Living historian Dave Tennies, portraying Michigan Senator Jacob Howard, was keynote speaker.

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Living historian Dave Tennies, portraying Michigan Senator Jacob Howard, providing his keynote address while Mike Gillett, Chaplain of the Fort Wayne Battalion, looks on.

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Mike Gillett, Chaplain of the Fort Wayne Battalion spoke and provided the prayer. Photo courtesy of Bill Bresler.

Also as part of the event, I sang “God Bless America” in honor of my ancestor and recited Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s famous “In Great Deeds Something Abides” address from 1889. The ceremony finale featured a musket volley and a bugler providing a flawless and moving performance of “Taps”. While the bugler played, I re-dedicated the headstone that is shared by Abner and my Great Great Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Turner Austin, and placed a beautiful arrangement of red, white, and blue flowers.

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Yours truly singing “God Bless America”.

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Singing “God Bless America”.

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Reciting Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s famous “In Great Deeds Something Abides” address from 1889.

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Civil War living historians prepare for the musket volley as Livonia Observer photographer Bill Bresler shoots photos.

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Civil War living historians prepare for the musket volley as Livonia Observer photographer Bill Bresler shoots photos.

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Ready, aim, fire! Photo courtesy of Bill Bresler.

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Our bugler plays “Taps”.

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While the bugler played, I re-dedicated the headstone that is shared by Abner and my Great Great Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Turner Austin, and placed a beautiful arrangement of red, white, and blue flowers.

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One local gentleman, a World War II veteran and descendant of Civil War soldier Casey Krueger, read about the ceremony in the Canton Observer newspaper and decided to come out and show his respect. And a wonderful surprise was getting the chance to meet Sue Daniel, chairman of the Livonia Historical Commission, who attended so that she could share with me that Abner’s foster mother, Eliza Shaw Milroy, was part of a prominent 19th century Livonia family and that the Shaw family home is at Greenmead Historical Park in Livonia! She also mentioned that the historical commission is in the process of reading and documenting a Shaw family diary and that she would like to share with me the findings … particularly if there are any mentions of Abner! How exciting!!

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Chatting after the ceremony with Celestine Hollings, past national president of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War (DUVCW) and her son Robert Hollings of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW).

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My father and I met Sue Daniel, chairman of the Livonia Historical Commission, who explained to us that Abner’s foster mother, Eliza Shaw Milroy, was part of a prominent 19th century Livonia family. The Shaw family home is at Greenmead Historical Park in Livonia.

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A happy moment with my Dad after the ceremony.

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Posing for a photo with Dave Tennies.

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With Mike and Karen Gillett.

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With Mike and Karen Gillett.

Words cannot express how honored I am that so many wonderful people would take time out of their busy schedules to memorialize my Great Great Grandfather. To everyone who attended: Mike and Karen Gillett, Dave Tennies, Jim Cary, Ken Collier, Mike Parr, Pam Setla, Rick Danes, Andy Assenmacher, Rebecca Assenmacher, Drew Assenmacher Jr., Sue Daniel, Celestine and Robert Hollings, Bennie Latimer, Bill Bresler, my friends from the 17th, 21st, and 24th Michigan Infantry reenactors, the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Junior ROTC/Marines, Greenmead Historical Museum — and especially my Dad and Jason — thank you for sharing this wonderful day with me. I will never forget it!! I am so blessed!

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Thank you Mike Gillett and Dave Tennies for coordinating this tremendous event in honor of my ancestor. Thanks also to reporter Karen Smith for covering the event and her wonderful story in the Livonia Observer newspaper, with beautiful photos by staff photographer Bill Bresler.

To everyone who made this day possible … THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!!!

“Why we’re here today isn’t because Abner Austin was unique,” Mike said during the memorial ceremony. “Rather, he was pretty typical. His uniqueness comes from the fact that his story is being told. But for those soldiers whose stories have not been told, our goal should be, in the words of Hamlet, that each grave shall have a living monument.”

His name may not appear in most history books but Abner Delos Austin is an American hero who will never be forgotten. In all that I do, I strive to be that living monument!

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Abner Delos Austin’s Civil War Memorial Re-dedication Ceremony can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube. Links to parts one and two are below.



 

2 Responses to “Abner Delos Austin’s Civil War Memorial Re-dedication Ceremony – A Day to Remember

  • Awesome story. Love history of Livonia and this story takes the cake! Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you, Becki. Very glad you enjoyed reading about my ancestor!

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