CHELSEA — Less than a mile from Togus National Cemetery is another grave site where more than 40 Civil War veterans are buried.

The gravestones in Riverside Cemetery look haphazardly placed, with some backwards and others ajar — a contrast to the neat rows of stones lining the Togus cemetery.

The soldiers in Riverside Cemetery were honorably discharged from the military with disabilities, but they were later kicked out of Togus medical facility for various indiscretions: drunkenness, not paying bills, associating with notorious women.

The veterans never had military funerals, but thanks to some dedicated volunteers, they’ll all have American flags beside their graves for Memorial Day.

Libby Doak and Sharon Burns said they’ve spent the last couple of years researching the veterans in the Chelsea cemeteries, gathering records and stories of the men.

The two women are on a first-name basis with the buried veterans, sharing tales about them like they were old friends.

“What they went through, the lives they lived, that needs to be remembered,” said Doak, 60, of Augusta. “These guys, OK, maybe they kicked up their heels a little, but they still served honorably. They suffered. They also received disabilities in the war. And they need to be remembered.”

Doak said they noticed the Civil War-era military graves while visiting some of the cemeteries in Chelsea, and they wondered why the soldiers weren’t in the Togus cemetery.

Their search took them through local records, the state archives and eventually to the historian of military cemeteries in Washington, D.C.

They found records from the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers that lists all the soldiers buried in Chelsea and their military records.

Doak and Burns found history books describing funerals given to Civil War veterans at Togus, featuring a brass band, 40 marching fellow soldiers and an honor guard firing a military salute.

“Our guys got a pauper’s funeral, and they were probably lucky if one or two people came to their funeral,” Doak said. “And that’s really a sad thing for us.”

“That’s what pulls at your heartstrings,” added Burns, 74. “It is just a sad piece of history.”

Burns, of Chelsea, is on the town’s Cemetery Committee.

Doak said they plan to continue their research and eventually map out the plots of all 13 of the found cemeteries in Chelsea. She said there are records for 15 cemeteries, but the other two haven’t been found.

Another small cemetery in Chelsea has graves of veterans from the Revolutionary War that people didn’t even know about before, Doak said.

She said they still need to do more cleaning of the graves, and they would like to have some of the stones reset.

“Our bad boys deserve a flag,” Doak said as she patted one of the gravestones.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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