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Saluting a Civil War Veteran

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Saluting a Civil War Veteran

Civil War reenactors perform a wreath ceremony at Alvin Smith's grave (Akron Beacon Journal)

Akron Beacon Journal | Phil Masturzo

Civil War veteran Alvin C. Smith, who “died in 1948 a few days shy of his 105th birthday,” was eulogized recently during a ceremony at his grave at Mount Peace Cemetery in Akron, Ohio.

Smith, who as a slave was sold for $760.50 and was once traded for a horse, was honored as the last Civil War veteran of Summit County, Ohio.

Jim Carney, Akron Beacon Journal staff writer, included several other poignant comments in his story about the event.

He wrote that Smith “escaped slavery, crossed the Ohio River in 1864 and walked 30 miles to Hillsboro, Ohio, where he joined the Union Army by enlisting in the 27th Colored Infantry, said Jack Bowers of Streetsboro, commander of the General A.C. Voris Camp of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War.”

After the war ended, Smith searched for his mother and siblings, eventually finding them in Kentucky, “​where they were hiding and living in secrecy, unaware that they had been freed as slaves.” He took his family to Akron, where he worked as a plasterer, participated in parades as a war veteran and sang hymns.

At the ceremony, Paul Huff, past commander of the General A.C. Voris Camp of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, told about 15 descendants of Smith gathered at the grave that “Alvin Smith not only fought to preserve our nation” but “ultimately Alvin Smith fought to prove he was worthy of being called a human being.”

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This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She was the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers before she passed away in 2015.