How did Post 187 in West Virginia use American history to put itself in front of its community?
James E. Marshall Post 187’s page on The American Legion’s Centennial Celebration site includes numerous photos of the post’s involvement in the 2010 reburial of a Civil War Confederate captain, who was originally buried in an unmarked grave after his 1864 death in the Battle of Winfield.
Past Post Commander Dan Chandler tells the story. "In September 2010, Ronnie Matthews, a member of Post 187, asked our post if we would be interested in participating in the reburial of Capt. Phillip J. Thurmond. Matthews is the circuit clerk for Putnam County and a former employee of Chapman Funeral Home, which handled in the recovery of Capt. Thurmond. We all agreed that it would be an honor to be a part of this historical event. The captain was reburied beside the historical Hoge House, the first brick house in Winfield, and our Legionnaires formed a line between the house and burial site and served as honor chaperones for the event.
"The reburial took place on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2010, 146 years after his first burial less than 75 yards away from his new plot. Civil War re-enactment units from Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia participated. The processional left the funeral home at noon and proceeded one mile to the Putnam County Court House complex. It consisted of bagpipers, a riderless horse with boots reversed in stirrups, followed by a mule-drawn wagon with Thurmond’s remains. Matthews walked beside the mules in a time-period tuxedo and stovepipe hat, a horse-drawn wagon carrying family members, a horse-drawn cannon and mourners. Also present were Sons of the Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, of Border Rangers Chapter 2580. Ladies in mourning followed Capt. Thurmond’s remains.
"He was buried in a pine coffin (made by Putnam County Career Center) and draped with the Third National Flag, the flag of the Confederacy in 1864. Chapman Funeral Home furnished the steel vault. The honor guard remained by his side until the reburial was completed. The new marker was donated by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Wreaths were presented by several groups. A rifle and cannon salute was given, and ladies in mourning made a presentation of flowers at the gravesite. Capt. Thurmond’s great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Cynthia Hayes of Milton, W.Va., was presented the folded Confederate flag. The playing of Taps ended the service.
"The participation of Post 187 exposed our members to more than 3,500 people in attendance, including veterans, schoolchildren and all ages in the community. It was a beautiful autumn day, clear blue skies with a temperature of 70 degrees. It really gave a sense of going back in time with all the re-enactors present. Our post members mingled with the crowd after the proceedings, and came away with a feeling of pride and thanking the Almighty that our country survived the Civil War.
"Our members ran into teachers who asked if we could come to their schools and tell about our military experiences. The day also landed us at two churches in the community for Veterans Day programs. Our post is committed to telling our story, of letting the younger generations know our country’s past history and how our members helped write some of the pages of our history."
Find more Legion stories at www.legion.org/centennial.