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Lone Arkansan Gets New Headstone In Fredericksburg
Scott C. Boyd
- (August 2007) FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Pvt. Stephen R. Marchman was long forgotten after his death and burial in Fredericksburg on June 28, 1861, until Roy B. Perry Jr. discovered something on Memorial Day in 2003 that led him to the Arkansas soldier.
Perry, dressed in a Confederate uniform, was playing Taps at the conclusion of the ceremony at the Confederate Cemetery in Fredericksburg. As he walked back to the crowd from his post in a remote corner of the cemetery he tripped over a broken headstone.
He noticed several broken and neglected stones. "I went back to the cemetery and cleaned around the stone markers and wrote down the names of the Confederate dead. From then on I made it a point to find out all that I could about these men," Perry said in an e-mail.
When comparing the index of graves at Confederate Cemetery and adjoining City Cemetery with the actual grave markers, Perry discovered at least 10 unmarked Confederate soldiers' graves. One of them held Pvt. Marchman's remains.
Marchman's military service was brief. After he joined the men of the Clark County (Ark.) Volunteers, they rendezvoused on May 8, 1861, in Little Rock to form Co. B of the 1st Arkansas Infantry Regiment.
Sent east by train, the regiment received its uniforms and guns at Lynchburg, Va., on May 19. Their next stop was Camp Jackson, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg.
Disease took a heavy toll on the defenders of Fredericksburg. One casualty was Pvt. Marchman, who died in a local hospital on June 28. He missed his regiment's first big battle on July 21 at First Manassas, and may not have ever seen or exchanged fire with an enemy soldier.
Marchman was buried in City Cemetery the day he died. The wooden marker for his grave was lost to the elements over the years.
After Perry obtained Marchman's compiled service record from the National Archives, he was ready to submit the paperwork for a free engraved headstone from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Unfortunately, Perry learned that cemetery policy required new stones to match the existing ones in size, shape and type of rock. The government stones did not meet these criteria.
Perry was philosophical about this obstacle. "After thinking about it, I realized that they only wanted to protect the integrity of the old setting of the original stones."
Fortune smiled when one of the customers at the Fredericksburg dry cleaning shop Perry runs made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Local businessman Brian Dyer offered to donate 10 stones cut from Georgia marble in the required size and shape if Perry could raise the $400 required to ship them to Fredericksburg. He raised the money through the generosity of local Confederate heritage groups.
Marchman's headstone arrived just in time for Memorial Day weekend. On the Friday of that weekend, Perry and four comrades placed Marchman's new stone marker at his grave. The luminaria program at dusk the next day was preceded by a brief ceremony to dedicate the new headstone.
After giving a brief speech introducing Pvt. Marchman to the assembled crowd, this writer read a poem about the soldier penned by Perry. The last stanza:
As June 28th showed forth its new day / History records Stephen Marchman passed away. / And was buried in the city beside his friends, / Never to see service, nor see home again.
Following three musket volleys by a squad of 21st-century men dressed in gray, Perry played Taps for this now-remembered 19th- century soldier.
Perry plans to place headstones for all the soldiers with unmarked graves in the cemetery, as well as to make it easier for visitors to find the graves of the five Confederate generals buried in City Cemetery.