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West Virginia Veteran Is Reburied With Military Honors

Scott Cameron

- (August 2007) HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - When Roland Gillispie's body was committed to the earth in 1911, no one could imagine that his eternal rest would be disturbed in less than a hundred years and that he would be buried again in 2007.

Last year the state of West Virginia began surveying a new highway route through the mostly abandoned Gillispie/Roach Cemetery in Putnam County.

After finding Roland Gillispie's bronze marker in the overgrown burial ground the West Virginia Division of Highways did some research with local genealogical societies and contacted Joyce Saunders, his great-granddaughter. Saunders lives in South Point, Ohio, and she knew about Roland but didn't know where he was buried.

Roland Gillispie was a young farmer when he joined the Union Army in 1861. He first served in the 8th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, and continued with them when the regiment was mounted as the 7th West Virginia Cavalry.

Gillispie spent much of his service as a private in Co. F operating in the Kanawha Valley. Learning about Roland's grave motivated Saunders to locate his pension records. One detail she learned was that her great-grandfather had been shot in the right leg during a skirmish at Salem, Va., in 1864.

He served with honor and returned to farming after the war. He was 75 when he died in 1911.

The state offered to move Gillispie (along with some 40 other unidentified or unclaimed remains) to Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington. Joyce Saunders decided that her Civil War ancestor needed a proper send-off for his second burial. For that she contacted the Cadot-Blessing Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, based in Gallipolis, Ohio.

A lot happened in the months that passed between finding Gillispie's grave and interring him at Spring Hill. Saunders obtained a 34-star U.S. flag for the ceremony and watched as Roland's remains were exhumed.

Amish carpenters built a simple pine casket. Arrangements were made to hire a vintage horse-drawn hearse. Members of the Cadot-Blessing Camp began to practice carrying the empty casket and folding the flag in the city park at Gallipolis, attracting lots of attention from curious passers-by.

On May 12the Gillispie family, reenactors and the public came together for Roland Gillispie's reburial. The ceremony began at the Ferrell-Chambers Funeral Home in Huntington when the SUV camp's six-man honor guard carried the casket outside to the hearse.

Led by fife, drum, and flagbearers, Union and Confederate soldiers marched together at the head of the procession. Two horses pulled the glass-sided hearse through the street. The honor guard and ladies in mourning dress followed.

At the top of a hill a mile from the funeral home the procession entered the cemetery gates. The marching soldiers opened ranks to let the hearse pass through to the gravesite. The honor guard removed the casket from the hearse and carried it to the grave, remaining at attention there during the funeral ceremony.

Cadot-Blessing Camp officers saluted Gillispie with the SUVCW's 1890 ritual for the burial of the dead. Members of the Sons of Union Veterans and Sons of Confederate Veterans presented wreaths. Historian Robert Leith spoke about the service of the 7th West Virginia Cavalry and Gillispie's great-great-grandson Christopher Saunders read his eulogy.

The honor guard folded the flag and presented it to Saunders as a fiddler played Amazing Grace. The ceremony closed with a rifle and cannon salute and the playing of Taps. The ladies in mourning placed flowers on the casket before it was lowered into the new grave.

Roland Gillispie is safe now among his peers, for Spring Hill Cemetery is the last resting place of more than 200 veterans of the Civil War. He lies close to the grave of his cavalry commander, Bvt. Brig. Gen. John Hunt Oley.

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