Recently I was pulled back into that time in our history known as the Civil War. The vehicle for my journey was watching, on PBS television, the 25th anniversary of Ken Burns’ stirring history of that period. To see the photographs of the living and the dead, of the men and women who survived during that horrible time was overwhelming. One of the last episodes showed Richmond VA after the bombing by Union forces and Atlanta GA after Sherman’s army marched through. Dresden Germany or Coventry England bombed during World War II are all that come close. The total destruction of the Confederacy not even 200 years ago, should not be forgotten as we continue to wend our way through racial unrest. The Confederate flag was finally laid to rest in South Carolina this year. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in 1861 and it was there the firing on Fort Sumter took place.
We don’t want to fan old embers or stir up old hatreds, but we do need to remember what it was all about. Too many folks today think history began with their lifetime. We live so much in the moment with our twitters, tweets, and texts, that we fail to see the broader picture and why history is so important to understanding our time and place.
In the Dawson County Cemetery there are at least four graves of Civil War veterans. Men who probably stayed in the army and then came west to fight in the Indian Wars. Eventually they mustered out and stuck around and for some reason they ended up in Glendive.
C N Jordan served in Company B of the 3rd Massachusetts infantry. This was a volunteer militia called up to serve for 90 days to guard coastal ports. He served in 1864. Sargent Joseph W. Allen served in Company F of the 1st Kansas Infantry. The group served from 1861-1865. Company F was composed of men from Douglas and Shawnee Counties, Kansas. A volunteer militia, they served in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and were part of Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign.
William Kinney, Company H 5th Michigan Cavalry was a blacksmith. For a time this group was led by General George A. Custer. The company saw heavy action at Gettysburg, 2nd Bull Run and the final surrender at Appomattox.
We know a little more about the fourth man Thomas E. Kean, Company B 7th Pennsylvania cavalry. This group was in the war from 1861-1865 and saw action at Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain and the Siege of Atlanta among other battles. Thomas Kean was one of the earliest landholders in Glendive. Born in 1848 in New York, he ran away from home to enlist as a bugler for the Union Army. In 1872, Kean, with his regiment which was part of the survey party for the Northern Pacific Railroad line, travelled up the Yellowstone Valley as far as the Powder River. After seeing the country, Kean filed an early claim on the present site of Glendive. Before his 1876 discharge in Dakota Territory, he served as a steward at the Officer’s Club at Ft. Lincoln and as an army cook at Standing Rock. An overland trip to Miles City in 1879 brought Kean back to eastern Montana.
Kean’s life in Glendive began with his arrival in 1880. He worked first as foreman of a painting gang in the Yellowstone Division of the Northern Pacific. Later, he served two years as public administrator and one year as undersheriff. In 1910, he was elected president of the Scandinavian-German State Bank.
Interesting how each generation has its wars that mark those who fought. All too often they fade in memory as new conflicts are born. But war takes its toll and to each veteran we owe a stubborn loyalty to remember them and what they fought for.