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Visitors to Soldier's Rest are greeted by a new sign; from left, Anne Anderson, Dolores Rogers, Lisa Vega, Barbara Fallon.

SOLDIER'S REST: Rededication of Pine Ridge Cemetery Set Monday

After 144 Years, Gettysburg Hero Birney Finally Gets Headstone in Brooklyn

May 25, 2014       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Just in time for Memorial Day, one of Bay County's Civil War heroes, Capt. James G. Birney IV, finally has a marker on his grave.

"Thank you so much for your effort. My family sends thanks and I'm sure our relatives that have moved on are smiling down on you," Topper Birney e-mailed from Huntsville, Alabama. He is a great-great-great grandson of James G. Birney, grandfather of the Civil War hero.

While Capt. Birney's grave is in Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, there has been a memorial stone for nearly a decade in the old Birney cemetery, Pine Ridge, now to be called Soldier's Rest, to be rededicated on Memorial Day.

A veterans group will kick off the day's events with traditional flag raising and rifle salute at 10:30 a.m. at the cemetery. The veterans rites will be followed by a special program moderated by Dee Dee Wacksman, president of the 7th Michigan Cavalry Civil War Round Table.

The program will begin with choral medley by the Tri-City Chorus of Sweet Adelines at 11 a.m.

Paul Davis and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will conduct a re dedication ceremony at 11:30 a.m. recalling the 1885 installation of the Grand Army of the Republic monument at Soldier's Rest. The monument is the hub of circular rows of graves of Civil War veterans from all over the nation.

Local historian Eric Jylha, retired television broadcaster, has prepared a special presentation on the Gettysburg Address of Abraham Lincoln from 1863 which he will deliver at noon.

The day's activities will culminate with recognition for cemetery volunteer Ron Graham and several groups, including Home Depot and Chemical Bank, that have contributed time, money, equipment and materials to maintenance and improvement of the abandoned cemetery.

The closing ceremony will feature taps by Coast Guardsman Paul Cormier, who has headed Home Depot volunteer work at the cemetery for several years.

Approximately 200 Civil War veterans are buried in the cemetery, most of whom came to Bay City after the war to work in lumbering and died here later.

Also slated for recognition is Jim Petrimoulx, a researcher from the 7th Michigan Cavalry Civil War Round Table, who has notified other members that his long crusade to gain proper memorialization for Capt. Birney has been accomplished.

Capt. Birney, who died at age 25 at Fort Davis, Texas, in 1870, was a forgotten figure until Petrimoulx, Paul Davis, Tim Younkman, Jerry Pergande and other Civil War group members began their work to honor the hero of Gettysburg. Mr. Pergande has been documenting the history of the military Birneys for many years.

Mary Hewes Hinds of Owosso, former Bay Cityan, researched the death and burial of Capt. Birney, finding that he had originally been buried at Ft. Davis but that the body had been moved.

Paul Davis found photos of young Birney and his wife when he purchased an album of black soldiers of Birney's company from the Texas fort. The startlingly clear pictures gave impetus to a continuing quest to find the soldier's grave.

When Birney's long lost sword was found, the Rotary Club of Bay City, with help from Chemical Bank, spearheaded an effort to purchase it for $7,500 and place the artifact in the Bay County Historical Museum.

After several years of research, it was found that young Birney was buried near; his wife, Mary Deuel Birney, and son, in Brooklyn. It is believed that Birney met Miss Deuel when his unit was assigned to quell draft riots in New York in 1863 just after the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3.

Installation of a headstone ordered from the Veteran's Administration by Mr. Petrimoulx, was delayed by storms that caused flooding last year in New York. Finally, arrangements were completed and the headstone was installed just last Monday, May 19, 2014 -- 144 years after the soldier's death.

Capt. James G. Birney's plot in Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY, is marked by new Civil War grave marker provided by the U.S. Veterans Administration.
Photo by Dave Rogers

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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