Civil War soldiers memorialized at Canonsburg cemetery

Hometown soldiers recognized at Oak Spring Cemetery event

May 10, 2014
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Kim Flint of Delaware says a few words at the dedication of a grave marker for her great-great-great uncle Cpl. James McCahon at Oak Spring Cemetery in Canonsburg Saturday. Two Civil War soldiers, who are buried in unmarked graves in the south, received grave markers at Oak Spring Cemetery in the soldiers’ hometown of Canonsburg. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Kim Flint and sister Marian Fetterman, great-great-great nieces of Cpl. James McCahon, listen while the grave marker for McCahon is dedicated at Oak Spring Cemetery in Canonsburg Saturday. The Veteran Affairs Department and Oak Spring Cemetery worked together to honor McCahon and another soldier, Sgt. John Gundy, who served with Company D 10th Pennsyvlania Reserves by placing headstones for them in the cemetery. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Cpl. James McCahon’s grave marker is decorated with American flags, wreaths, flowers and a photo at Oak Spring Cemetery in Canonsburg Saturday. McCahon served in the Company D 10th Pennsyvlania Reserves. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Jane Hansen puts an arm around Emelia Hansen,9, both of Corry at the end of the dedication service for two Civil War soldiers’ grave markers. The Hansens are descendants of Cpl. James McCahon, one of the soldiers honored on Saturday, May 10. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
The grave for Sgt. John Gundy is decorated with flowers from family members as well as flags and wreathes at Oak Spring Cemetery in Canonsburg Saturday. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Members of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves reenactment group fire three times after the dedication of two graves for Civil War soldiers at Oak Spring Cemetery in Canonsburg Saturday. Order a Print

Sisters Kim Flint and Marion Fetterman drove more than 300 miles to Canonsburg to honor an admired ancestor.

“Well, our journey is over,” Flint said, with a smile, to Gina Nestor, vice president of Oak Spring Cemetery.

She wasn’t talking miles or hours, though. The Flint/Fetterman family journey, and that of John Matviya and his kin, lasted a century and a half.

Sgt. John Gundy and Cpl. James McCahon, Civil War sons of Canonsburg, were given a distinguished homecoming Saturday – finally. Both died of injuries incurred in battle in Virginia, both are in unmarked graves in the South and both are now memorialized in their hometown cemetery with markers bearing their names.

The two valiant Union soldiers were recognized during a late-morning ceremony that attracted a crowd of about 40 and featured 10 Civil War re-enactors and three women in period hoop dresses.

It also featured a rifle salute – three shots – for each from the re-enactors, the 9th Pennsylvania Rifles, who are actors as well. They appeared in the 1993 film “Gettysburg.”

“For the first time in the 150 years since their deaths, their names will be engraved,” Matviya said of Gundy, his great-great-grandfather, and McCahon, great-great-great uncle of Flint and Fetterman, who live in the Wilmington, Del., area.

Matviya has written a book, “Canonsburg’s Boys of ’61,” about the soldiers’ unit, Company D, 10th Pennsylvania Reserves. It was formed in Canonsburg in May 1861, weeks after the war started at Fort Sumter.

Gundy was hit by a musket ball at the battle of White Oak Swamp in June 1862 and died days later at Libby Prison in Richmond. Nearly two years later, in May 1864, McCahon was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness – only three weeks before Company D was to be mustered out of service.

“His mother lit a candle every night until she died, hoping he would come back,” Nestor said of McCahon.

He and Gundy aren’t the only Civil War soldiers with a presence at venerable Oak Spring Cemetery, high on a hill on the borough’s edge. About 150 are buried there, Nestor said, including about two dozen from Company D. The remains of 20-plus Revolutionary War veterans are there as well.

She said more than 18,000 people are buried on the grounds, which have operated as a cemetery since at least 1780, when it was known as Chartiers Meeting House. “That’s the oldest (date found on a) stone,” Nestor said.

Over time, the cemetery declined into disrepair, but has been restored in recent times. The markers placed Saturday, on the respective family plots about 100 yards apart, added to the enhanced landscape.

Nestor said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided the markers at no cost, but that it took a lengthy application process and “a lot of arm-twisting” on her part – over about a year and a half. “We just got them,” she said.

The cemetery provides the foundation for each marker, at a small cost, Nestor said.

The result, ultimately, was the satisfying end of a lengthy journey for the soldiers being honored and their families.

“She put in a lot of effort,” Nestor said, pointing to Kim Flint, who was beginning her journey home with her sister.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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