Civil War soldiers memorialized at Canonsburg cemetery

Hometown soldiers recognized at Oak Spring Cemetery event

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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.

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