Conrad Joachim, a German immigrant, marched off to war from his home on Greenwich Street in Manhattan on May 13, 1862, enlisting as an assistant surgeon in the 15th New York Heavy Artillery. Charles Joachim, whom historians believe to be his son, had already joined the same unit.
Four months later, Conrad was dead; and in another year, so was Charles, at about the age of 20. They were buried in the same grave at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, beneath a marble headstone that is an exquisitely carved open book inscribed with both their names. But the stone slowly sank into the earth as the centuries turned twice, and the cemetery and the city were completed around them.
The Joachim family’s sacrifice may have been forever lost to history if not for a formidable labor of detective work involving hundreds of volunteers and lasting longer than the Civil War itself. Now the Joachims are among more than 1,200 Civil War soldiers with new gravestones at Green-Wood. And today, for the first time, the cemetery is honoring the full known complement of veterans of the country’s deadliest war.
Dozens of veterans’ descendants, some from as far away as Spain, will be joined at 9 a.m. by volunteers and Civil War re-enactors for a public ceremony. There will be a parade, a color guard, a fife and drum corps, crashing salutes from an artillery battery and speeches of welcome and remembrance. Then, descendants and history lovers will read the names of the veterans.
Over five years, the volunteers have scoured not only Green-Wood’s grounds, but also cemetery records, pension and enlistment archives, government databases, regimental histories, published obituaries and death notices. They have also found and interviewed soldiers’ descendants.
The project identified not 200 Civil War veterans ”” as had originally been expected ”” but 2,998. Many gravestones were missing, damaged or obliterated; some, like the Joachims’ marble, had sunk beneath the grass. And so the volunteers filled out more than 1,200 applications for new markers, since the Department of Veterans Affairs supplies them if originals are unreadable or lost.
“This is a work of historical rescue,” said one of the volunteers, Jeffrey Blustein, a medical ethicist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. “History isn’t just about the rich and famous, it’s about all the forgotten people, ordinary people who otherwise would never be known.”
Read it all; the accompanying video linked to the right of the article is well worth the time.