A walk through Floral Hill Cemetery Saturday, 17, shed some light on life during the Civil War.
EightNew London residents who lived at that time were portrayed by “ghosts” at their gravesites. The “ghosts” were actually members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post 8 Living Historians.
The well-preserved gravestones revealed the soldier’s rankings and many were surrounded by their loved ones.
Each “ghost” revealed a compelling story of hardship and heroism.
Anthony Trayser’s story started with a serious accident when he was a young boy. He was kicked in the head by a horse and lay in a coma for three years, but recovered. He enlisted in the Civil War in 1862 and was wounded at Perryville. In 1864, he transferred to the 2nd Battalion US Veteran Reserve Corps.
Trayser came to New London after his discharge and married Augusta Andrews, who lived in Mukwa. Augusta was a founding member of the Women’s Relief Corps and remained with the organization until her death in 1927. In 1874, C.E. Dickinson and Anthony Trayser opened a drugstore downtown. In 1894, son Morton joined his father. The drugstore was closed around 1960.
Gabriel Cornish was running a farm in Hortonville when the Civil War broke out. In August of 1861, he boarded a steamboat and went to Oshkosh to enlist in the war. He was shot through the neck at the battle of Perryville, KY but recovered. His infantry company marched to Chattanooga, TN, 274 miles. His regiment received some of the highest honors of Wisconsin military during the Civil War.
While at Murphysboro, he was guarding supply wagons when he was taken prisoner and sent to Libby prison. He endured terrible conditions for six months when his group was traded for confederate soldiers. He served with General Sherman in the march to Atlanta and fought until his discharge in 1864.
After the war, Cornish returned to Hortonville. He and his wife, Mary Waite, moved to New London in 1879. Cornish was a charter member of the GAR Post 46 in New London and remained active until he died in 1925 at the age of 92.
James “Harley” Heath was born in 1846 and played cowboys and Indians with his friends as a youth, when there really were cowboys and Indians. He ran away to enlist in the war at 15 years of age and was escorted back home by his father, where he waited another two years to enlist again. After the war, he moved to Nebraska, Appleton and Antigo before landing in New London in 1894, where he opened a barber shop.
His wife, Anna Stark Heath was born in Hortonville. She had a difficult childhood, with all the men in the family, and some cousins, too, going off to war. When her father returned home, he got as far as Appleton by train, and had to ride an ox team to get to Hortonville.
Heath was a GAR commander from 1919 – 1936. He was instrumental in the creation of King Veteran’s Home in King, WI. He traveled with his wife to many GAR encampments throughout the United States. He was the last Civil War soldier living in New London, passing away in 1936. When he died, all the businesses in town closed for his funeral.
August Plath was a staunch patriot. Born in Germany in 1843, he arrived in America around 1863 and enlisted in 1865. He believed it was such a beautiful country, the United States, and his freedom was worth the fight. President Lincoln was assassinated on April 14 of that year, in the middle of Plath’s service. He was part of the Grand March at Washington D.C. and came through Camp Randall in Madison to return home.
Plath ran a saloon in New London, and then a hardware store. He was very involved in the community, and lost by a small margin the bid to E.H. Ramm to become mayor.
Mystery and conflicting information surrounds the life of Paul Farinacci. He was born in Italy around 1814. He spoke seven different languages and used them in his role as a Catholic priest. When he came to the Wisconsin Territory from Italy in 1847, he lived and preached in Oshkosh. On May 15, 1853 he left the priesthood and the same evening married Adelia Webb. Farinacci got a job as a farm hand in Mukwa – chopping wood, handling mule teams and bailing hay. They had at least four children. He then started a stage line from New London to Shawano.
He lied about his age when he enlisted in the war on Feb. 29, 1864, saying he was 43 when he was 50. He went to Vicksburg to march with General Sherman, but could not keep up with the younger men. He got sick and was left in Kingston, GA. From there he was sent to work in a hospital in Illinois until he mustered out May 15, 1865. He then delivered mail in New London. Sometime around 1878 Farinacci returned to Italy and did not return to the states until around 1890. It is unclear if his wife and children went with him. In 1900, the Farinacci’s operated a boarding house in New London. Adelia died in March of 1902, and it is said that he rejoined the priesthood after her death.
Jerome Davis and his twin brother Eugene were born in New York State in 1843 and the family moved to Caledonia, WI around 1858. Jerome and Eugene enlisted in the 17th Wisconsin Infantry in 1862, and were teamsters for three years, driving the company’s wagons. They saw three battles a year – including those in Mississippi, Vicksburg, Orangeburg, Big Shanty, GA, the Siege of Atlanta and Savannah, GA. Jerome mustered out as a sergeant in July of 1865. Forty-three members of his unit were killed in action, while 228 died of disease.
The rest of his working life Jerome was a farmer in Caledonia. In 1908 he retired, moved to New London and lived on Beacon Street. He died as a result of an influenza outbreak. He was a member of the GAR Post 46 from its inception in 1882 to his death in 1918.