Truman D. Goodrich

The Ladysmith resident served during the Civil War. 

With Veterans Day near, the last Union Civil War veteran to be buried in Rusk County was honored.

A small crowd of mostly military veterans and a handful of public citizens turned out, Saturday, for the service honoring Truman D. Goodrich. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Ladysmith.

His tribute is part of the Last Soldier Project, being carried out by Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. 

“We are honoring Truman Goodrich, today, as we are honoring the other 70 last Union veteran burials around the state,” said John Decker, Commander of the Department of the Wisconsin Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

There are Civil War veterans buried in 71 of the state’s 72 counties, except for Menominee County, northwest of Green Bay.

Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is a volunteer, non-profit, patriotic and educational organization similar to the Grand Army of the Republic and is officially recognized as its legal successor. Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, Union Navy, and the Marines who served in the American Civil War. It was founded in 1866 in Springfield, Illinois, and grew to include hundreds of “posts” across the nation.

Founded in 1881 by sons of Civil War veterans, SUVCW now has more than 6,000 members. The group’s mission is to honor Union veterans, preserve and perpetuate the GAR and offer patriotic education.

Beginning in 2003, the organization embarked on the Last Soldier Project. The purpose of the project is to locate and appropriately mark the final resting place of the last Civil War soldier buried in each county or parish in each state. 

“It is part of our mission to honor the Union veterans and to carry on the traditions of the Grand Army of the Republic,” Decker said.

Goodrich died on July 19, 1940. The gallant old soldier, who had survived many a serious illness i n his later years, had been slowly failing in health for weeks. He was 92 years old, and almost 93 at the time of his death. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Block: BL07 Plot: 00 Lot: 048 Grave: 06-0.

Goodrich was honored during the Last Soldier Project ceremony, during which speeches were made, a special flag holder marker was placed at his headstone, a series of rifle volleys were fired and Taps was played.

This was the 67th Last Soldier Project ceremony in the state for the organization with a 68th observance planned for later the same day in Clear Lake in Polk County. The final three observances are planned for next spring in the southern part of the state in La Crosse, Monroe and Waupaca counties.

Decker spoke highly of the somewhat unique GAR plot at Riverside Cemetery, noting these were usually purchased by the local military post and designated to take in Union soldiers for burial from all parts of the nation. There are six Civil War veterans buried in the plot and a large marker from the Women’s Relief Corps that provides perpetually, curation and preservation of research, documents and records that pertain to the GAR.

“This illustrates how in Wisconsin so many soldiers from other places came to this state after the war,” Decker said. “This is a beautiful tribute to Union Civil War Veterans, and we very much appreciate what Rusk County has done in helping us set up this ceremony.”

The Goodrich life

Goodrich was born on Aug. 4, 1848, to Silas and Maria A. Grant Goodrich at Plattsburg, N.Y. Goodrich’s ancestors came from Wales to settle in Connecticut in 1645. Five generations of the family served during four different wars. At 17 years old, Goodrich enlisted on Sept. 5, 1864, in Company F, 91st New York Infantry, two days after his father enlisted in the same company and regiment. He was with General Grant’s troops at the surrender of General Lee’s Army Appomattox Courthouse. On two occasions, Truman had met President Abraham Lincoln.

Goodrich was mustered out on June 6, 1865, at Washington, D. C., and served 9 months and 1 day. 

The 91st, the Albany Regiment, was recruited in New York mainly at Albany, Redford, Hudson, Schenectady, Hillsdale, Chatham and Castleton, and was mustered in at Albany from September to December 1861. It left New York for Washington on Jan. 8, 1862. In July 1863, it was equipped as heavy artillery, active with heavy loss during the Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. In March 1865, the 91st with the exception of one company which remained at Baltimore, Md., was ordered to Petersburg, Va., where it participated in the closing operations of the siege and lost 230 in the Appomattox campaign. The regiment mustered out near Washington on July 3, 1865. Its original strength and enrollment was not known but estimated at about 1,000. Its loss by death was 114 and from other causes was 188 for a total of 302 deaths.

Goodrich settled in Wisconsin in 1870. He was 28 years old when he married Melissa E. Garthwaite, 29, at Little Grant on Dec. 2, 1875. His veteran pension was given on Dec. 15, 1885. 

Melissa was 59 years old when she died May 14, 1904, shortly after the couple had moved to Ladysmith in Rusk County. She was laid to rest at Union Cemetery at Little Grant, Wis., beside their children, Molly and Douglas. 

On Nov. 1, 1906, Goodrich, 59, and Agnes Van Horn, 38, were married. They resided at Lake Avenue in the city of Ladysmith. He participated in local GAR activities in 1905 and was a member and past commander in 1910 of local GAR Post 280. He was honored at the Memorial Day observance in 1911.

Goodrich was one of five surviving veterans of the GAR Post in Ladysmith in 1926. In 1938, in company with his step-son, Norman Van Horn, the “sprightly old veteran at age of 90” made the trip to Gettysburg to attend the reunion of Federal and Confederate troops 75 years after the battles were fought. 

“The old boys talked over the great battles without rancor and with only pleasant humor. With other hardy veterans, Truman slept in a tent, had a fine time and even surprised his old comrades and adversaries by dancing a jig. He said then he felt just like he was back in the army again,” said a news account of the event.

Of the 2,500 veterans at the camp, the youngest was 88 years old. 

Goodrich kept the local GAR post going, being the commander for the post for nearly 15 years. He and Agnes were married 34 years. At the age of nearly 92, the last living Civil War veteran of Rusk County, Goodrich died on July 19, 1940, and was laid to rest at the GAR Plot in Riverside Protestant Cemetery in Ladysmith. His wife, Agnes, 81, born in 1868, died in 1949 and was laid to rest at Riverside Cemetery, but not in the GAR Plot. 

Last Soldier Project

Decker read words taken from a 1917 Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Service.

Taking his position near the head of Goodrich’s grave, Decker recited, “Brothers and sisters, we have met here as Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and its Auxiliary, to consign to that house prepared for all the living, the memory of a soldier of this country, Truman D. Goodrich, Private, Third Brigade, Fifth Army, 91st New York Infantry Regiment, and a combat veteran of the War of the Rebellion during 1864 and 1865.”

“The march of this soldier is over. Let us remember Comrade Truman D. Goodrich at rest here under the blue skies of Heaven, guarded by the silent stars that in life watched over them when they bivouacked on the battlefields or lay down weary and foot-sore on the soil of the Southland,” Decker continued.

“May we as we stand here remember that it is our duty as loyal Americans to honor the memory of those who stood shoulder to shoulder on the bloody fields of battle, who guarded so faithfully, so honestly and so well the sacred bonds of Statehood and who fought for liberty and the dear old Flag. They have passed away to their final review and upon us has devolved by sacred right of heritage the duty of perpetuating the principles for which they fought,” Decker added.

“May we not forget as the years roll on that we too shall have battles to fight, that in time we too shall be carried to the silent city of the dead and that our lives here should but fit us for the great bivouac of Eternity,” Decker said.

Serving as chaplain of the ceremony, Decker recited the Divine Blessing:

“God of battles and peace. Ruler of the destinies of countries and of men. In this silent camping ground of the dead we come before Thee asking Thy blessing as we honor the memory of this defender of our country’s honor, Truman D. Goodrich. Wilt Thou in Thy infinite tenderness comfort those who mourn him. Wilt thou speak words of comfort and consolation to their sorrowing hearts. Look in mercy we pray Thee, upon the widows and orphans of deceased veterans everywhere. Bless and save from every evil the country for which this soldier and our fathers fought. Preserve it in purity and integrity. Bless the members of this Order as they have gathered here in response to the call of love and duty, to perform these rites of remembrance over one of our Nation’s preservers, and at last grant that we may all meet before Thy throne and to Thy name shall we ascribe praise both now and forever. Amen.” 

Decker encouraged those in attendance to remember Goodrich and cherish his example as a patriot and defender of those principles he believed to be right. 

“Let us forget his failings, for he was human, remembering only his virtues. Let us so live that when that time shall come those we may leave behind may say above our graves, ‘Here lies the body of a true hearted, brave and earnest defender of the Republic,’” Decker said.

Veterans Service Officer Erik Stoker was asked to post the colors and place the marker.

“On behalf of the Great Republic for whose integrity and unity our late comrade, Truman D. Goodrich, offered his service during the War of the Rebellion, I post this flag,” Stoker said.

While Goodrich and other Civil War veterans’ graves are known, many lie in unmarked or unknown graves, according to Decker. He honored these forgotten soldiers with a reading of a poem entitled, “The Unknown Dead.”

“Private Truman D. Goodrich, you are relieved. I have the post,” Decker stated. “Rest in peace.”

Commander of the Guard, Walt Johnson, took charge.

A rifle detail fired three volleys to salute their fallen comrade.

Ready. Aim. Fire.

Ready. Aim. Fire.

Ready. Aim. Fire.

Glen Flora resident Jim Edming played Taps.

A benediction was recited.

“Taps are sounded. Lights are out. The Soldier sleeps. The camp is dismissed,” Decker said.

Additional Civil War veterans are buried elsewhere in the Riverside Cemetery outside the GAR plot.

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