Michael A. Sawyers
ROCKY GAP — It wasn’t until after the voluminous deaths during the Civil War that America began thinking about how it would deal with the bodies of slain servicemen, according to Francis Zumbrun, keynote speaker at the Veterans Day program at Rocky Gap Veterans Cemetery Sunday afternoon.
“There were 23,000 killed in one day at the Battle of Antietam,” Zumbrun said. “At Gettysburg, 22,000 died in three days.”
The annual program at the cemetery on Pleasant Valley Road attracted a crowd of about 200 under sunny skies with little breeze and temperatures in the mid-60s, quite a contrast to the frigid celebration of one year ago.
Zumbrun, himself a Navy veteran with Vietnam service, paid tribute to the veterans on hand and to the 6,800 or so veterans and spouses buried at the state facility.
“Before 1863, there was no provision about burying the dead killed in battle,” he said. “Neither were kin notified.”
Zumbrun said there was no ambulance corps or field hospital in those days.
“After the Battle of Gettysburg, 17 acres were obtained there to bury the dead,” he said. After the Korean War, the United States vowed to make the effort to return the body of every slain American serviceman or woman to his or her home place, he added.
Zumbrun showed a photograph of his great-grandfather who was shot in the neck and knee during the Civil War and left for dead on the battlefield, before finally being removed and nursed back to health.
“Abraham Lincoln shook his hand as he was recovering,” Zumbrun said.
Zumbrun said that from where he stood Sunday, he would have been able to hear the cannon shots during battle on Pleasant Valley Road during which two Confederate soldiers died as they marched to burn Cumberland and disrupt the railroad.
Those soliders are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Fayette Street, Cumberland, marked by a monument proclaiming “unknown Confederate dead.”
State Delegate Kevin Kelly presented a proclamation from Gov. Martin O’Malley in which the governor calls military service the highest form of citizenship.
Cumberland City Councilman David Kauffman, the band director at Mountain Ridge High School, spoke briefly, describing the honor of taking the band to the Veterans Day Parade in New York City a year ago.
Hannah Brewer Dale of Manchester, Miss Maryland Teen USA, sang the national anthem. Music, including “God Bless America” and “Grand Old Flag,” was provided by the Ali Ghan Shrine Band.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.