by Bill Batson
On May, 1, 1865, three weeks after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War, the first Memorial Day was observed. Recently liberated enslaved Africans and Colored troops held the commemoration in Charleston, South Carolina to consecrate a new and proper burial site for 250 Confederate prisoners who died from exposure and disease.
A Memorial Day service that will be held in West Nyack on May 31, 2021 at 10:00am at Mount Moor Cemetery provides a direct connection to the origins of the solemn holiday. One of the ten veterans, whose headstones were replaced this month by the Department of Veteran Affairs and will be unveiled on Monday is Solomon Miller, a witness to Lee’s surrender.
PFC Henry William Cook Jr
February 24, 1930 – September 6, 1950
Private First Class Cook was a member of the 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was seriously wounded by the enemy in South Korea on July 30, 1950 and returned to duty on August 29, 1950.
He was Killed in Action while fighting the enemy in South Korea on September 6, 1950.
Memorial Day Ceremony
May 31, 2021 at 10am
1000 Palisades Center Drive, West Nyack, NY (near Dick’s Sporting Goods Store)
Ten Monuments Erected for Civil War Veterans
Ten new headstones were erected at Mount Moor in time for Memorial Day thanks to equipment, materials and labor provided by Oak Hill Cemetery, Travis Monument and Ground Care.
The research that formed the basis of our successful application to the Department of Veterans Affairs was conducted by William Stump, Junior Vice Commander of Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis, Camp #124, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
Mount Moor is the third cemetery that he has surveyed with the intent to have the markers of veterans restored or replaced by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
His two other project were St.Patrick’s Catholic Churchyard in Verplanck and East Yard Cemetery in Yorktown.
In just five minutes at Mount Moor, Stump was able to identify Solomon Miller as a solider who witnessed General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox
Friends of Mount Moor Cemetery
(l-r) William Stump, Friends of Mount Moor Cemetery Vice President Bill Batson and President Ed England, and Spring Valley NAACP President Willie Trotman at Mount Moor.
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Mount Moor Cemetery was deeded to William H. Moore, Stephen Samuels and Isaac Williams on July 7, 1849 by James and Jane Benson as a “burying ground for colored people.” The cemetery has provided burial space for colored people, including veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II, and the Korean War. The grounds have been maintained since 1940 by the Mount Moor Cemetery Association, Inc.
The restoration of this historic Black burial ground has been undertaken by The Friends of Mount Moor Cemetery in 2021. The Town of Clarkstown has repaired fencing and begun to restore the paths and stonework around the memorial wall that contains the names of some of those buried at Mount Moor.
With the support of William Stump, the junior Vice Commander of the Augustus van Horne Ellis Camp #124 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, a successful application was made to the Department of Veterans Affairs to replace and or/provide new headstones for 10 Civil War-era vets buried at Mount Moor.
Landsman John Cook was born in 1840 in Orangetown, New York. He enlisted on November 30, 1863 and was assigned to the USS Metacomet as a cook. He was discharged on December 7, 1864 and passed away at the age of 53 on June 14, 1893.
Private Logan Lafayette was born in 1832 in Kingston, New York. He enlisted on January 24, 1864 and was assigned to Company E of the 5th Massachusetts Colored Calvary. He was discharged on October 31, 1865 and passed away at age of 49 on January 22, 1881.
Private John N. Miller was born in 1840 in Orangetown, New York. He enlisted on December 31, 1863 and was assigned to Company L of the 11th Regiment United States Colored Troops Heavy Artillery. He was discharged on May 5, 1865 and passed away at the age of 30 in 1870.
Private Solomon E. Miller was born in 1843 in Montgomery County, New York. He enlisted in 1863 and was assigned to Company H of the 8th Regiment United Sates Colored Troops. He was discharged on November 10, 1865 and passed away at the age of 75 on September 26, 1918.
First Sergeant William H. Myers was born August 17, 1844 in Virginia. He enlisted on August 1, 1863 and was assigned to Company K of the 5th Regiment United States Colored Troops Heavy Artillery. He was discharged on May 20, 1866 and passed away at the age of 54 on December 23, 1917.
Richard Sisco was born in 1836 in Middletown, New Jersey. He enlisted in December of 1863 and was assigned to Company L of the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored). He was discharged on October 2, 1865 and passed away at the age of 55 on February 10, 1891.
Private Thomas Stewart was born in New Jersey in 1840. He enlisted on December 30, 1863 and was assigned to Company A of the 26th Regiment United States Colored Troops. He was discharged on August 28th, 1865 and passed away at the age of 59 on August 16th, 1899.
Private James Thompson was born August 4, 1836 in Brooklyn, New York. He enlisted on December 30, 1863 and was assigned to the Company A of the 26th Regiment United States Colored Troops. He was discharged on September 2, 1865 and passed away at the age of 74 on May 19, 1911.
Corporal Samuel Thompson was born in 1835 and was a resident of Orangetown, NY. He enlisted on December 30, 1863 and was assigned to Company F of the 26th Regiment United States Colored Troops. CPL Thompson was discharged in April of 1865 and passed away at the age of 34 in 1869.
Private Wilson Wyatt was born about 1844 in Virginia. He was assigned to the 10th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops and passed away at the age of 47 on February 2, 1889.
As details emerge about the men that are buried at Mount Moor, we begin to develop a deeper apprection of both the indignites that people of African descent endured in America and the valor of some who chose to oppose state-sponsored racial oppression.
Five of the men who received headstones from the VA this year are members of St. Philip’s AME Church in Nyack. Founded in 1859 by abolitionist John Towt, the church was a veritable recruitment center for Union soliders and under ground rail road conductors. Despite the daily hardship of discrimination, several of the men on this list have participated in some epic battles and personally distinguished themselves in the course of their lives.
In addition to Solomon Miller, who was a witness to the end of the Civil War, notable biographical details include:
William Meyers becoming the first African American to run for office in Rockland County a failed bid for sherif. Myers was also led the Colonel William Silliman post of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) #172. Organized on July 21, 1880 with twenty members.
The post had the honor of being the first composed of Black veterans in the State. The post met at the corner of Main Street and Broadway at what was then Abram Merrit’s Dry Good store.
The Battle of Mobile Bay, which John Cook fought in, was, accoring to Stump, “one of the finest days of the US Navy and gave birth to the phrase “Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.” Cook was also a Member of Grand Army of the Republic Post #172.
Myers and Cook are likely captured in this photo of Civil War veterans taken in front of the Nyack Library in 1908. The stone monument erected on that day contains the 271 words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and the emblem of the Grand Army of the Republic.
An artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “ Korean War Hero and Ten Civil War Veterans receive Memorial Day Honors at Mount Moor“ © 2021 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.