Photo Gallery | Vermont Patriot Guard Riders transports ashes
BRATTLEBORO — History was kept alive Saturday evening when the ashes of a civil war veteran were presented via a group of motorcycle riders to the American Legion.
But Brattleboro was just one stop of many. The honoring event for Civil War veteran Jewett Williams – originally from Hodgdon, Maine – began in Salem, Oregon at the Oregon State Hospital where he died in 1922. His ashes were stored and forgotten along with thousands of others until they were discovered there a few years ago. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group have been traveling cross-country to deliver Williams' ashes to Togus National Cemetery in Chelsea, Maine since August 1.
"I said to the Maine State Captain of the Patriot Guard, Vermont wants in, I'm putting my elbows on the table and you need to make room for the state of Vermont because our Civil War history is significant," said Pat Howardell, State Captain of the Vermont Patriot Guard Riders.
Originally, members of the Patriot Guard Rider were going to bypass Vermont, but rerouted when Howardell explained that there are Vermonters who want to pay their respects to Williams.
On Oct. 12, 1864, Williams enlisted in Company H of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, led by Col. Joshua Chamberlain and Maj. Ellis Spear. Williams' regiment participated in several actions that helped secure the Union victory during the later stages of the war, including the Battle of Boydton Plank Road, Battle of Hatcher's Run, Battle of White Oak Road and Battle of Five Forks. The 20th Maine was part of the Union force that accepted Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Following Lee's surrender, Williams and his company marched to Washington, D.C., where they underwent a "grand review" and were mustered out on July 16.
Williams was not only known as someone who served, but also as someone who valued educating others. In 1914, 1915 and 1919, Williams was spoke at Portland-area public schools for Memorial Day events. He was 78 years old when he died of arterial sclerosis. It is not known what became of Williams' wife and family, but his remains were never claimed.
A few designated Vermont Patriot Guard Riders staged at the Guilford Welcome center on Interstate 91 North on Saturday. Then the Brattleboro Police Department escorted them all via the interstate, including vehicles representing Wreaths Across America and the Maine Living History Foundation.
The American Legion Post #5 Honor Guard was present as well as the Vermont Patriot Guard Riders. When the line of riders arrived, a flag line was formed and the hero was removed from the motorcycle that had carried him to the Legion. Vermont Patriot Guard Riders lead with the US flag and Williams' remains; photos of Williams and other symbolic items were place at a table at the front of the flag line. A prayer was said in Williams' honor.
"I have to be honest with you guys, when I was first told my boy was coming cross-country on a bunch of motorcycles, I wasn't too sure about that one, but once I started looking into it and I started get to know who you are and we're all of one heart and one mind, I wouldn't trust our boy with anyone else," said Maine Living History Director Miss Rose. "So I'd like to thank you on behalf of Jewett Williams, the state of Maine and the Maine Living History Association for bringing our boy home."
On Sunday morning the riders travelled up to New Hampshire with Williams where a dignified transfer of the hero occurred at 481 West Street in Keene. Williams' remains made it to Kittery on Sunday and to Togus National Cemetery in Chelsea on Monday.
The plan was originally for Williams' remains to be buried at the cemetery next month. However, relatives have come forward and say they will claim the ashes. Williams will instead be buried in Hodgdon.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275