Last Saturday I spent the day with members of the John Butler chapter of the National Society Daughters of the Union who were holding their quarterly meeting in Rockford, Illinois. Why? Because I’m very close to verifying that I may, indeed, be qualified to join this patriotic heritage society now that I’ve learned I have two great-grandfathers who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
My day began by printing Mapquest directions, setting up my GPS for the 90-minute car drive, and putting my iPod on “shuffle” for background music on my solitary journey to Rockford. There I would be meeting women I’d conversed with by email about the organization, its goals and membership requirements.
Upon arrival at Veteran’s Memorial Hall I joined others in a tour of this Civil War Museum/military welcoming center that was led by its manager and docent, Scott Lewandowski. Built in 1903, it was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt to all American veterans who’ve served in the military service.
Then it was off to the University Club several blocks down the street where the organization held its quarterly luncheon and business meeting. New members were introduced, prospective members like myself were recognized, and all of those present with Civil War veterans who fought for the Union were invited to take part in a brief memorial ceremony. Each “daughter” of a union veteran was given a carnation to place in a bouquet as she announced the name of her patriot out loud.
Regent Sue Erlick, who is leading the chapter this year, announced some upcoming activities: a wreath laying in November at the grave of a local Civil War soldier; sale of the groups’ publication containing biographies of members’ ancestors who served during the Civil War; and plans for repairing and maintaining local Civil War monuments that are currently in disrepair.
In addition to meeting Sue who welcomed me warmly to the event, I especially enjoyed talking with Josefa Lee Hammond founder and charter member who helped establish the organization 30 years ago, and Ellen Stortz, former Regent for the John Butler Chapter who has now moved on to become the President General for the entire national organization.
The members of this chapter of the NSDU are obviously a very caring, patriotic group of women who take pride in honoring their ancestors and all those who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Perhaps, someday soon, I too, can call myself a “Daughter of the Union” and can move from being a “prospective member” to being a “member.”
That’s because of my success a few weeks ago, on a trip to Washington D.C. In town to visit our daughter Meg who works in Washington, my husband Mark, Meg and I spent an entire day at the National Archives. There we discovered, held in our hands, and were able to photograph and copy original military pension records for two of my great-grandfathers–William Donar and Edward Kennedy, who both served the Union in the Civil War with regiments from New York.
But that’s a topic worthy of its own post so I’ll save that for another day.
In the meantime, I shall continue to amass and organize the remaining documents needed for submission to this organization in the hope that I, too, might be welcomed as a true Daughter of the Union. We shall see…
Copyright © 2011 Patricia Desmond Biallas