“Monumental Matters” in England

There has been some groundbreaking work in England during the last year and a half to honor UK-based veterans of the American Civil War. The Monuments for UK Veterans of the American Civil War Association—called “The Monumental Project” for short—was co-founded by Gina Denham and Darren “Daz” Rawlings in January 2022. The group now boasts a Facebook page for sharing its research and is overseen by a team of six members.

“Considering that more than 50,000 people from Britain served in the conflict, it seems fitting that UK-based veterans of the American Civil War should be honored appropriately,” says Denham. “The Association is taking great strides to finally address that.”

Veronica Alden of Southwark Heritage Association giving me a check, donating £500 towards our monument. Tower Bridge would have been seen by the London Branch of American Civil War veterans as their home was a few streets away, at the Ragged School Mission.

The Association has a number of aims. Goals include honoring UK-based American Civil War veterans by obtaining individual burial markers. The group is also fundraising for one single monument to collectively honor all who served. In addition, the Association wants to undertake research to find the burial locations and service histories of veterans. As part of that research, they have already identified widows, blockade runners, and veterans from the Mexican War of 1848. The team has consequently felt it important to document those lives, as well, as they were intertwined with the story of Civil War veterans.

Their work to identify UK-based veterans was built on studies by other researchers including John Collier and Michael Hammerson. Six-hundred-and-twenty-seven individuals have been discovered through hours of diligent research, cross-referencing newspaper archives, service records, family histories, and photographs. “The devil is really in the details,” says Denham.

Among those identified have been the aging Medal of Honor recipient Maurice Wagg of the USS Rhode Island among the London branch of American Civil War veterans. They found him after closely scrutinising a number of photographs and realised the medal he was wearing was completely different to the medals worn by his comrades. By a process of elimination, and knowing he was the only Medal of Honor recipient in the branch, helped them to “join the dots.” Congressional Medal of Honor Society published the discovery. Christopher Howland, editor of America’s Civil War, included an article about Maurice and “Brits in Blue and Gray” in the magazine’s summer 2023 edition.

The Association has identified several other members of the branch too, including Charles Edward Loyola Wright. It has been suggested that when Charles died in South London in 1933 and that the Branch ended with his passing. However, the Association learned that one of the last members of the London branch was actually Samuel Lander Hough, who died in December 1940. Hough had served with the 2nd New Jersey Cavalry and represents an important figure in the story of UK-based American Civil War veterans, as he was likely to have been the last male survivor of the conflict to die in England. The Association has submitted an application for an official burial marker, with a dedication slated for next summer.

“Research regarding veterans has been a time-consuming task, with interesting results,” Denham says. For instance:

  • Not all UK-based veterans were British born. Some were American or of other nationalities.
  • More UK-based veterans served with infantry units than in the U.S Navy: 269 soldiers compared to 170 mariners.
  • The State of New York took the prize as the biggest recruiter: 132 men served the Empire State followed closely by 82 men enlisting in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania.
  • Three UK-based veterans had gone west and served in California.

Some discoveries have warranted more research. For example, the “Brixton Bluecoats in the Kentucky Cavalry” were two Londoners born in Brixton who both joined Company L, 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, and both spent time as prisoners of the Confederacy. Even though they did not enlist at the same time, the lives of George Gardner and Charles Faulkner seemed to have been so intertwined that it’s hard to believe they did not know each other or that their paths never crossed. They were both baptized in the same church in the South London borough of Brixton, they both returned to England after the conflict, and died within a year of each other. The Association, curious to know more about them, recently ordered their pension files to learn more.

The Monumental Project is entirely self-funded, supported by donations. They have raised £3700, which Denham calls “incredible.” “The money underpins tour vision to build a single London-based monument for UK veterans,” Denham says. Financial support has come from both the Sons and Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Women’s Relief Corps, and a number of UK-based organizations, including Southwark Heritage Association and Manor Park Cemetery. Numerous private individuals have also made donations.

Since the Association’s founding, it has obtained three official markers for veterans buried in London cemeteries. Dedications have already been held for James O’Neill, Co K, 61st Massachusetts Volunteers and Francis Albermar McDougall, Co E, 111th PA Volunteers. Dignitaries included local mayors, U.S. Embassy staff, residents, and living historians. “The Association tries to follow the ethos of the Grand Army of the Republic in acts of remembrance, so we always welcome involvement from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War,” Denham says. Craig Ross of SUVCW Lincoln-Cushing Camp No 2 has joined at dedications. The camp, one of the largest in the U.S., serves the Washington, D.C., northern Virginia, and southern Maryland. “To have representation from such a large camp really has been an honour,” Denham says.

The third marker will be dedicated later this month when the Association holds a dedication for Ordinary Seaman John S. Taplin, USS Morning Light, at Hendon Cemetery in North London. Taplin, who spent time as a POW during the war, was British born, but spent much of his life in Illinois before returning to London where he died in 1921.

Denham discovered Taplin through her work studying James Henry Cleggett. Just 16 years old, Cleggett had served on the USS Morning Light as one of the vessels’ black crew members. Soon after enlisting, he was captured at Sabine Pass and spent more than two years at the mercy of his captors in Galveston. He survived the ordeal, and became a successful businessman, eventually moved to London when became a founding member of the London Branch. He’s buried back in the States, in Lincoln Cemetery, Cook County, Chicago.

Cleggett and Taplin are the subject of Denham’s second book, The Landsman and the Lieutenant, which integrates not just their stories but that of the London Branch veterans, too. Sale proceeds go towards fundraising.

If you want to donate to Monuments for UK Veterans of the American Civil War Association you can do so by paypal or via their Just Giving page



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