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Luther Phelps’ newly placed headstone was dedicated Saturday during an authentic Civil War ceremony at Osage’s Riverside Cemetery. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Civil War veteran honored

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     In a scene that could have come from a Civil War documentary, Luther  Phelps was honored Saturday for his service to the Union army.

     A mournful trumpet sounded throughout Osage’s Riverside Cemetery as the new tombstone to Phelps was commemorated. Seven other Civil War vets were also honored.

     Phelps was a New York transplant who served during the waning stage of the war.

     He enlisted Nov. 1, 1964 in Company E, Minnesota’s 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment out of Freeborn County. He was 32 at the time, relatively mature for enlistees.

     His service ended Sept. 27, 1865. He was one of the lucky men who returned. Civil War historians say for every soldier wounded on the battlefield, eight to 10 others were claimed by disease.

     He and his family, wife Mary and 10 children, moved to the Shell Prairie in 1880 after the war, when Phelps was offered free land near Osage.

     He cultivated his 75 acres to feed his family, along with a small livestock herd and machinery.

     Phelps also served on the Osage Township Board after the township was divided between Osage and Carsonville.

     He was also a charter member of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization formed to keep Civil War vets in contact with each other.

     After Luther and Mary’s deaths, the children scattered, mostly out west.

     But Phelps’ great-grandson, Norman Denstedt lives in Menahga. When two cemetery board members contaxcted ghim, he joined the efforts to get an authentic Civil War marker from the Veterans Administration to mark Luther’s grave.

     For cemetery board members Barbara Southward and Joan Edmonson, it was a labor of love. Edmondson scoured various websites looking for historic importance to the region.

     On Saturday the Marine Corps Honor Guard accorded Phelps full military honors as Denstedt and other family members stood by. They draped the headstone with two red roses.

     The other vets honored were William T. Bradley, James Benjamin Burlingame, Albert Daniel Burlingame, Charles Smith Edwards, Wells Joseph Haynes, Cyrus Edas Bullock and George Lewis Osborn. Several of the soldiers were wounded in battle.

     The Burlingames are   ancestors of Trudy Burlingame Maninga, who presented the honors. She and her husband host a Vietnam vets ceremony each year near Ponsford.

     Riverside Cemetery was established in 1883 after the war. Now in its 130th year, it has a high concentration of Civil War vets, many lured to Osage with the promise of free land. All seven other gravesites, along with Phelps,’ were decorated with flags.

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Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
(218) 732-3364
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