It's long overdue, and area residents are pulling out all the stops to pay last respects to a Civil War soldier...
It's long overdue, and area residents are pulling out all the stops to pay last respects to a Civil War soldier and business leader in Carthage in the late 1800s whose remains sat on a shelf at a St. Louis funeral chapel for 102 years.
Raphael Guido Rombauer, a Hungarian immigrant to St. Louis, a major in the Union Army in the Civil War and Carthage businessman after the Civil War, will be laid to rest next to his wife, Emma Thomas Rombauer, and children Ida May Rombauer and Raphael Guido Rombauer Jr. at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Park Cemetery.
The Heartland Concert Band will start playing at 1 p.m. as people gather for the service.
Veterans groups, Civil War living history reenactors and modern U.S. Army soldiers will join Rombauer's family in giving final honors to Rombauer 150 years and two days after the war in which he served with honor ended with Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
“Easter time is known as a time of rebirth,” wrote Jasper County Records Center Director and historian Steve Weldon on the page of the Holmes Brigade, one of the living history groups bringing participants to honor Rombauer.
“The memory of Maj. Rombauer has been reborn,” Weldon continued “The Carthage street that was named for him, that had lost its meaning, now has new meaning. Raphael Rombauer had become a forgotten man, with no one to sing his praises, but thanks to you, after Saturday, all of that is going to change.”
Heartland Band Director Vicki Mays, who has helped plan Saturday's burial, said her band is excited and honored to be a part of the event.
“One of my doctors who is a trumpet player, is cutting a trip short two days to be back for this,” Mays said “I said, it's okay, but he said, 'no, I wouldn't miss this for the world.' We're never going to have a chance to do this again. Most of my band's members are parents, they want their children there. A lot of them are teachers, they want to pass this on. It's something you're never going to have another chance to see, and we're amazed we get the chance now.”
Kip Lindberg, a leader in the Holmes Brigade, said his men are excited and view this as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“It is a big deal,” Lindberg said. “Every member of the Holmes Brigade is a history afficianado. For most of us, this will be the only chance that we'll ever have of being in a funeral honor guard for a Civil War veteran. You can't get much closer to the event than that so it's a great honor for us.”
Jeff Patrick, a librarian at the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Springfield, said officials there thought Rombauer may have participated in that historic, August, 1861 battle, but new research shows he had likely left his first unit before that unit came to Springfield.
Patrick said research shows Rombauer joined the First Missouri Infantry in St. Louis, one of thousands of immigrants from Germany and other Central European countries to take up arms for the Union, as the states started to divide.
Rombauer participated in the “Camp Jackson Affair” an incident outside St. Louis where hundreds of unarmed Missouri State Guard members who were sympathetic to the Confederacy, were captured by Union soldiers and paraded through St. Louis, causing rioting among Southern-sympathizing civilians.
He left the Missouri unit as his enlistment expired and joined an Illinois light artillery unit.
“The interesting thing is his name does appear in the papers of Ulysses S. Grant because he was translating telegrams that were sent from department headquarters in St. Louis to Cairo, Ill.,” Patrick said. “They were sent in Hungarian, so he was translating them for the officers in Cairo. Grant is in Cairo in the fall of 1861, so he would have been providing a very important service for the federal officers in a very strategic and important location.”
Patrick said it's not completely unheard of to bury the remains of a Civil War soldier in the 21st century, but this is unique because we have identified remains of someone whose history is well documented.
“It's happened a few times in the last few years where soldiers' remains from the Civil War have been buried, but it's a very very rare occurrence,” Patrick said. “I think the unique thing about this officer is he's an immigrant, he's from Hungary. He comes to this country and really not only serves heroically during the Civil War, he becomes a major businessman in Southwest Missouri and in other parts of Missouri.”
Lindberg said the Civil War reenactors are excited to come this close to the history they've studied and trued to recreate.
“This is the last honor Major Rombauer is going to get, and he is someone that, as a living history reenactor, we try to emulate these men,” Lindberg said. “Here's our chance to show the last measure of dedication we have in his memory and the memory of the men who served in the Union Army.”