SUTHERLAND—James Patterson Martin of Sutherland was not only the last surviving Civil War veteran in O’Brien County, but the last living Iowan soldier of that war.
He died over 70 years ago at the age of 101; however, the Iowa Civil War Union Veterans Sons Department honored his memory in a ceremony Saturday, June 18 at Waterman Cemetery in Sutherland.
“It’s only fitting that 70 years later, the American Legion is here again,” said Danny Krock, historian for the Iowa Veterans Organization.
Krock was one of many speakers to take to the podium at the afternoon ceremony, which drew a crowd of more than 50 people. Several attendees were descendants of Martin and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Brady, whom the Civil War veteran married in 1870.
The Sons of the Civil War Veterans Union is a direct and legal descendant of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was the nation’s first veterans organization. About 20% of the more than 2 million members of the Union Army joined the Grand Army of the Republic after the war. The organization helped provide pensions for Civil War veterans, their widows and orphans and conducted most of the veterans’ burials.
“We became the sole spokespersons and heirs of the GAR in 1955,” said Dennis Sasse, commander of the Iowa Department of Sons of Union Veterans. “We are basically striving to educate, preserve their memory and honor Union veterans.”
The Sons of Union Veterans began the Last Soldier Project in 2003, the goal of which was to locate and appropriately mark the final resting place of the last Civil War soldier buried in every county in every state in the United States.
“In 2013, Brother Ron Rittel completed the task of identifying the last soldier in each of our 99 counties, last 100 soldiers in all,” Krock said, referring to a former Sons of Union Veterans historian from the United States. Iowa.
“Lucas County had two deaths on the same day. The last 100 soldier markers will be placed at the end of this ceremony.
During the ceremony, members of the Sons of the Union Veterans placed six symbols beside Martin’s grave:
- A musket with a bayonet, a symbol of bravery and bravery.
- A backpack, a symbol of a soldier’s endurance in hardship.
- A canteen and a backpack, symbols of a soldier’s ties to his home.
- An American flag, symbol of the undivided Union for which the soldiers fought.
- A crown, a symbol of eternal love for war comrades
- A white rose, a symbol of purity.
According to his obituary, Martin was born on November 10, 1847 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. When Martin was 5 years old, he and his family immigrated to Wisconsin, where relatives had settled years earlier.
Martin spent much of his youth on the family farm and was educated in rural schools. Four of his older brothers enlisted as Union soldiers when the Civil War broke out; Martin did it too at just 16 with his father’s permission.
He was inducted into service on September 22, 1864, and was a member of Company H, Wisconsin 1st Heavy Artillery, 22nd Corps, Eastern Division. He was released on June 26, 1865 at Fort Lyon, VA.
Martin was on guard outside the U.S. Capitol on April 15, 1865, the night President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated; so he helped relay the news of the event.
After the war, Martin returned to Wisconsin to farm, although he later moved to Kansas to develop a farm. It was also where he married his wife and started his family. The Martins returned to Wisconsin after a few years and farmed there until the fall of 1886, when they settled in Waterman Township, five miles east of Sutherland. Martin and Mary Elizabeth had nine children, one of whom died in infancy while the other eight lived to adulthood. His wife died in 1917.
Martin lived in O’Brien County the rest of his life and was active in several organizations. He helped organize the O’Brien County Mutual Insurance Association and served as its first president. He was also instrumental in establishing Waterman Township’s rural telephone system and was involved with the Masonic Order.
Martin also remained involved with the Grand Army of the Republic in Iowa and the rest of the country. In April 1947, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Iowa Department for the organization, having previously served as senior vice-commander. At that time, Martin was the only surviving Civil War veteran in the state.
His obituary stated that Martin was “gifted with exceptionally good health” and drove his car, took daily walks, mowed his lawn and dug potatoes well past the age of 90. He also participated in every Memorial Day parade until 1946 at the age of 99. 20, 1949, aged 101 in Sutherland, more than 80 years after the end of the war.
Krock read the final order Martin gave as commander of the Iowa Department of the Grand Army of the Republic. He stated:
“One by one my comrades slipped away so now I can’t summon any more. With this, my last general order, I want to thank everyone who sent me cards or visited me and thank all members of the Allied Orders for their support, for helping all veterans, teaching patriotism, upholding the principles of the Grand Army of the Republic: Brotherhood, Charity and Loyalty .
This story first appeared in the July 2, 2022 print edition of The South O’Brien Sun.