ALEXANDRIA - More than a century after his death, a Civil War veteran had his military headstone placed at his grave in Alexandria.
Corporal Timothy Peters, who is buried at the Green Hill Cemetery, was honored Saturday afternoon by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) with a remembrance ceremony almost 11 years in the making.
Typically, when a veteran dies, the family will apply to get an official military headstone, which is placed at the burial site within a few weeks or months. But Peters' headstone took a little longer to get to his final resting place.
In the summer of 2007, a Civil War buff in eastern Washington state took it upon himself to track down every Civil War soldier buried in his county. For those who didn't have a headstone, he would apply for one himself, then go and replace it.
Eventually he found the burial site of one Timothy Peters. There was a headstone there, but it wasn't a Civil War headstone. As he did for the others, he ordered what he thought was the proper stone, took a photo of it when it had been placed, posted that photo online and wrote it off as having been sorted out.
What he didn't realize was that Timothy Peters wasn't born until several years after the end of the Civil War. The Timothy Peters who had actually fought in the Civil War was buried more than 1,200 miles away, in Hanson County, South Dakota.
Meanwhile, Joni Spellman Krause, who had recently become interested in genealogy, had been researching her family, including her great-great-uncle, Timothy Peters.
According to Krause's genealogical research, Peters was born in Vermont in 1840 or 1841. From 1861 to 1865 he served as a corporal in Wisconsin's Company A, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, fighting mostly in Missouri and Arkansas. He survived the war, as did his brothers, Munson, Nelson and Ashley.
When he returned from the war, Peters got married and had two sons, one of whom died of scarlet fever. Peters, his wife Sarah, his son Minor and his in-laws eventually ended up in Hanson County, South Dakota, where Peters spent the majority of his life farming until his death in 1906.
When Krause had first found Peters' information, the stone pictured on FindAGrave.com, a site used to find cemetery records, was the correct one. But later on, she found something strange.
"You kind of go back and recheck things, and I went back about six months later and there was a different stone," she said. "I was really upset, because I felt like it detracted from both Timothys' service."
After reaching out to everyone she could think of to get the headstone problem solved, Krause eventually began to think it was a lost cause.
"I was the big complainer. I posted a lot of stuff on the internet, complaining, asking for help," she said. "I messed around for a couple years, trying to get it straightened out. I just kind of gave up. I knew the truth."
But Gordon Stuve, camp commander of the SUVCW's Fort Walla Walla Camp No. 3, also saw the photo of the headstone on Find A Grave and saw the issue with it.
Stuve wanted to move the stone, but couldn't until he had permission from one of Peters' relatives. After trying and failing to find one, Stuve went back online and searched through all the Timothy Peters who were veterans, eventually finding one buried in Alexandria, South Dakota. On that webpage was a short biography written by Krause. About two years ago, Stuve reached out to Krause, asking if she'd be interested in helping him get the two Timothy Peters' headstones sorted out.
Of course, she was.
"After almost 11 years exactly, this stone has found its home," Stuve said at the headstone dedication. "And I thank the people that participated in this project with me."
At the remembrance ceremony, Peters' obituary was read, and on the headstone were placed the symbols of the Army (a saddle, sabre and Spencer rifle), a rose, a laurel wreath and a flag.
Krause was presented with a memorial flag, and the ceremony concluded with a firing squad salute, the playing of Taps and a prayer by Chaplain Glenn Kietzmann.
About 30 people were in attendance, including participating members of SUVCW, members of Harrison Camp 53-2 Department of Nebraska, reenactors from Sioux Falls' 13th U.S. Infantry, local VFW and American Legion Posts and those related to Peters.