Where history meets military service

Spec. Joey Bloomer, left, and Sgt. Matthew Gregory of the Army National Guard, Military Funeral Honors, fold a 48 star U.S. flag during a military service for Patrick Flynn Wednesday, November 11, 2015, at St. Mary’s Cemetery. In the background are Pfc. James Davis and Father Ambrose Ziegler. Flynn served in the Civil War with the 2nd New York Cavalry. (Photo: John Terhune/Journal & Courier)

Lafayette, Indiana November 11, 2015.

Under a bright sun and in between gentle gusts of wind, about 20 people gathered Wednesday afternoon to honor someone none of them had ever met.

The focal point was a brand new gray military-style gravestone that sat on a hill next to the woods on an edge of St. Mary’s Cemetery. “Patrick Flynn,” it read in part, “Co I 2 NY CAV.” Along with the birth and death dates, the words pointed to Flynn’s service fighting for the Union in the Civil War.

The marker belongs to the great-grandfather of Cathy Ferguson, a lifetime Lafayette resident. Her family — including a few veterans — and friends attended the military service. Ferguson worked with her nephew, Fred Bolander, to obtain a stone through Tippecanoe County’s veteran’s services, a headstone that would replace the heavily faded one that had stood for more than a century.

But there’s more to the story than that.

Flynn’s previous stone, Ferguson said, was turned backward, faced the woods and was in an area removed from the rest of his family. No one is completely sure why. While her uncle paid to have it turned around about 20 years ago, she said the family believed Flynn might not have properly been honored for his service because of its initial position.

So she contacted Sgt. Matthew Gregory, the team leader of the Lafayette division of Military Funeral Honors, and decided to have a service honoring her great-grandfather.

“Family history is important to me, and … we’re just a close family,” Ferguson said. “So it was just something we wanted to do, and my niece suggested, ‘Why don’t we get a service?’ So it kind of snowballed into that.”

“I feel every soldier deserves his honors. We don’t ever leave anyone behind,” Gregory said. “That soldier served this country and sacrificed a lot.”

Four members of the armed services carried out the military honors — First Sgt. Paul Sabol of the Indiana Guard Reserve played taps, and servicemen presented a late 19th-century replica flag to Ferguson. Father Ambrose Ziegler, who travels around the area performing services, blessed the gravestone and delivered prayers. His remarks centered on the importance of remembering a war fought on U.S. soil and keeping the country strong from within through prayer, positivity and love.

“Sometimes we forget the price that many, many people — men, women and youth — have to pay so that there can be peace,” Ziegler said.

Flynn was born in Toronto in 1842 to parents from Ireland, according to a family history pamphlet compiled by Ferguson’s uncle. In August of 1861, Flynn enlisted for the Union as a private in the Capt. Naylor’s Company, the Harris Light Cavalry — which later became the 2nd New York Cavalry Regiment — in Lafayette.

According to the family records, he served until June 1863 and received a bounty before rejoining the same company in December of the same year. An undated article from the Morning Journal mentions Flynn and several others receiving medals for bravery for serving in the battle of Gettysburg. He stayed in the army until June 1865 and spent a long stint of time in the hospital, though records don’t indicate whether his illness stemmed from war injuries.

After the war ended in the spring of 1865, Flynn served in different posts in the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union veterans, the records stated. He settled in Lafayette, built a home on Romig Street, and worked for J.B. Felley Hardware store and in the draying business.

The story of Flynn’s death garnered a front-page spot in the Lafayette Daily Courier, according to the records. He, his wife Bridget and son Owen died of asphyxiation while heating their home in January 1899. According to the article, the gas in the stove was turned on and the damper was turned down to keep heat from traveling up the chimney. But the damper’s opening was clogged with soot, which trapped the gas inside. The three were found several days later by Ferguson’s grandfather and police.

In the process of obtaining a new gravestone for Flynn and researching his story, Ferguson said she has learned more about the Civil War than when she was in school. And she looks forward to finding out more.

To read more about this story, visit the Lafayette Journal & Courier website

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