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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For a town founded in 1672 and with a current population a shade over 7,000 residents, Dighton, Massachusetts has an incredible number of cemeteries, 54 to be exact. Compare that to New York City, which has an estimated 33, and youíll understand why trying to figure out where Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Frederick C. Anderson was interred was such a daunting task. According to one town official that task was the proverbial ďneedle in a haystack.Ē

How and why Anderson came to buried in Dighton, which had a historically long run as a nautical import-export hub before its evolution into a Boston and Providence bedroom community, is pure guess work, but the most probable explanation as to why his remains lie in a Unitarian cemetery is, according to a church member who doubles as the cemetery's caregiver, Anderson's membership in the Dighton Community Church. Thereís speculation, too, that an illegitimate daughter, who preceded Anderson in death, lies two headstones away from his.

Gathering at the Dighton Town Hall on Veteranís Day, a small group, including a videographer from the Boston Globe, heard Charlie Mogayzel relate first hand his efforts to find Andersonís grave, while Dighton officials, in turn, spoke of the honor descended upon their town for having a bonafide, albeit deceased and heretofore undiscovered, hero in their midst.

Andersonís grave is marked by a standard issue government headstone supplied by Sheldon & Sons of West Rutland, Vermont some six years after his death. There was a report of efforts to have his headstone upgraded by the Veteranís Administration so that Andersonís status as a Medal of Honor recipient would be displayed. The V.A., being the good bureaucratic agency that it is, responded that as Anderson already had a grave marker they could not justify issuing another. There is a real possibility, however, that funding from the town and private donations may result in an appropriate tribute.

Iíll skip the part where I was called upon to talk about the 18th Massachusetts Infantry, simply because I canít remember much, if anything, of what I said, although I have some dim recollection of saying we, meaning Tom Churchill, Steve McManus, and myself, had been chasing ďOur Dead GuysĒ for a long time and instead fast forward to the ceremony that took place at the cemetery.

Filming in a cemetery in which burials date from one year prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Boston Globe Videographer Darren Durlach captured the essence of the tribute to one ordinary citizen soldier who went above and beyond, as did legions of comrades in blue, white and black, to ensure we remained as an nation, though flawed, indivisible.

To watch Darren's video click here.


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