2018-05-31 / Editorial

Book explores Laurel Hill Cemetery

Library Links
By Leslie Rounds

Roger Patterson was just 15 years old when his grandfather provided sworn testimony that the boy was aged over 18 and thus qualified to enlist in the Civil War as a Union soldier. The war was drawing to a close in late November 1864. Perhaps Roger was worried that if he waited any longer he might miss a chance for adventure and glory. Whatever his reasons were for lying in order to join, the Saco farm boy was first sent down to Boston to be assigned to a regiment, fitted out with his uniform and equipment to receive rudimentary training. Within two weeks he had contracted measles. On Gallop’s Island, in Boston Harbor, icy winds battered the military hospital where he was put to bed when his illness swiftly worsened. There, on Dec. 28, Roger died. He had served such a short time that his information in Maine Civil War records is wildly inaccurate. After his death, his few belongings were auctioned off in the camp. They included a “great coat,” a Testament, and a memorandum book that Roger had probably intended to use to record his experiences. His body, and the little bit of money raised, were sent back to Saco and he was laid to rest with the Seavey family with whom he had lived for several years after his parents died. Long ago, Roger’s badly weathered marble gravestone toppled over at Laurel Hill Cemetery but is still visible, if hard to read.

This month the Dyer Library/Saco Museum’s new book, “Laurel Hill Cemetery of Saco, Maine” was published by History Press and is now available for purchase or to be checked out of the library. In it, you can read about other veterans from Saco, none, fortunately, quite as young as Roger. Among them are Samuel H. Craig, a Medal of Honor winner, Daniel Joseph Davis Jr., who died in World War II when his ship, the U.S.S. Vincennes, was sunk during the lead-up to Guadalcanal, and David H. Trotter, who was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge.

You’ll also learn of Hooper brothers Caleb and Orlando, two of three members of that family that served during the Civil War. Both brothers died within two weeks of each other at Ship Island, Mississippi, a swampy, disease ravaged Union camp off the coast of Mississippi that had one of the highest illness-caused death rates of any Union encampment of the war.

When you read this, Memorial Day will be past, but it’s still good to recall that this day off from work is more than just the unofficial beginning of summer. The sacrifices of people like Roger, Samuel, Daniel, David, Orlando and Caleb were very real. The loss of these very young men to their families and neighbors must have been crushing. The years of their lives that they gave up are immeasurable. Walking around historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, with flags waving on so many graves, reminds us of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

If you would like to learn more about some of the people buried at Laurel Hill, please join us for a book talk and slide show at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 5 at Dyer Library. Our Saco Museum exhibition for the summer, “Buried in Time: Hidden Stories from Laurel Hill Cemetery” will also enlarge on the stories from our book. We hope to see you soon.

Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum.

Return to top