An important chapter in Johnson County military history ended in 1938, when the last member of the 7th Indiana Infantry Company F passed away. Adolphus H. Smith was 96 years old when he peacefully died on June 10 in his home in Edinburgh. Prior to his death, annual Decoration Day services in Edinburgh and around the county were marked by special appearances by Smith and other honored Civil War veterans. They rode in cars or marched in parades, gave speeches and basked in the adulation and respect they earned through their dedicated service.
Eager young men from Edinburgh and surrounding areas mustered into the 19th Indiana Infantry Volunteers, Company H at Camp Morton in Indianapolis in July 1861. The 19th Indiana Regiment consisted of ten companies of 100 men originating from eight Indiana Counties. They combined with regiments from Wisconsin and Michigan to form the 1st Brigade. The brigade joined the Army of the Potomac. After fighting at Antietam, the 1st developed a reputation for being exceptionally fierce and tenacious in battle. Major General George McClellan supposedly remarked “If I had an iron brigade, I could pierce the enemy’s center.” General Joseph Hooker replied, “I have that brigade in my command.” That comment and their refusal to retreat during the battle of South Mountain near Hagerstown, Maryland in Sept 1862, earned them the nickname “The Iron Brigade.” They fought at Gettysburg and Petersburg, but suffered heavy losses, experiencing the highest casualty rate of any brigade in the Union Army. It is estimated that at least 24 members of Edinburgh’s Company H perished while in service. There are memorials to the Iron Brigade and the Indiana 19th Regiment at Gettysburg National Military Park. Prior to Adolphus Smith’s death, a permanent memorial to Civil War veterans was erected here in Rest Haven Cemetery. In 1901, The Richard M. Kelly Post 217 of the Grand Army of the Republic, a national fraternal group organized by Civil War Union Veterans, dedicated the oldest war memorial in the cemetery. It is located in Section B, where many of the Civil War veterans are buried and is marked by a Civil War cannon.
Other memorials in Rest Haven Cemetery include a monument to veterans of the Spanish American War (1898-1900) and World War 1 (1917-1918) installed in 1921. This impressive tribute includes the names of Johnson County veterans of these wars inscribed on bronze tablets flanked by two captured German guns obtained by the Edinburgh Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mounted on the south side of the monument is a section of the battleship USS Indiana where a mortar shell penetrated its hull during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba amidst the Spanish American War. It is believed that Edinburgh native George M. Wells was the only Hoosier to serve on the battleship and was instrumental in obtaining the damaged deck plate for the monument.
The third memorial in the cemetery is adjacent to the above monument and was dedicated in 1973 by the Lind-Hill VFW Post 7964. The memorial is a stone bench, inscribed with The Lord’s Prayer and the emblems of the VFW Post 7964 and other area veterans’ organizations.
Enjoy a visit to the Rest Haven Cemetery and take time to admire these memorials that pay homage to our brave Hoosier veterans.