When the 24-year-old Guernsey County
man went off to war, the Civil War was winding down. He
never saw battle, nor even the front. Yet, within a month,
he was dead.
“He just went down to do guard duty at
Gallipolis,” Tom Snyder said. “He lasted a month and died –
probably of disease or something like that.”
But Snyder isn’t sure. It’s one of
perhaps hundreds of mysteries he has uncovered since he
began documenting the graves of Guernsey County’s Civil War
Snyder’s work will add to a nationwide
effort by the Sons of Union Veterans to peel back the
effects of time and weather and preserve the memory of the
men who saved this nation. As a member himself of the SUV,
Snyder volunteered to take on the task for Guernsey County.
That was two years ago. Since then, he
has searched cemeteries, checked courthouse records and
cross-referenced finding against the Ohio Roster of Civil
He has unearthed the scoop on some 600
veterans. But he is humbled by what remains to be done.
“When I started out,” he said, “I
really didn’t have any idea of how many Union soldiers there
would be in this county.
“But, as near as I can figure,
somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 Civil War veterans [lie
here]. That’s really just a guess.
“Of course, the problem is time and
weather, have destroyed a lot of markers.”
Despite the inevitable mysteries,
Snyder has found the project to be an education.
“One of the interesting things,” he
said, “about this project is you learn just a tremendous
amount by digging up information and by finding these
Snyder’s method of documentation
resident Tom Snyder began documenting the
burial sites of Guernsey County Civil War
veterans two years ago, he started by
searching the cemeteries of the county.
approach worked in some cases, in many
instances, time and the effects of weather
had eroded the engravings to the point where
many were illegible.
takes a multipronged approach. He still
checks cemeteries. But he is just as likely
to get a lead from the Guernsey County
Courthouse of the Finley Room of the
Guernsey County District Library,
volunteer work is part of a nationwide
effort by the Sons of Union Veterans of the
Civil War to document gravesites and
preserve information about the veterans.
is hunting includes name, military unit and
dates of birth and death, as well as any
other incidental information he can obtain.
place I get information,” Snyder said, “is
the stone, if it’s on the stone. If it’s not
on the stone, I can get some information
from the county records downtown in the
If he cannot
find a death certificate, he will go to the
Finley Room in the library to check the Ohio
Roster of Civil War Soldiers.
“What I try to
do is build on all of these. I’ll check the
information in all three spots to see how
accurate it is. If all three match up, then
that’s what I will put down.
“If there is a
question, I’ll put down a question mark. If
there is no information, I’ll just leave it
blank until I can come back to it.”
volunteered for the project.
The veterans of all
wars have made sacrifices, Tom Snyder
“But the Civil War,” he
said, “has a special interest for me because
of my great great grandfather, Sam Ray.”
Being a “child of the
‘70s,” Snyder once had a strong steak of
anti-military running through him.
As he grew older, he
mellowed and he began reading about the
Civil War, an interest further spurred by
his ancestor’s involvement in that war. He
even obtained from his mother a photograph a
Ray and, so, was able to put a face to a war
that seems remote to many people today.
Snyder learned Ray was
killed during the Battle of Jonesborough,
south of Atlanta, in September 1864.
investigating his story,” Snyder said, “and
the trials and tribulations he went
“He moved in Illinois
and had five children with his wife. He went
away to war and never came back. He left her
to raise the kids and she didn’t have any
money. All she had was a farm. So, they had
a rough life.
“He made a sacrifice
for his country.”