By Winonna Saari Herald Writer
EVERETT — The 18 headstones this weekend decorated with flowers and four American flags stood over what had been unmarked graves at the Evergreen Cemetery.
For decades, these soldiers who fought in the Civil War lay in unmarked graves due to their families’ inability to pay for headstones. James Shipman, the retired cemetery manager and a Civil War buff, led an effort to get the federal government to provide headstones for those veterans who never had one and to replace missing or damaged headstones.
Altogether, 150 Civil War vets are buried at the cemetery.
The headstones were installed in time for the seventh annual Echoes of the Blue and Gray ceremony that took place Saturday at the cemetery at 4405 Broadway.
Shipman said the people who came showed respect for the hopes and dreams of the veterans who are buried there.
“The history of Everett is in this cemetery,” Shipman said.
Ceremonies included a walking tour, a mock battlefield skirmish between Civil War re-enactors and a speech near the Grand Army of the Republic monument.
In one entrance hallway of the funeral home, a replica of President Abraham Lincoln’s casket was set up for guests to view.
People entered the funeral home before the ceremony began, browsing Civil War memorabilia displayed by collectors.
Jeff Dygert brought a collection of artifacts including a well dipper, a brass bugle, knee-length leather boots made with metal staples on the bottom, and a photo depicting four generations of his family.
“My great-great grandfather was in the Civil War,” Dygert said.
Rusty Starr displayed his collection of vintage muskets while he wore the gray uniform representing his Confederate ancestors.
Outside the funeral home, Evergreen Cemetery employees drove guests in golf carts, while others rode a horse-drawn carriage through the cemetery.
Some people gathered near a tented area waiting for the skirmish re-enactment to begin while others stood in line for hot dogs and other refreshments.
Everett historian Dave Dilgard led a two-hour tour, telling stories of the people buried in the grave sites. “The greatest compliment is when I hear someone say, ‘I never heard that before’,” he said.
Bruce Smith, who wrote biographies of the veterans buried in the cemetery and a member of the Washington Civil War Association, was one of the re-enactors Saturday.
David Gray came to the ceremony with his son and his 14-year-old grandson, Sean Gray, to participate in the re-enactment. They’re all members of the Civil War Association and descendants of a Confederate soldier.
When Sean Gray was asked what he likes about the re-enactment, he responded, “I occasionally get to fire my grandfather’s rifle on the battlefield.”
Confederate and Union soldiers skirmished from opposing sides of the field. A Confederate cannon let loose with startling loud bangs while the Union re-enactors fired muskets, leaving clouds of smoke lingering in the air.
Women wore clothing from the 1800s, including nurse’s uniforms.
When the skirmish was over, some from the crowd were taken to the Grand Army of the Republic monument.
Soldiers marched from the other side of the cemetery with flags in arms, muskets on shoulders and swords in hands toward the monument. They ended this event with a salute of muskets and artillery.
Karen Vandervate and her children attended the ceremony. “We are neighbors to the cemetery and saw the sign when we passed here,” Vandervate said. “I wanted to come check it out. I really enjoyed it.”