Story by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Clouds hung low overhead creating a soft and divine backdrop around the small cemetery that morning. The sound of rain hitting the blush green leafs of trees surrounding the quant outdoor chapel is all that can be heard.
Generations of family members, friends, local officials and members from the community slowly gathered into the chapel, located at the bottom of the cemetery’s rolling hills.
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) participated in a reinterment ceremony for an American Revolutionary War veteran Samuel Howard, his wife and their infant on May 12, 2017, at Resthaven Cemetery in Baxter, Kentucky.
“Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work accomplished by the corps and the Howard family along with local officials to save these remains,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Toy, commander of The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division, (USACE SPD). “This is an example of the Army’s commitment to taking care of Soldiers and their families in life and beyond.”
Howard died on December 5, 1840 in Harlan County, Kentucky. He was 78 years old.
Howard, Chloe his wife and their unnamed infant were originally laid to rest over 177 years ago at Highlands Cemetery in Cumberland, Kentucky. Due to development of the area in the 1970s the family’s remains where relocated to Wix Howard Cemetery in Harlan, Kentucky.
The Wix Howard Cemetery lies along steep slopes of the Cumberland River. In the late 1990s, USACE constructed diversion channels in an effort to prevent the river from further eroding the cemetery grounds.
After 20 years, the diversion channel began to slide into the river and threatened portions of the cemetery. This required the immediate exhumations of the family’s graves in addition to three others.
Sharon Osborne and Stephanie Fisther, descendants of Howard, navigate multiple local and national levels of government channels in the effort to save the family’s remains from sliding into the river.
They eventually got the attention of The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lakes and River Nashville, (USACE LRN).
“Both of them were very instrumental in saving the Howard’s remains,” said Craig Carrington, chief of plan formulation section with USACE LRN. “They worked very close with the corps.”
In November 2016, USACE LRN successfully recovered the family’s remains and secured the remains at the Resthaven Cemetery.
“This was a learning process for everyone involved,” said Maj. Christopher Burkhart, deputy commander with USACE LRN. “But, we were committed to ensuring this was done right so that we could render the proper honor to Samuel and his family.”
Howard enlisted into the Army in 1778 and served in Captain Mayo Carrington’s Company of the Virginia Line during the Revolutionary War.
He served seven years under General George Washington’s command. Howard witnessed British General Charles Cornwallis surrender 8,000 British soldiers to Washington in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia. This brought the American Revolution War to a close.
Howard and Chloe married in 1784, the couple went on to have 12 children.
The Howard family moved to Kentucky in 1796, just four years after the state adopted its statehood constitution.
The family was among the first settlers to come to Harlan County. Howard was active in many community affairs and is considered by many to be one of the county’s founding leader.
As the nation’s premier memorial affair’s unit USACE reached out to The Old Guard to perform the ceremony.
The Old Guard Soldiers participation in the ceremony was appreciated by USACE leaders.
“I want to thank The Old Guard Soldiers for traveling all this way to be here today,” said Toy. “It is fitting and proper to have them here on this occasion.”
“We were esteemed to have the Soldiers from 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, participate in the rendering of the military honors,” said Carrington.