Memories of men alive
by Briana Sutherland
Until recently, veteran William M. Coombs’ tombstone was illegible.
This past Memorial Day his memory and that of all all the veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Civil War were remembered.
Members of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment gathered at Vernon Cemetery in Elk River on Memorial Day to honor these veterans.
Every Memorial Day the infantry goes somewhere in the state to honor the deceased. An ongoing committee contacts the Veterans Administration to file the necessary paperwork to have tombstones guaranteed for the honorably discharged veterans.
Coombs was part of Company C First Minnesota Infantry. He came to Minnesota in 1854, settled in Elk River and was married in 1860. On Dec. 30, 1861, he enlisted and was mustered into the military, being placed in Company C on Feb. 10, 1862. On Jan. 1, 1864, he re-enlisted as a veteran volunteer and remained with the First Minnesota Infantry until he was mustered out of service in May 1864. He transferred to the First Battalion to finish his enlistment and was mustered out on July 14, 1865.
After the war, Coombs was a farmer and then a laborer. He had two children, Susue and Ernest. On Sept. 20, 1894, Coombs was admitted to the Minnesota Soldiers Home in Minneapolis. He was discharged on July 4, 1898, but re-admitted on July 29, 1899. Coombs died at the Soldiers Home on March 5, 1902, at the age of 71.
The First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment began the morning with a march around the cemetery, followed by a group of citizens. They ended their march at Coombs’ tombstone, where First Sergeant Nathan Dapper addressed the crowd. “The goal of our group is to keep the memories of these men alive,” said Dapper.
Jim Moffet read Coombs’ biography to the crowd as well as additional information about the Civil War.
Dapper went on to inform the crowd of the statistics about the veterans resting in the cemetery.
The First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment assembled and fired three shots over Coombs’ gravesite.