KENNEBUNK — While some men paid others to serve in their place in the Civil War, that was not the case with Joseph H. Redding Burroughs.
Burroughs, who was wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg, enlisted three times before the Civil War ended, and he was there to stand guard over President Abraham Lincoln’s body after Lincoln’s assassination.
Nearly 150 years later, Burroughs’ military experience was remembered during a service Sunday – a day before Veterans Day – at his graveside at the Pine Grove Cemetery in West Kennebunk, where 130 veterans are buried, all of their graves decorated with American flags.
About 100 people were at the service, organized by the York Masonic Lodge in Kennebunk. The lodge has set a goal to hold ceremonies each Veterans Day in one of the town’s seven cemeteries on a revolving basis. Last year, services took place in Hope Cemetery.
“We meet here today to mourn, honor and celebrate,” said Lawrence Vennell, junior grand warden of the Masons in Maine, who acted as emcee for the service.
The Kennebunk service was one of dozens of observances across the state this weekend to recognize the service of military veterans and the end of World War I on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The Pine Grove Cemetery ceremony was scheduled a day early in order not to interfere with other ceremonies Monday, said Danny Fink, junior warden of the York Masonic Lodge.
The Kennebunk ceremony drew veterans, history buffs and others. They heard speeches by Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Nichols, Brig. Gen. Gerard Bolduc of the Maine Air National Guard and James Ross, grand master of the Masons in Maine.
They watched a procession with bagpipes and an honor guard make its way slowly into the cemetery under a canopy of fir trees to Burroughs’ family plot.
Vennell noted that Burroughs was the symbolic representative of all veterans. “Burroughs was the everyman citizen soldier,” he said.
Not much is known about Burroughs today. Historical records available through the genealogy company Ancestry.com Inc. show Burroughs was born in Charlestown, Mass.
When he was wounded in his left arm by a shell, he was a corporal serving with the 91st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The regiment wore distinctive uniforms, with bloused trousers, blue jackets with yellow piping, and red fezzes.
Burroughs was honorably discharged after he was wounded. He re-enlisted with the 1st Unattached Massachusetts Militia Infantry, in which he served for several months before being discharged. He re-enlisted again, this time with the 21st Veteran’s Reserve Corps, and served for another year.
At age 29, Burroughs married his wife, Medora, 19. They had two children in Massachusetts before the family moved to Alfred sometime before 1880. He served as commander of a Sanford post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union Army veterans fraternal organization. Burroughs died at age 75 in 1913.
Ruth Cheney of Kennebunk said she first learned about Burroughs when she previously lived across from the Pine Grove Cemetery and would wander in to read the gravestones. So when she heard about the service, she had to come.
“I thought it would be nice to come out and show our respect. Even though it was almost 150 years ago, these veterans are not forgotten,” Cheney said.
David Dalessandra, a Mason and Cape Elizabeth resident, brought his sons, Ian, 4, and David, 3, to the service.
“It is really wonderful that something like this was put together,” Dalessandra said.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: