Sussex County History Today: County residents who gave their lives for our country

| 21 May 2023 | 05:48

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who died in the service of our country in the military.

Just as a note, Veterans Day is a time to recognize those who have served our country in the military.

Veterans Day came from World War 1 and is officially on Nov. 11. Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, was set for May 30, a time when the flowers would be in bloom.

We had many people, men for the most part, who had died in the service of protecting us and our freedom. It is often said there is no greater sacrifice than to give one’s life for another.

I have selected a few of these from our own Sussex County who have fallen in the line of duty, who have in no small way helped to leverage the victories that have kept us the greatest nation in the world; a place where we can sleep well each and every night, knowing our freedom is secure.

During the Revolutionary War, an attack by the British forces in today’s Port Jervis, N.Y., involved killing and scalpings, burning of homes, and the stealing away northward with livestock and prisoners.

The Second Regiment of the Sussex County Militia responded and on July 22, 1779, the Battle of Minisink ensued. More than 40 militia men were killed. Among these were Pvt. Daniel Talmage of Sparta and Pvt. Nathaniel Wade of the Ogdensburg area near Beardsley’s Hill, as the locale of his home was later known.

They would not return to plow fields and fell trees for their families, and their bones were not recovered until some 40 years later.

Memorial Day grew from the grief of the Civil War. Sussex County men had sacrificed to save the Union.

On June 6, 1862, the pursuit of Stonewall Jackson up the Shenandoah Valley resulted in the Battle of Harrisonburg, where Capt. Thomas R. Haines, Company M, 1st Regiment New Jersey Cavalry, was killed. He was the son of the governor.

Another horrific event in the Civil War was during the Chancellorsville campaign in Virginia. The Union had crossed the Rappahannock River and the Confederates had brought up reinforcements from Richmond, resulting in the clash on May 2, 1863, known as the Battle of Salem Church.

I have visited this gentle knoll with a simple red brick church, backed by a copse of trees and fronted by a field - a field now strewn with many gravestones. Eight local men died in this field; they were soldiers of Company K, 15th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers:

• Wallace C. Collett, a lawyer in Hamburg.

• Andrew Lambert.

• Franklin S. Bishop.

• Daniel O’Leary.

• Eli D. Van Gorden of Wantage.

• Barney Van Gorden of Hamburg.

• Charles A. Zeek.

• Lt John Fowler of Franklin.

It was noted that Fowler was the son of the man, a doctor and scientist, who helped solve a great problem with refining zinc ore.

On a personal note, behind my home in Franklin are two small lanes, service streets in reality. The quaint Edmonds Lane goes northward up a small hill where it meets the short Concoy Lane. These two quiet and modest roads belie the hellish events from which the naming came.

Pfc. Michael Concoy was in World War II during the early days. In the Philippines with Gen. Douglas McArthur, during the brutal days of the Battle of Bataan and the Bataan Death March, he died on July 13, 1942, in the Manila area.

Edmonds Lane is in honor of Allen E. Edmonds, who was killed in Germany in the last months of WWII. His father, Earl, had lost a lung to German mustard gas in the Marne in WWI.

Earl put up a flagpole in honor of his son many years ago, with the American flag aloft in front of his house on Edmonds Lane.

My great-cousin, Edward Mitchell, was killed in Germany in April 1945. Family lore has it that he was to be on the Ed Sullivan radio show the next week, and Sullivan had to announce to the nation that Edward Mitchell was killed in combat.

The Vietnam Was took several locals from Sussex County. One is Pfc. Harrison Benjamin Shauger of the 3rd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He was killed on Sept. 30, 1968, in Quang Duc province, South Vietnam, by enemy small-arms gunfire.

Some 50 years distance dims the Vietnam memory and fervent thought recedes. But the challenges to freedom remain and America must stay vigilant. We still have our men and women continue to serve for our safety.

Sgt. Michael D. Kirspel Jr. of Hopatcong was a part of Operation Enduring Freedom, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery (Strike), 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

He died on Oct. 27, 2010, near the village of Khwaja Kinti, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device. He was a cannon crew member.

Kirspel served earlier in Iraq.

A neighbor had said, “What a future this kid has.”

From his father: “You gave your all for your country but left us here with heavy hearts” and “Always in my heart, Love, Dad.”

Hours after Kirspel was killed, a neighbor said she saw two military men walk up the steps to his house. We all know what this means - a parent’s worst nightmare.

How can you show your appreciation?

One way is to provide respect. My mom, now 93, and I went this week to North Hardyston Cemetery and placed flowers on Dad’s grave, a Navy vet of WWII. You can do this too.

There are several organizations that put American flags on graves of vets. You can participate in a flag raising and attend and help with a parade or local event. Help the elderly from WWII and Korean War and those disabled in Vietnam and other actions.

In general, do something to help your neighbors and respect those who put their lives on the line.

Bill Truran, Sussex County Historian