A story worthy of sharing

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Here in Virginia, where it is estimated that more than 60 percent of the battles of the Civil War took place, it’s little wonder there is still such interest in a war that concluded nearly 150 years ago. There is hardly a part of the commonwealth that didn’t see fighting, hardly a family that can’t claim somehow to have been touched by the events, hardly a community that doesn’t still have some scar that attests to the violence of that awful conflict.

Considering the important role that Virginia played in the Civil War, it is, perhaps, not all that surprising that the war continues to be important to Virginians, at least in a historical sense. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, The Civil War Preservation Trust, the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and many other such organizations attest to the desire of Virginians to protect the commonwealth’s historically important sites, to educate generations about the commonwealth’s role in the war and to honor those who were lost in it.

For obvious reasons, many of those organizations take a decidedly Confederate-centric approach to that history. The Union won the war, but the vast percentage of Virginians who lost their lives were Confederates, and even descendants who might disagree with their ancestors’ choice of sides cannot do a thing to change that decision today. So most Virginians interested in tracing their lineage are likely to find that it includes either Confederate soldiers or slaves — or, in a growing number of cases, both.

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That’s why the recent dedication of a tombstone in a family cemetery in Suffolk was especially interesting. Like many men from Suffolk or Nansemond County during the early 1850s, William A. Boon served in the war. Unlike some of those men, he survived to come back home, where he lived until 1937 and was buried in a grave that did not mark his service.

When a great-grandson discovered that omission in December, he set about to make things right. Recently, the elder Boon got the recognition he deserved, with a marker noting his service for the U.S. Colored Troops, Company H. His service in the Union army was surely uncharacteristic of most men in Virginia — even one of his brothers served the Confederacy.

Boon’s was clearly an unusual story in this state that was home to the capital of the Confederacy. Nonetheless it was a story worth honoring, and Suffolk is the richer for Boon’s grandson uncovering it and sharing it.