By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY June 4, 2004 Pvt. William Martin Roosa finally got his gravesite marker.
Eighty-three years after he died, the veteran of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was honored by his old regiment as a small group of re-enactors from Company H of the 143rd New York Volunteer Infantry (NYVI) braved a light afternoon rain Monday to place a cast bronze medallion on his grave alongside an American flag.
Who Was William Roosa?
According to genealogical research published by Harold Van Aken, Roosa was born in Liberty on August 11, 1840.
As a 24-year-old, Roosa traveled to Goshen, where he enlisted in the Union Army on October 13, 1864.
Mustered in as a private under Captain George Decker, Roosa later served with General W.T. Sherman on his famous "March to the Sea" from Atlanta, Ga. to Goldsboro, NC.
On December 10, 1864, "while on the march and greatly fatigued, he with his company were sent out as skirmishers upon the appearance of the enemy, and while hurriedly crossing a field in which were several ditches, [he] in jumping said ditches with heavily loaded knapsack and cartridge box fell [on the opposite bank] and severely ruptured himself," said Van Aken.
But Roosa served with the 143rd until the end of the Civil War and was mustered out with his company comrades on July 20, 1865 in Washington, D.C.
He returned to his parents home in Livingston Manor and on February 11, 1866 was married to Parksville resident Roxy Ann Lewis (born 1843) by justice of the peace George W. Bush at the home of the bride on Revonah Hill.
Although his war injuries prevented Roosa from doing heavy labor, he worked a farm, ran a sawmill and operated a boarding house.
He made a living doing light farmwork and as a salesman of sewing machines and books.
"All kinds of sewing machines cleaned and repaired," Roosa advertised in The Liberty Register in 1896. "I make them work, or no pay."
Their farmhouse on Aden Road in Liberty also served as a boarding house called "The Shady Grove House," an enterprise that earned him the nickname "Shady Bill."
The 1907 edition of "Summer Homes" as published by the O & W Railroad listed the boarding house as accommodating 50 guests "the house is situated on an elevation among the mountains; lighted with gas; spring water; liberal table; plenty of fresh milk, maple syrup, vegetables, eggs. etc. . . . large airy rooms suitable for families; short distance from Lake Ophelia and the race track."
Roosa's first disability pension from the government was $4 per month in 1883, but by May 1, 1920, it had risen to $50 per month.
Shortly before Roosa's death, a fire of suspicious origin destroyed most of their worldly possessions, including their marriage certificate and his Civil War pension certificate.
In the wake of an attack of pneumonia at the boarding house, Roosa died on Wednesday morning, May 25, 1921.
Rev. Samuel F. Franklin of the Presbyterian Church of Liberty officiated at the funeral service.
Roosa was interred in Liberty Cemetery #2 on Saturday afternoon, May 28, 1921.
His beloved wife of 50 years passed away in November of the same year.
They had nine children: Elizabeth, Andrus, Schuyler, Dealia, William Martin Jr., Garfield, David, Katie and Peter.
Where Credit Is Due
A while ago, former Liberty resident and Roosa's great-great-granddaughter Mary Ippolito of Syracuse noted that her relative's gravesite didn't have a GAR marker, so she called Capt. Charles "Chuck" Young of the reconstituted 143rd NYVI.
"She said she'd pay for the marker if we would install it," said Young. "I told her, better yet, we'll buy it and install it with a special ceremony on Memorial Day.
"Several 143rd guys and Civil War veterans from a lot of other units are buried here," he added.
So Roosa was honored on Memorial Day 2004 by several uniformed soldiers of the 143rd NYVI and a small contingent of civilian re-enactors, including Capt. Chuck Young, Sgt. Ken Bascom, Pvt. Joe DiGiampaolo, Pvt. Kevin Storms, Pvt. Dennis W. Bernitt, Pvt. Katlyn Storms and Cpl. Scott Bernitt.
"This is why we're re-enactors for the history of it and to honor these men," said Sgt. Bascom. "We have to hold them dear to our hearts."
More Than One
William Radcliff, the 143rd's adjutant, is buried in the Liberty cemetery a few graves away from Pvt. Roosa. He was killed at Peach Tree Creek on July 20, 1864 during the Battle of Atlanta.
"The 143rd was the second unit into Atlanta after it was captured," said Capt. Young. "They went in on the heels of their sister unit, the 82nd Ohio."
Next to Pvt. Roosa's gravesite is the granite marker of George D. Morris, a member of the 143rd NYVI who died in 1910.
A few paces away lie the mortal remains of Capt. Nicholas D. Moffitt. He served during the Civil War with Company H of the 25th New York Cavalry and later with George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Winchester, Va..
As a somber mist descended over the cemetery and volleys of crackling musket fire echoed off the silent stone markers Monday, numerous tipped-over gravestones and broken markers bore witness to the fact that vandals apparently don't respect the nation's heroes who died to protect and preserve their very own freedoms.
Where to Find Them Next
On June 25-27, the 143rd NYVI will set up camp in Honesdale's Central Park.
The 17th Annual Civil War encampment and battle re-enactment will be held at Walnut Mountain Park in Liberty July 24-25.
For information about the 143rd NYVI, visit their Website: www.143rdnyvi.org.