Hundreds of Civil War veterans are resting in the St. Paul's historic Oakland Cemetery, but one man says their memory and sacrifice is sometimes overlooked or forgotten -- and he's on a mission to change that.
Years ago, Patrick Hill stumbled across a badly weathered grave marker belonging to an Civil War captain. Since then, he's been on a mission to replace other Civil War-era gravestones at the cemetery and remind people about the veterans' sacrifice.
"There are probably six to 800 Civil War guys in here," Hill estimated.
Rows and rows of gravestones in all shapes and sizes bare the names and memories of the past, including the one belonging to Capt. Wilson B. Farrel.
"He was offended that somebody would try to destroy his country and he went to save it and laid down his life on the Fourth of July," Hill said.
That sacrifice was what inspired Hill, a purchasing agent for an oil company, to come back each Memorial Day to ensure those veterans are remembered.
"This is my 17th year," he told FOX 9 News. "A lot of them aren't buried with military stones."
Hill also leads a free Civil War tour through parts of the cemetery called Soldiers' Rest.
"I think the further you get away from these events -- and the Civil War is now 150 years ago, it's hard to understand the context of how the country suffered through that," Hill said.
Hill explained that the soldiers often sewed their names into their coats because they wanted their bodies to be identified if they were killed. Now, Hill is working with the local veterans associations to replace more than 100 worn gravestones to make those names visible again. One such name is Marshall Sherman, the state's first winner of the Medal of Honor.
In some cases, the names are faded or the soldiers were never identified, but Hill said his labor of love will continue.
"Some of the black soldiers are hard to do because their backgrounds were slavery in some cases," Hill said. "They don't have good records for those."
Hill said he won't stop until all the soldiers have a proper resting place and their stories had been shared with the next generation.
"I think because all of these guys are union soldiers, they would say, 'The country is still united. My sacrifice was worth it,'" he said.
Yet, there is still a lot to do. Hill admits it will probably take him years to finish the task of replacing the gravestones. Anyone who wants to help out or learn more can get in touch with him by visiting this website: http://oaklandcemeterymn.com/