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A House Divided
Posted at 01:25 PM ET, 10/16/2013

Black vet who lost arm, leg finally gets grave marker


Pvt. Lewis [Louis] Martin. (National Archives)

U.S. Colored Troops Pvt. Lewis [Louis] Martin, who was badly wounded at the Battle of the Crater in 1864, will have a cemetery marker for the first time Nov. 2 when it is dedicated at Oak Ridge cemetery in Springfield, Ill.

He is best known for a photograph taken of him after a surgeon removed part of his right arm and left leg at a military hospital just outside Washington, D.C. The iconic picture shows a handsome young man staring dispassionately at the camera while displaying his two amputations.

If not for that image, his name and what happened to him after the war may never have been known. Columnist Dave Bakke of the State Journal Register in Springfield has publicized and supported an effort to have Martin properly honored at the cemetery where he was buried in the paupers’ section in January 1892.

Martin, a private in Co. E of the 29th USCT, moved back to Springfield when the war ended and his unit had been disbanded. Whatever attention the hospital picture may have brought him did him little good in Springfield. The local residents saw him as a useless, disabled black man and not as a Union veteran who had helped win the war. Eventually, he turned to drinking heavily. When he died, the local paper commented that Martin’s military pension “went to local saloon-keepers.”

Enough money was raised for a new marker. However, a local monument company has offered to donate a stone, so Martin will have two stones to mark his grave. One will identify him and the other will have engraved on its face the picture for which he became famous.

By Linda Wheeler  |  01:25 PM ET, 10/16/2013

 
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