A Civil War Veteran goes home via cross-country motorcycle ride



Pvt. Jewett Williams, a Civil War soldier who fought with the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry regiment, will never be forgotten again.

This month, Williams’ cremains were claimed after 94 years then transported across the country from Oregon to Maine by the Patriot Guard Riders, a volunteer motorcycle group with members from across the nation whose mission is to honor U.S. military Veterans both living and dead.

The Patriot Guard began its journey with Williams’s cremains on Aug. 1 in Portland, Oregon. Members of the guard have traveled by motorcycle with Williams’ remains roughly 3,500 miles, across 19 states with transfers at each state line.

The escort made a stop at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia, where a ceremony was held in Williams’ honor August 18. As part of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Williams was at Appomattox Court House for the end of the Civil War, as Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses Grant in a ceremony on April 12, 1865.

“A Civil War Veteran coming across county like this just doesn’t happen.”

Over 100 motorcyclists participated in the segments of Williams’ journey through Virginia alone. Riders from states that were not a part of the route, such as Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, traveled north to participate at Appomattox.

“That’s who we are. We are the patriots, we are the guard of our Veterans and we want to make sure to get them back home to their resting places,” said Virginia Patriot Guard rider James Tennant, who carried Williams’ cremains during the ceremony at Appomattox.

Tennant, a Navy Veteran and a ten-year member of the Patriot Guard Rider, described the ride as the highlight of his life. He said the Patriot Guard Riders have participated in numerous escorts. However, he acknowledged the history that was made during this particular mission.

When discussing the receipt of Williams’ cremains for the leg of the mission that led to Appomattox, Tenant said, “that’s a body, it’s a person, a Veteran, a soldier… that touches my heart. To be able to put him on my motorcycle with my wife and ride here, it’s an experience I can’t describe. It’s unbelievable.”

Jewett Williams

Jewett Williams

Jewett Williams was born in 1843 in the small farming community of Hodgdon in northern Maine. He was drafted into the U.S. Army at Bangor, Maine, on Oct. 12, 1864. Williams served his last six months with the 20th Maine Infantry regiment fighting during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, the Stony Creek (or “Applejack”) Raid and other battles, such as Peebles Farm, Hatcher’s Run, White Oak Road, Quaker Road, Five Forks and Appomattox.

After the war, Williams returned home to Maine before living in several different states. Upon moving to Michigan, he and his wife had their first child, who died at 19 months. They then moved to Minnesota where they had five more children before settling in Washington and then Oregon in the 1890s.

Up until about 1919, Williams frequently spoke to local school groups during Memorial Day events. His wife died in 1920.

Williams died in 1922, at the age of 78, after a three-month stay in the Oregon State Hospital for the Insane in Salem, Oregon. There, he was diagnosed with senility. His ashes were discovered in a copper can in 2004, shelved in a shed on the hospital’s property alongside the remains of more than 3,600 other people. No one claimed Williams’ cremains until Maine historian Tom Desjardin, who was researching members of the 20th Maine stumbled across an online archive that housed Williams’ record.

The effort to transport Williams to his final resting place in Maine was a joint effort coordinated by volunteers, including the historian who found him, the Patriot Guard Riders, the Maine Living History Association, with support from the Togus National Cemetery, the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard and the Oregon and Maine state departments of Veterans affairs.

The Patriot Guard Riders delivered Williams’ cremains on August 22 to Maine where they will be returned to surviving family members.

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Author

Meagan Heup

Meagan began working for VA in the Office of Public Affairs in 2010. Since then, she has worked as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Office of Media Relations.

Comments

  1. Karen Wall    

    Typos, dates, regulations……..who cares. The essence of this story is that one of our own was brought home by a wonderful group of individuals whose mission and vision it is to serve those who cannot speak for themselves anymore. Thanks to the Patriot Guard Riders for always stepping up! This is a great story, Meagan! Boy, talk about Veteran of the Day!!!!!1
    Karen

  2. Dan Ruby    

    Heart warming story.

  3. Chris Adams    

    I would think there must be other veterans among the “more than 3600” remains? I wonder if list of the names of the unclaimed remains might be linked here so this can be researched from that end?

  4. Raymond Unger    

    It’s a comfort to know that somehow in death you will still be taken care of. You won’t be forgotten. Salute!

  5. Richard Schmitt    

    God Bless You Mr. Richard Bareford.

  6. Mark Ames    

    Great Job by everyone involved, Your efforts are much appreciated.

  7. Mickey Notax    

    Good Job, All Of You. Keep up the good work. Thank you all so very much.
    Sincerely,
    Capt. Mickey Notax Siracusa

  8. MANCEL R ALLEN    

    I feel that the primary goal of the Veteran’s Administration should concentrate on living, disabled veterans. ‘Ashes’ will have no recall of the commotion. It makes the VA seem comical to me. This wartime ‘hero’ is not in those ashes. He’s in his final resting place – be it Heaven or (hopefully not) Hell. Could we focus on injured vets who walk the streets by day & sleep under cardboard and newspapers at night? They are the ones who are truly suffering.

  9. toni correll    

    Thank you all for your support – Patriot Guard Riders and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. That was quite an undertaking.

  10. Bruce Maves    

    The Patriot Guard Riders are a proud organization. I have heard of other things they have done. I wasn’t medically banned from getting a license I would ask to join the outfit and proudly be in their service. And as a veteran I am glad that there are groups such as these that care about us so much. They could definitely put the government and the uncaring politicians to shame for their uncaring attitude and unexcusable inaction in dealing fairly with veterans.

  11. William Howard    

    I live in Alabama and would like to look in on the remains of military soldiers in this area. To give them a proper burial. But I have run into a brick wall. Is there anyway you could give me some help in getting this done. I would like to start a group or join a group. To give these men what they have earned. I am a woodworker and would like to make erns for their remains. Any help would be appreciated.

  12. ET Wilken    

    I sure hope there are more historians out there like Mr Desjardin. As a Navy veteran, I am not surprised that Americans came together to honor a fellow veteran. See, we can do great things when we work together.

  13. John Kent Berry    

    Proud of the efforts made by everyone in getting PVT Williams taken care of with the honor…..and reverence for all veteran
    Rev.J.kent Berry
    retired US Army Reserve (lieutenant Colonal)
    Crawford , TX

  14. Alton G. Rogers    

    The Patriot Guard are a great organization and are greatly appreciated by me and all other all Veterans. But I wonder who decided Mr. Williams would be better off in Maine? Jewett Williams left Maine of his own choosing to go to Oregon. Did they take his wife too? What about his children and descendants that may be in Oregon or Washington. Let the dead lie where they are and praise them there unless the were MIA and found later. Then bring them home with honors..

  15. Dawn Underferth    

    While I greatly appreciate and respect what the Patriot Riders did, I find myself asking the question why was he not buried next to his wife?? He could have been given the same honors there, right? I understand that the Oregon system was woefully inept in the handling of his remains to that point. He still should have been buried with his wife. If he had died on the battle field then he would have been buried there. However he had a full life with family moving across the country. I don’t think it was right to take him all the way back to Maine. His family was in Oregon.

  16. Alton G. Rogers    

    The Patriot Guard are a great organization and are greatly appreciated by me and all other all Veterans. But I wonder who decided he would be better off in Maine? Why did Jewett Williams leave Maine and got to Oregon. Did they take his wife too? What about his children and descendants that may be in Oregon or Washington. Let the dead lie where they are and praise them there.

  17. Jkieler    

    Why didn’t they bury him with his wife that died in 1920?
    Glad family claimed him, but I was curious on why they didn’t place him with his spouse.

  18. Jkieler    

    Why didn’t they burry him with his wife that died in 1920?

  19. Linda Rucker    

    Brought tears to my eyes of joy! Praise and blessings on all who took part in making this happen.

  20. just wondering    

    Did they take his wife too?

  21. rest    

    Just seems strange that an article like this, for some people, is more about grammar and dates than the spirit of the article.

  22. Richard Bareford    

    As one who has been struggling with the VA since 2012 to provide grave markers for forgotten veterans I am well aware of the arbitrary and nonsensical obstacles erected to discourage if not prevent memorialization. Presumably the historian, Mr. Desjardin, who “claimed” Williams’ cremains did not apply to the VA himself for a grave marker or headstone; he located a family member. How long did that take? Did anyone in the family even know Williams existed? How did he persuade the family to apply and be responsible for placing the marker? Was he aware that since April 1, 2016 any person may apply for memorialization benefits on behalf of eligible veterans whose qualifying service ended prior April 6, 1917? Unless he is a habitual reader of the Federal Register — 38 CFR 38.600 (a)(1)(vi) — probably not. The VA as of August 26, 2016 has chosen not to publicize this rule change or even update VA Form 40-1330, preferring that researchers continue to believe that they must jump through hoops trying to identify living relatives, willing and able to apply for benefits. Of course if the veteran’s service began on or after the day America declared war on Germany that is still the case. The reason? The VA claims it is easy to locate relatives of such veterans. Failing that, officials responsible for an unmarked veteran’s grave may apply. These are the very people responsible for not marking the grave in the first place. Yet the VA blithely cites this provision as resolving the scandal. The VA deserves no credit for the actions of volunteers.

    1. Dr. David La Rue    

      Well presented Richard. The VA needs true leadership and a great full nation to change the disrespectful beauracy it has become. The VA has many good people working hard to serve our Vets, suppressed by layers of self-serving leeches.
      Less vote for reform, and demand we get it. Let’s vote against the same self-serving leeches and their corrupt system.
      Honor our Vets, active and retired, living and past…we owe them our respect America !

  23. Jimmy Crack Corn    

    Thank you for your support Patriot Guard Riders and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

    1. TBall    

      Correct you are Jimmy. I’ll bet these guys always stand for the National Anthem too. God Bless America

  24. Garland Smith    

    No Man Left Behind !! Good job Guys..

  25. James Lee    

    It seems you have somehow misread the date as 1965.

  26. Grafton Matthews    

    Civil War veteran, Pvt. Jewett Williams of the 20th Main Volunteer Infantry, would be very proud to have his remains sent back to his place of birth in Maine by the Patriot Guard Riders.

    1. Mick J    

      Are you sure…? It appears he did everything he could to move very far away from Maine.
      Just a thought.

  27. Robert C. Gravino    

    The Patriot Guard Riders and others who made this happen are truly serving U.S. Veterans and us all. My thanks and appreciation for this action and all the other activities in which they participate.

    Bob Gravino, USCG (Retired)

  28. Keith    

    Check your facts. April 9, 1865 was the battle of Appomattox, and the day Lee surrendered. Official surrender ceremony was April 12, 1865.

    1. Karen Alaska    

      He meant there was a typo in the original article.

      1. dennis lynch    

        Its all good, I hope they treat all veterans of that tragic war the same….North and South.

    2. Damn Yankee    

      Only one side of ‘Americans’ fought in the civil war, the second side were traitors, aka ‘enemies of the United States … domestic.’

  29. JackholeDiary    

    Ummm The Civil War did not last till 1965. Check the date you put for surrender of Gen. Lee

    1. ron    

      so what? it says 1865 not 1965. get your eyes checked or learn how to read. O.K.?

    2. Roger Janosek    

      OK, now lets get some good news for the Confederacy two sides of Americans fought this war. Perhaps a nice article for the Confederacy is in order here.

Comments are closed.