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Hometown Hero: Group honors Union soldiers of the Civil War

They don hot woolen blue uniforms to participate in memorial services at Marietta National Military Cemetery, and also at the vast Union Army graveyard at the notorious Andersonville prisoner of war camp near Americus.

They march in parades, talk to students and civic groups, sponsor Eagle Scout awards and work tediously in dusty libraries, gingerly pouring over crumbling papers to identify graves of unknown U.S. soldiers, hoping to attach names to stark, stubby stone markers at Marietta National etched only with numbers of men who died at Peachtree Creek, Ezra Church, east Atlanta — or anywhere in Georgia.

And members of four Georgia “camps” of the Sons of Union Veterans sometimes even put up signs in places like the Marietta Square, hoping to recruit Georgians whose ancestors wore blue in what many southerners still call the War of North Aggression.

That’s right, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, not Sons of Confederate Veterans. Nationally, the SCV members outnumber the SUV 20,000 to 6,000.

Bill Miller, 65, often plays taps at patriotic ceremonies at Marietta National and at the Andersonville National Historic Site near Americus, where 13,872 Union dead are interred, and also at an annual event honoring Georgians who survived Pearl Harbor.

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Miller, vice commander of the Georgia-South Carolina Department of the SUVCV, is a Pennsylvania native who, like a growing number of transplanted southerners, signed up for the SUV and is now an official of the Kennesaw camp. He is a Vietnam veteran and loves history.

About 70 members of four “camps” in Georgia — Lawrenceville, Kennesaw, Atlanta and Roswell — take part in living history programs, clean up and maintain cemeteries and hold memorial services at Marietta National the day before Memorial Day and at Andersonville two days before.

Later this month, a group of SUV members hold a ceremony in Andersonville to honor Union dead. And on Nov. 8, a “recreation” of the sacking of Marietta by Union troops is scheduled, with assistance from the SUV.

Miller says the SUV’s goal is “to honor those who fought and died to end slavery and save the Union.”

At a recent convention of the SUV, members dedicated a $20,000 marble monument to Wisconsin troops who fought at the Battle of Allatoona Pass.

“Brad Quinlin, one of our members, is constantly trying to identify the unknowns at Marietta National,” Miller says. “He has identified quite a few.”

At Marietta National, 10,312 Union soldiers are buried, including 2,996 under “unknown” markers.

Wallace B. Eberhard, professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Georgia and a member of the Lawrenceville camp, had four ancestors who wore the blue, including one imprisoned at Andersonville.

“We’re not into refighting the war,” Eberhard says. “It’s about remembering what these ordinary men did.”

The camps meet monthly, says Ray Wozniak, 66, head of the Lawrenceville group.

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