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Women descended from Civil War Union soldiers form area chapter

Rick Wood
Kelly Underwood-Dzemske, seated outside the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers on the Veterans Affairs grounds, holds a photo of her great-grandfather Seymour Ellicson along with a document issued for his release in a prisoner swap. Ellicson was a member of Co. B, 8th Wisconsin Infantry who was captured by Confederate forces in Mississippi in September 1862.

Aaron Stockholm was lucky.

Thousands of men in blue and gray were wounded and killed on the hellish battlefields in the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, but Aaron Stockholm was not one of them.

Somehow the bullets and cannon shot missed him. Not only did he survive, so did his brothers John and George and his brother-in-law Jacob Palmer. All four men endured Gettysburg and other Civil War battles, returned home, married, fathered families and lived to old age.

Their children had children and so did those children until, 150 years later, Aaron Stockholm's third great-granddaughter, Laurel Kennedy, proud of her ancestor's military service, decided to join a newly formed chapter of Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

"All four of them were in two major battles and they all went home together and survived, which is very unusual," said Kennedy, an occupational therapy student who lives in Milwaukee.

Though chapters of Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War thrived in Wisconsin for decades, the organization died out in the state sometime during the Vietnam War. In 2010 a chapter - which is called a tent - was started in Manitowoc. Now a tent - the Mary Hutchins Detached Tent No. 22 - has been organized in Milwaukee, and an induction ceremony for the new members is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the pre-Civil War Lafayette Church in East Troy.

The ceremony will feature a flag-raising by members of the local group of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and include a Bible owned by Mary Hutchins, a Monticello woman whose husband, son and brothers fought in the Civil War. Two of Hutchins' second great-granddaughters will attend the ceremony.

Kelly Underwood-Dzemske joined the Manitowoc tent two years ago. The West Allis woman, who has two Civil War veterans on her family tree, wanted to form a group in southeastern Wisconsin, so she set up a table at Reclaiming Our Heritage in June at the Milwaukee Veterans Affairs grounds seeking others with Civil War ancestors.

To form a tent, Underwood-Dzemske needed a minimum of 10 women who could document their links to veterans of the Civil War. She found 16 women who will become charter members of the Mary Hutchins Tent.

The heyday of Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War was in the 1920s; in Wisconsin there were more than a dozen tents, including three in Milwaukee. But by the 1960s, the last of the tents had folded.

"We're not sure why," said Underwood-Dzemske. "The assumption is that because the Vietnam War wasn't popular that the patriotic groups disbanded because their sons were at war."

She is related to Edwin Ferris Underwood, who served in the 1st Regiment Wisconsin Heavy Artillery stationed at Fort Ellsworth near Washington, D.C. He lost hearing in his right ear, not unusual for an artillery soldier, but kept his sense of humor, claiming to have been "injured from firing salutes at the end of the war," said Underwood-Dzemske.

She's also the third great-granddaughter of Seymour Ellicson, a member of Company B, 8th Wisconsin Infantry who was captured by Confederate forces in Mississippi in September 1862 and released a week later. Underwood-Dzemske has the document issued for his release in a prisoner swap. Under the agreement, Ellicson was required to pledge not to bear arms against the Confederate army, but he spent the rest of the war serving in the Union army.

"He must not have listened to directions very well," said Underwood-Dzemske.

Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War raise money for veterans' causes - the national group donates money annually to the service academies for scholarships - and participates in Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances. Each year a wreath provided by the group is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Civil War Dead at Arlington Cemetery.

"We're more into raising money to support veterans in the area and education," said Janet Hickle, whose second great-grandfather was wounded at Gettysburg while serving with a German-speaking regiment from Wisconsin.

The group's national president, Barbara Waltz Stone, said renewed interest in the Civil War's sesquicentennial this year is boosting membership.

Headquartered in Springfield, Ill., membership is now 4,500 people in 18 states. After Saturday's induction of the Mary Hutchins Tent, Underwood-Dzemske is hoping to help form a third Wisconsin tent, in the Madison area.

Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War work closely with their counterparts, Sons of Union Veterans. There are also organizations for descendants of Confederate soldiers, and for a war that pitted brother against brother and father against son, it's common for people to join both groups.

"The Confederate sons and sons of Union veterans work together and honor each other because it's been 150 years. As long as they're remembered - that's what our organization is about," said Waltz Stone.

fromthe Milwaukee Journal Online

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