By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
As four cannon shots rang out across Spring Grove Cemetery, blue-coated soldiers walked out from between two yellow school buses.
They stood among the graves of 1,000 Civil War soldiers, where hundreds gathered Thursday night to honor those who fought to keep the country together.
The memorial service was the start of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War 122nd National Encampment being held today through Sunday in Fort Mitchell.
The group is made up of more than 6,000 descendants of Union veterans. About 300 of them are in town this week for the group's national conference.
The service, complete with re-enactors, bagpipes and drums, was held near three concentric circles of Civil War graves.
"It is our duty to pay homage to their memory," David Medert, Commander of the Sons of Union Veterans told the crowd.
That's why Glen Roosevelt of Anaheim, Calif., joined.
Roosevelt's great-granduncle died fighting for the Union. The group is a way to "to try to preserve the memory and the lives of Union veterans," he said.
Roosevelt found the group while researching Union soldiers on the Internet.
"You get a hit on this organization right away," he said.
Most members discover the group the same way Roosevelt did, said James Houston, who helped organize the encampment.
"A lot of people don't realize that there's an organization of descendants," said Houston, of Milford, who had three great-grandfathers who fought for the Union in the Civil War.
For Jim Kiger of Fort Mitchell, genealogy led him to relatives on both sides of the war. So Kiger is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans, and Sons of Confederate Veterans,
"Around here," he said, "about half of the people who belong to one group belong to both of them."
The Sons of Union Veterans was formed in 1881 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans group.
Today, the non-profit group educates children about the war, researches Civil War graves, conducts memorial services, installs grave markers and promotes patriotism.
The Women's Auxiliary of the group and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic are also meeting at the Drawbridge Villager Premiere Hotel.
Today the group will honor Kathy Romero, of Fort Wright and Fort Wright city officials for preserving a Civil War battery.
Romero lobbied the city to buy the 14 acres after it was donated to the Northern Kentucky University Foundation. The land, which contains Hooper Battery, is slated to become a park. The battery is a 6-foot-high earthen wall built by Union forces to defend against rebel attacks. The battery, built between 1861 and 1863, is one of only six remaining of 28 that once stood in Northern Kentucky.
On Sunday, the group will dedicate a grave marker at Covington's Linden Grove Cemetery. The ceremony will honor John Finnell of Carlisle, in Nicholas County, who served as adjutant general of Kentucky during the Civil War.
Finnell is thought to be the only Civil War general buried in Kentucky.
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