Benjamin Armstrong died during a cholera epidemic in Davenport in 1866.

Theodore Hohn froze to death in 1880 near the Mississippi River after a day of being wracked by violet delirium tremens.

Carl Wendt was shot to death in 1901 while fishing in a boat near Cordova.

What these three men had in common is that all served their country honorably during the American Civil War and are buried at Davenport's City Cemetery in unmarked graves, with no headstone to remember who they were or that they served their country.

But that will change soon.

Thanks to the tenacious work of volunteers who researched records and compiled documentation, the men qualified for headstones that are made available — for free — through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The markers will be dedicated during ceremonies beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 27, at the cemetery, 1643 Rockingham Road, and installed as soon as possible through the summer. The public is invited.

Made of light gray granite, the markers are 42 inches tall, 13 inches wide and 4 inches thick. They list a veteran's name, rank, branch of service and birth and death date.

In addition to the 20 Civil War veterans, Heinrich Wohlert, who served in the Spanish American War, will receive a gravestone. He served in the Philippines, where he "took part in one battle, five engagements, 10 skirmishes, four expeditions, besides a great deal of garrison duty, bridge building and patrol service," according to the Davenport Daily Republican.

Because the city owns the cemetery and is responsible for its maintenance, the applications were submitted by the city's parks department, but the "heavy lifting" of finding the necessary documentation to prove eligibility was done by cemetery volunteers, including Kory Darnall and Coky Powers.

What surprised both was the sad and, in one case, violent manner, in which many of the men died. "Some of those obituaries were horrible," Darnall said. "To come back from war, and then to die like that ..."

Also noteworthy: of the 22 Civil War vets, 15 were born in Germany, and were immigrants who volunteered to serve their new country, he said. 

During 2016, the government supplied 1,231 gravestones for pre-World War I veterans, and 9,423 have been supplied in the five years of 2011-2016,  according to Shawn Graham, public affairs specialist with the National Cemetery Association.

How the project began

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Darnall, of Davenport, has volunteered at the cemetery for years, researching burials and helping to make improvements.

Within the past year, he realized that not all veterans have headstones. Knowing of the Veterans Administration gravestone program, he enlisted Powers' help in tracking down documentation. Among qualifying papers are an obituary, military service record, GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) service card and pension card.

Powers, a retired Pleasant Valley elementary school librarian, said she developed a passion for local history and genealogy after she helped her son with a school project.

"It would be my dream to live down at the library, just sitting there and reading these newspapers," she said of the downtown Davenport Library and its Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

"I always want the story," she said. "I always want to know, 'Who were these guys and what were their lives like?' Every one of these guys has an interesting story."

The program on Saturday was arranged by Natalie Woodhurst, coordinator of veterans recruitment and services at St. Ambrose University, Davenport.

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