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Millcreek Journal

Ceremony marks the final resting place of last Utah Civil War soldier

Oct 12, 2023 12:43PM ● By Collette Hayes

In 1864, 18-year-old Harry Ira Stormes of Janesville, Wisconsin, enlisted in the United States Army for duty in the Civil War Company M, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment. On Dec. 21, Stormes found himself in Memphis, Tennessee as part of a calvary division going to conduct a raid into central Mississippi, the heart of the Confederacy. The intent of the raid was to destroy rail lines, intercept supplies and destroy the Confederates ability to make war. 

General Hood, who was second in command to Robert E. Lee, was moving his unit to be resupplied to continue to fight against the Union. On Dec. 25, Stormes’ unit arrived in central Mississippi and tapped into the Confederate telegraph lines learning there would be a large resupply by rail coming into Egypt Station. Stormes’ unit intercepted the Confederate army supply train. They destroyed two locomotives, warehouses full of ammunition and provisions and captured 500 Confederate soldiers. One hundred and twenty-eight Union soldiers gave their lives during the battle. 

“Although Ira’s tour was brief, he made a significant impact and saw the conclusion of the Civil War,” said United States Army Colonel Kent Hackley. “They freed thousands of slaves. Over 100,000 slaves assisted them. Proving two things, the Union would be preserved, and we would have the guarantee in our constitution that all men are created equal which would be preserved and continued to this day as well.”

Stormes was discharged in 1865, and in 1873 married Jane “Jennie” Tachell. Together they had 13 children, six died before reaching adulthood. Family was important to Stormes as well as tradition. 

“Harry Ira was a stalwart for tradition,” said Natalie Ann Hackley, third great-granddaughter. “The last five years of his life he was the only member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in Utah. He would conduct the annual one-man convention each year going through the motions to nominate himself then elect himself as the department commander, bang the gavel and proceed to conduct routine business by himself. This great enhancement presented here today is meaningful. It shows Ira’s love of country, his patriotism and his service to country and to family. Hopefully, this will help his posterity carry on that tradition.”

On Sept. 9, a local chapter of the national organization, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), the legal successor to the GAR, held a Last Soldier Ceremony honoring Stormes at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park. According to a press release, The Last Soldier Ceremony is a ceremony held to mark the final resting place of the last Union Civil War soldiers buried in every state. Identified as the last known Civil War veteran in Utah, the SUVCW was successful in locating Stormes’ gravesite earlier this year. 

Taylorsville High School JROTC color guard presented and retired the colors during the ceremony.

State of Utah Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Director of Veteran Services Cory Pearson provided the opening remarks.  

“During 2003, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War embarked on this last soldier project. They wanted to locate and appropriately mark the final resting place of last Civil War soldiers buried within their state. One of those being honored today is Private Harry Ira Stormes. We are here to remember that and his sacrifice. Not only did he serve, but he continued to want to serve 1920 through 1940.”

Committee chairman for the event, Ken Jacobsen, acknowledged the key people instrumental in supporting the ceremony including Captain Lot Smith Camp, Senior Vice Commander Mathhew Brown and Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and grounds crew. 

A wreath laying by Kayla Willey and Captain Kenley Mauerman and a Musket Volley Salute by Honor Guard Detail Commander Captain Jared Cornell and members of the Utah Living History Association concluded the ceremony.  λ