Remembering The First Nebraskans To Fall

Originally called "Decoration Day", Memorial Day was first observed in the late 1860s to honor those who had fallen during America's Civil War.

It was also a time when Nebraska, then a territory, raised a regiment of soldiers to fight in our country's bloodiest conflict.

At Omaha's historic Prospect Hill Cemetery, that history is never forgotten.

Proudly flapping in the breeze, the American flag towers over Omaha's historic prospect hill cemetery.

Re-enactors helped the crowd remember those who served in the state's first organized military unit, the First Nebraska Infantry.

Civil War Re-enactor and First Nebraska Infantry Captain Lloyd Coates understands the unit's historic significance.

"It's special for us because we honor those that have gone before and gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country and for some of us it's personal," he said. "But it's remembering history, remembering their sacrifice."

The First Nebraska Infantry organized in 1861, serving in key battles at Fort Donelson and Shiloh.

Three of their number are still buried at Shiloh.

History buff Anthony Razor is a corporal in the unit.

"There's just something about the civil war and what we did for five years and how it just built this country and there's just an attraction to it plus being able to serve in a unit that represents Nebraska my family's all Nebraskan," he said.

Some of those generations were there today. Razor's mother Mary held his son, 14-month-old Braxton as he watches his father help present the colors.

"I love it I just love it the whole atmosphere, the re-enactments are a lot of fun, very historical," Mary Razor said.

The First Nebraska Infantry evolved into the First Nebraska Cavalry by 1863 and served on the western frontier.

Their guns fell silent in 1868 when the unit was mustered out.

But those guns spoke volumes at Prospect Hill on Monday.

The unit fired the 21-gun salute with vintage muskets. The three volleys were fired in about a minute...the amount of time a civil was soldier could reload his weapon.

While Memorial Day honors all who have fallen in our country's wars, there was a special moment today for those first Nebraskans to spill their blood on battlefields.

With the hope that their memory is remembered by future generations.

Anthony Razor hopes his young son stands next to his father some day at future re-enactments commemorating the First Nebraska Infantry.

"Once he gets old enough, I hope to get him in to a uniform and out onto the field but he's still a little too young," Anthony Razor said. "Maybe a drummer boy first."

Retired UNO History Professor Harl Dalstrom was the keynote speaker at Prospect Hill.

He spoke about American involvement in a war many of us know little about...the War of 1812.

Dalstrom discussed how two veterans of that war, Elisha Doyle and Origen Richardson, were instrumental in Omaha and Nebraska's early history.

"Look at the lives of Elisha Doyle and Origen Richardson and the other people who rest at Prospect Hill and you will see our story as a city, state and nation unfold," Dalstrom said.

More than 15-hundred of Omaha's earliest citizens are buried at Prospect Hill

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