Saturday, August 04, 2007

Civil War veterans project and Charles Beal

Local history is done by passionate volunteers from all walks of life. This serves our field well, since everyone brings their own particular strengths and experience to the party. Licensed surveyor Charles Beal provides a fine example of this phenomenon in an article he wrote for the Summer 2007 issue of The Banner: The Journal of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

It started when the Civil War Round Table of Orange County located 730 Civil War veteran graves in nine Orange County cemeteries. Charles suspected there were even more, and he launched his own in-depth effort to find them and learn something about them. Over the years, he has done an enormous amount of research, digging through old newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic records, etc. (The database for the project was maintained by former Santa Ana mayor Gordon Bricken.)

But here’s where the story takes a twist: Charles writes, “… I thought about using my land surveying experience to document these graves. My goal was to determine latitude and longitude coordinates, photograph every grave and to plot them on aerial photographs. …This project would also perpetuate the grave stones forever, as many are becoming very hard to read.”

Charles used a Total Station instrument and data collector, as well as a Global Positioning System unit (loaned by the County Surveyor) that is “capable of obtaining coordinates within the size of a dime.” His project “documented 701 Union (30 unmarked) and 89 Confederate (4 unmarked) veteran graves. The data was stored on a DVD-Data disk that was distributed to local historical groups and local cemeteries.”

Coordinates and grave photos are available on Find-A-Grave, and the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society has posted additional data on their website.

Thanks to Charles and all those who worked with him and loaned equipment, we now know more about our local Civil War history, and future generations will be able to honor these veterans for their service.

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