Monadnock Moments No. 29: Stoddard's Unknown Soldier
Although the Robb Cemetery in South Stoddard, New Hampshire is far from any Civil War battlefield, a young unknown victim of that war was buried there late in 1864. He is buried beside Henry Stevens, another young soldier. It is with Henry Stevens that the story of Stoddard’s unknown soldier begins.
Young Henry longed to join the Union Army from the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. It was not until 1864, however, that he could be spared from the family farm in South Stoddard. He enlisted in the 18th New Hampshire Regiment on September 13th of that year.
Henry never made it to the battlefield, however; three weeks later the Stevens family received word that he had died of typhoid fever at a military hospital in New York. His body was sent home and prepared for burial. Soon after the arrival of the coffin, however, a messenger arrived with word that a second coffin, also marked “Private Henry Stevens, Co. A, 18th New Hampshire Volunteers”, had arrived at the depot. The first coffin was found to contain the body of a young man unknown to the Stevens family. The second coffin contained the body of young Henry.
Military officials could not identify the stranger, and furthermore, they refused to take him back. Consequently, the Stevens family buried the young stranger in the family lot beside their own son and cared for the stranger’s grave as they did for Henry’s.
Somewhere the young man’s family probably waited many long months and years for word of their loved one, never to learn his fate. Today the grave is marked with a simple granite stone inscribed “U.S. Soldier”, and each year on Memorial Day a United States flag is placed on the grave of Stoddard’s unknown soldier.