, Derry, New Hampshire

December 5, 2013

Londonderry student earns Civil War honor

LHS student's ancestors fought in the Civil War

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — Michael Sweet has deep roots on a battlefield in Pennsylvania.

The Londonderry High School sophomore is a big fan of the Civil War. One of his ancestor’s fought and was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Having those family ties earned Sweet membership in the Gilman E. Sleeper Camp of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War.

The 16-year-old was inducted into the national organization in a ceremony Nov. 23.

For Sweet, it’s an honor to be part of this group founded in 1881 and made up of thousands of men who trace their family lines back to soldiers who fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War.

Sweet’s great-grandfather, James Robbins, fought with the 19th Maine Infantry and was killed in action on the second day of the Gettysburg battle.

“Michael’s ancestor lies there still,” said T.J. Cullinane, Gilman E. Sleeper commander, “buried in the National Cemetery consecrated by our 16th president Abraham Lincoln and immortalized in his epic speech.”

Sweet’s induction was extra special, Cullinane said, as it was held right after the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s famous address.

Sweet’s mother, Kristen, said her son has always loved history.

“I can’t remember a time when he didn’t,” she said.

His father Marc recently retired from the Air Force.

Sweet has been a member of the Civil War Roundtable of New Hampshire for many years and has connected with a lot of people through that organization.

Members of the group helped him with his research. In addition to his relative Robbins, Sweet is also a descendant of four other Civil War Union veterans.

He received the official records he needed from the National Archives and then was accepted for membership into the Sons of the Union Veterans group.

“I had to show them a muster roll (Robbins) was on,” Sweet said.

He is the sole member of the group who is descended from someone who fought and was killed at Gettysburg.

The induction ceremony included the same ritual used back when the group was new in the 1880s.

Non-members usually are not allowed during that ceremony, but tradition was bent to allow Sweet’s family to attend.

“We will be forever grateful that we were able to witness such an amazing event,” Kristen Sweet said. “Maybe more young men who have an appreciation for history like Michael will research their own ancestry.”

She said her son may visit Gettysburg soon for the first time.

Sweet hopes to someday create a history club at the high school to help other young people get interested in history.