ALBION, Ind. (WANE) — An Albion woman will travel to Washington D.C. this week for a special burial service of a family member she just recently learned about.
It started last November when Rachel Bender received an email she never expected.
A man who was burying a relative at a cemetery in Cincinnati came across shelves of remains in the cemetery’s unclaimed division.
One jar he found belonged to Isaac C. Hart, and he could tell it was someone who had once served in the army.
The jar may have been there since Hart’s death in July of 1913.
110 years later, he was about to be with family again.
While searching for next of kin, he found Bender, who told WANE 15 she had received some documentation about two years prior that showed her relation to Hart — so she knew the name.
She said she was expecting a picture or a family story, not the actual person’s remains.
“He deserved more than being left unclaimed on a shelf,” Bender said.
She and her husband went to Cincinnati to retrieve the remains, and they’ve learned a lot about the man who turns out to be her great-great uncle along this journey.
“There’s a lot of history behind him. I really didn’t know a lot about the Civil War and so I’m educating myself along the way, but it’s such a good story,” she explained.
Bender has documentation and letters that show Isaac C. Hart served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Furthermore, he joined volunteer militias and led Black troops into battle.
“He played a really big role doing his part in the Civil War,” Bender said.
Hart, originally from Massachusetts, enlisted in September of 1861. Later in life, he moved to Cincinnati, according to Bender.
Letters that mention President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton detail Hart’s service. That includes a letter calling him “one of the first men from Massachusetts who in April, 1861, responded to the first call of the President for troops to defend the Capital City and the public property of the United States.”
Bender recently acquired the letters. His certificate of service shows he was at one point “commissioned Captain and assigned to Co. “B”. 2nd U.S. Colored Cavalry.”
She and her family were proud to learn that their ancestor fought and was willing to die for equality.
She believes it’s a part of Black history in America that more people should talk and learn about.
“This is part of their history. They fought in the Civil War and died,” Bender proclaimed. “Isaac, what he did, volunteering was quite a big step. He just had to be extremely brave and had to believe in what he was doing to do that, and he volunteered, I think, it was three times.”
“We are very proud of Isaac and his service.”
The family is feeling a lot of pride. While trying to solve what to do with remains that are 110 years old, Bender got in touch with representatives from Arlington National Cemetery.
The cemetery will now host Bender and several of her family members from around the country on Thursday, April 27 for a burial service.
She filed the necessary paperwork and picked up the burial flag for the ceremony on Monday.
“The pride — and I know we had abolitionists in the family and that we played a role — and I think that he would be proud of his family, too. That we all turned out good. None of us are prejudiced,” she said.
Major Hart will be buried with full honors at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Arlington is providing a marble headstone for his burial, Bender told WANE 15.