CHANEYSVILLE - Pvt. Valentine Bowser's Civil War service took him from a Bedford County farmstead, through marches and battles to the Confederate army's surrender, then back across the Mason-Dixon Line for a long life and a soldier's burial.
On Saturday, 150 years later, Bowser is set to be honored with a new gravestone and a final ceremony befitting a veteran of the country's most destructive war.
"Our main goal is to make sure that they're taken care of," said John Dillon, commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War's Tyrone camp, which holds prescribed rites for soldiers' remembrances.
The rededication ceremony, scheduled to include a uniformed regimental band, laying of symbolic flowers and a 21-gun musket salute, ends a long wait for a new stone memorial at Bowser's gravesite.
It was some five years ago that Robin Bowser, Valentine's great-great-granddaughter-in-law, and her family noticed that their ancestor's Bedford County gravestone - untouched since his death in 1891 - had broken in two. The family discussed a replacement, she said, but other responsibilities took the fore.
"We sort of put it on the back burner at first," she said.
A year later, the 120-year-old stone was gone. It had deteriorated so badly that workers at Mount Hope Church Cemetery took it away for storage.
"We said, 'OK, now it's time to do this,'" Robin Bowser recalled. The family then learned that the Veterans Administration provides fresh gravestones for those who served in the Civil War.
And Valentine Bowser served doubly: In two tours, first in the 171st Pennsylvania Infantry and then in the 99th, the farmer took part in two southern invasions.
First called up in 1862 for an assault on the North Carolina coastline, the 41-year-old Bowser said goodbye to his wife and children before crossing into the Confederacy.
"Just like today," Robin Bowser said, "he left family, including a young baby and a wife, at home when he went off to war."
After nine months' service, he returned to Bedford County, only to be called up again as the war approached its brutal final days. Serving in the battle-hardened 99th Pennsylvania Infantry, Bowser saw firsthand the southern defeat at Appomattox Courthouse.
"Amid shouts of joy and the waving of flags, the announcement was made that the rebel army had surrendered," a 19th-century article on his unit stated.
Just a few weeks later, the Pennsylvania farmer marched through Washington, D.C., in a victory parade before returning home to his family. He died in 1891, with little fanfare until this Saturday's military ceremony - almost 150 years to the day after he was first called up.
The 46th Pennsylvania Regiment Band and Logan Guard, a local re-enactment group representing a pair of Union Army units, is set to play solemn tunes and period hymns, group officer Rick Long said.
"A portion of our group will then ... lay down their horns and pick up their weapons," Long said, to fire a 21-gun funeral salute from Civil War-style muskets.
But it will be more than a solemn military ceremony, Robin Bowser said - with members of the Bowser family scattered across the region, the dedication could serve as an impromptu family reunion even for those who didn't realize their relation to the Civil War vet.
For Bowser, who hailed from North Carolina before marrying one of Valentine Bowser's Yankee descendants, it's a chance to see the other side of the picture. Her family tree sports several Confederate soldiers, she said.
"I saw his great-great-grandfather ... and I was like, 'I know that's the one who shot mine,'" she said.
Valentine Bowser's grave rededication ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m., with the band striking up around 1:30 p.m. at the Mount Hope Church Cemetery on Blue Knob Road in Bedford County. It is open to the public.
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.