by Stan Prager
A few days prior to Memorial Day, Cliff McCarthy and Stan Prager hiked the south pedestrian walkway over Memorial Bridge in Springfield to tend to a historic marker that honors several Hampden County regiments in the Civil War, including the 31st. Stan had volunteered to be part of a Historic Marker Cleanup Program sponsored by his alma mater, American Public University (APU), and targeted the bronze plaque “War to Preserve the Union” on one of the columns of Memorial Bridge for this effort. This plaque, and three others commemorating settlement and other conflicts, were installed on the four largest columns in 1922. Airborne debris, bird scat and pollutants such as those from car emissions adhere to historic markers and can cause damage over time if not carefully cleaned. Cliff, who offered up his help in this endeavor, partnered with Stan in the slow painstaking process of cleaning the superficial layers of grime stuck to the surface of the plaque and its raised bronze inscription, utilizing only water and soft-bristle toothbrushes so as not to damage the artifact. The work was laborious but rewarding as it served as a small tribute to the men of the 31st and others who sacrificed, and in many instances died, so that the Union endured. The United States exists today because of their service. The letters and diaries and memoirs of the men of the 31st that have been transcribed and posted to this website were much on the minds of those wielding toothbrushes in this endeavor to honor their memory.