- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

NEW YORK - Beneath twin marble gravestones in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery lie the Prentiss brothers, buried with their 135-year-old tale of sibling love and hate.

The Baltimore natives fought on opposite sides in the Civil War, each convinced that his cause was just. Their house divided was only healed during a battlefield reunion after both were badly wounded in the 1865 siege of Petersburg, Va.

Each died within months, one in a Washington hospital, the other at a third brother’s Brooklyn home. Dr. John Prentiss, a surgeon for the Union, interred his brothers side by side.

Sitting in an office at Green-Wood, Jeffrey Richman recounts the saga of Clifton and William Prentiss. Their tale is one of dozens rediscovered since Mr. Richman mounted a search this year for the estimated 6,000 Civil War veterans buried inside the landmark cemetery.

“We have some amazing stories that we’re coming across,” says Mr. Richman, the cemetery’s official historian. “It’s a lot of detective work, trying different approaches to try to find as many of these veterans as possible.”

Like any detective, Mr. Richman stays busy chasing leads, some gleaned from ancient index cards and grave registries, others sent in by Civil War buffs or veterans’ relatives.

Mr. Richman doesn’t work alone. In May, 60 volunteers walked through the 478-acre cemetery in search of potential veterans’ graves. A similar effort was undertaken in September, with 80 persons turning out, including retired educator Susan Rudin.

“My husband and I are interested in the history of ordinary people during extraordinary times,” Mrs. Rudin said. “It makes history more alive.”

Her favorite Green-Wood Civil War veteran was Albert Johnson, a Confederate colonel from Louisville, Ky. Johnson moved to a Brooklyn mansion after the war, helping develop the borough’s mass transit system.

Another of the cemetery’s Civil War veterans is Louis Napoleon Stodder, Boston-born but buried in Brooklyn. The Union sailor was at the wheel of the ironclad Monitor during its historic clash with the Confederate ironclad Virginia. He suffered an injury when a Confederate shell struck the Monitor’s turret.

It’s no surprise that Green-Wood, home to nearly 600,000 permanent “residents,” would serve as such a historical repository. The cemetery, founded in 1838, is as much a New York institution as the Brooklyn Bridge or Central Park.

The new project has several goals: locating all the vets, getting them proper gravestones, and publishing a book about the Civil War through the lives of those buried in Green-Wood.

“I can tell the story of Gettysburg with 10 different people on the field that day,” Mr. Richman said. “All New York guys, and all here at the cemetery.”

That group includes Sgt. Nathaniel Carlton, killed during the first day of fighting at Gettysburg’s “railroad cut,” and Gen. Henry Slocum, who survived the three days of bloody fighting to become one of Brooklyn’s leading citizens.

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