PORTLAND, Oregon - On Friday, April 13th, 88 years after his death, the remains of Civil War veteran Peter J. Knapp will be buried with full military honors at Willamette National Cemetery. Located at 11800 Mt. Scott Blvd NE, the cemetery opened in 1950 and holds the remains of more than 100,000 eligible military personnel and dependents. Knapp will be the first, and likely the last, Civil War veteran to be interred in the cemetery.
Knapp, a Union Army veteran, died in Kelso, Washington on April 13, 1924. Following his funeral, Knapp's remains were taken to Portland for cremation. No arrangements were made for the disposition of the ashes and they have sat on a shelf at Portland Crematorium ever since. When Knapp's wife Georgianna died in 1930 her remains were also cremated in Portland and placed next to the cremains of her husband in a non-public storage tower at the crematorium.
Peter Jones Knapp was 19 years old when he volunteered for service with the 5th Iowa Infantry in 1861. He was captured by Confederates troops at the Battle of Missionary Ridge and survived confinement in the notorious Andersonville prison camp. After the Civil War he served on the frontier with the 5th U.S. Infantry and was promoted to sergeant. The Knapps moved to Longview-Kelso in the 1880's where they eventually owned several sawmills and acquired large real estate holdings. Knapp was elected Justice of the Peace and served as commander of the local G.A.R. post.
The disposition of Knapp's remains was discovered when a descendant of the Knapp family was attempting to track down burial locations of ancestors for her family tree. Alice Knapp of Nehalem read in Peter Knapp's 1924 obituary that the final arrangements were made by Portland Crematorium. When Mrs. Knapp called the crematorium, which has been in business since 1901, to inquire about the location of the remains, she learned they were still in storage. With the help of family friend Debbie Peevyhouse and the Oregon Military Department, arrangements were made for burial in the national cemetery.
The funeral for Knapp and his wife is scheduled for 3:00 PM on Friday and is open to the public. Capt. Christopher Miller of the Oregon National Guard will serve as master of ceremonies. Speakers include Brig. Gen. Eric C. Bush, Asst. Adjutant General Oregon National Guard; Chaplain Bill Roberts of the Patriot Guard Riders; and Lt. Col. York Barrett, Commander of the Washington camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. A combined honor guard from the Oregon and Washington camps of the Sons of Union Veterans, dressed in Civil War era uniforms, will fire a three volley musket salute. Steven Betschart, commander of Oregon's Edward D. Baker Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans, will play Taps. Also scheduled to participate are members of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War; the Northwest Civil War Council; the Washington Civil War Council. A folded American flag will be presented to representatives of the Knapp family "on behalf of a grateful nation."
Mr. Fletcher is the author of Hidden History of Civil War Oregon published in 2011 by The History Press.
Photo: Civil War veteran Peter J. Knapp