The tree that ate a grave marker

In the far away section 13 of Arlington National Cemetery, Charles Ippel was buried shortly after his July 26, 1863 death. The Union corporal succumbed to wounds suffered three weeks earlier at Gettysburg as part of 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry’s Company C.

Charles Ippel’s stone in 2012

It was an all-German, all-Jewish unit nicknamed the Concordia Guards because they all signed up at a B’nai B’rith Ramah Lodge meeting at the Concordia Club in Chicago. Ippel arrived in America in 1848 at age 21 from Germany and was married and working as a cooper. He joined the war when the 82nd Illinois was formed in Oct. 1862.

The 82nd Illinois didn’t fight until the Battle of Chancellorsville (Va.) on May 1-5, 1863, losing 155 of its 400 men. The unit was then rested until needed in Gettysburg one month later.

Ippel’s unit occupied Cemetery Ridge over the first two days of the battle. Facing Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell’s II Corps, the 82nd Illinois was forced into street fighting in Gettysburg on the first day, including a seven-hour stretch before clearing the enemy and reclaiming its base in the peach orchards of Cemetery Ridge. Over the three-day battle, the unit saw four dead, 19 wounded and 89 missing.

Ippel stone remains 2020

Details of Ippel’s injuries weren’t noted in records, only that he died from them. The 5-foot-9 Ippel with blue eyes and slight frame would be buried at Arlington next to Michael Burns, who died on Feb. 20, 1864 from wounds suffered months earlier as part of the Union’s 36th Regiment, A Company from Buffalo. Most likely, Burns died from infection.

Certainly, there couldn’t have been a large tree between the two, but the massive trunk near the curb has claimed half of Burn’s marker and now all of Ippel’s. A broken chunk remains in the tree.

But that’s not the end of the story. In September 2020, I discovered a modern ground marker with a Christian symbol and Civil War between his unit and death date just a few feet from the old marble stone. Alerted that Ippel was Jewish and not Christian, a cemetery official said the error was made by a contractor and a new stone has been ordered.

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