After laying in an unmarked grave for more than 100 years, an American Civil War solder has been given another chapter in the outback Queensland town of Winton.
An Irishman who travelled to New York in 1861 and fought for the Union for 11 months has had his US Civil War veteran status confirmed thanks to the efforts of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
John Patrick D'Arcy had lain in an unmarked grave in Winton since 1913 after he died following a life as a storekeeper and confectioner in the town.
But his grave is now adorned with a brass plaque recognising his service thanks to his great, great niece and a Confederate Veterans advocate.
Dianne Hensler (nee D'Arcy) said she has investigated a lot of her family's history and was stunned to see an ad posted in the newspaper classifieds and on Facebook in 2014 seeking information on her great, great uncle.
"I thought, 'I know that man' so I contacted the person who posted the ad and he got all the paperwork," Ms Hensler said.
"We always heard that John had been in the army, but I had been too young to ask which."
That man was James Gray, a Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who has been advocating to have soldiers from the Civil War recognised.
Ms Hensler said it did give her a chuckle to see a Confederate helping to get a Union soldier his accreditation, but praised Mr Gray's efforts in getting veterans recognised.
"He was just interested to see anyone who fought in the Civil War get this accreditation," she said.
"Our family is extremely grateful for James' efforts in procuring this plaque and certificate that honours our great, great uncle, John Patrick D'Arcy, as a Civil War veteran."
Mr Gray arranged paperwork with the American Veterans Affairs Department, but Ms Hensler said it has taken a few years to approve his status - after a few errors meant the paperwork had to be redone.
"We must not have read the forms properly and they came back twice, but eventually we got it right," she says with a laugh.
A Toowoomba resident, Ms Hensler said she had visited Winton in 2014 to confirm the grave was that of her great, great uncle.
Once the paperwork was finalised in 2020, Ms Hensler received confirmation from the United States, including a certificate with then President Donald Trump's signature.
In May of 2021 Ms Hensler said it was thrilling that nine members of the D'Arcy family, including her siblings and cousins, were able to make the trip to Winton to install a 60 by 30 centimetre brass plaque that the Veterans Department had made on John's behalf.
Ms Hensler said Winton Council staff had been incredibly helpful and they were able to get approval to place the plaque on John's grave.
"He was resting there in a 107-year-old unmarked grave, so I felt very committed to making sure the plaque got on to his grave and when I got it (the plaque) I felt honour-bound to pursue it," she said.
"We got the council's permission to put it on the grave, they were very happy for us to do that."
She said they held a small ceremony for John before spending a few days around town.
Ms Hensler shared a shortened version of the story at the time with the community paper the Winton Herald, and said the family were quite proud to have done something to recognise John's past.
"I think he'd be quite chuffed we've been able to do that for him," she said.
John had signed up in April of 1862 and served for 11 months where he was honourably discharged from the army after having served with the 1st Regiment New York Artillery.
The regiment was raised by Colonel W. A. Howard on the 12 November 1861 to serve on gunboats.
Ms Hensler said there was evidence her great, great uncle had been injured during the war and had also performed some brave deeds, but they hadn't been considered noteworthy enough to earn him a medal.
On the 31 March 1863 the regiment was disbanded and both officers and enlisted men were given an honourable discharge. Private John D'Arcy was discharged on March 16, 1863
She said there were other stories she had found, but doesn't share them as she could not substantiate them.
"He has been a hard man to track," she said.
John had been the third eldest of eight children from the D'Arcy family where Ms Hensler said six of the eight children had ended up making their life in Australia.
Her own great, great grandfather Laurence had made the journey to Maryborough with John in 1864, sailing out on the ship the Sultana in April and arriving in Australia that July.
She said John might have already been a widower with some unconfirmed records showing he had already been married, but found love in Australia, marrying Mary Kate Templeman in 1874 and making a home with her and her son Robert.
They began their Australian life in Rockhampton before moving to Brisbane where John was a butcher and then a labourer - which Ms Hensler believes might have been the catalyst for the family to head west looking for work.
After his death in 1913, the Catholic Press in Sydney had reported that John was "a very old and respected resident".
A tribute to John Patrick D'Arcy
The heart stops
The body is laid to rest.
The soul slips quietly away
Boyhood in Ireland where life is tough
Families hungry, no way forward
The young man sails.
The New York ghettos welcome
Irish immigrants with hopes and dreams a plenty.
Enlistment in the Union Army
Co I, 1st Marine Artillery Unit, a duty to fulfil.
This Civil War, a battle for equality and freedom
Pits North against South
Citizen against citizen. For what?
Injuries and a unit disbanded.
Eleven months of hell.
Shattered dreams, the prize.
Home to Ireland
Back to family.
Unsettled and no prospects in sight.
Australia, Queensland and places in between beckon.
Older siblings already settled.
Two more brothers and later two sisters come
With a family left in Ireland to mourn.
Marriage, loss and another wife and son
A settled life begins.
A last breath taken.
A life well lived.
A happy and contented man.
Memories flood his mind
To lie in peace forever.
May you rest in peace, soldier, and thank you
Written by Dianne Hensler
3 May 2021
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