Eagle project pays tribute to Civil War vets
DRIFTON — On the day before Veterans Day, two veterans who served their country over a century and a half ago finally were recognized for their service.
It took an Eagle Scout to give them their due.
Ben Sabatos decided to create a monument to Charles and Alexander Coxe because of his interest in the Coxe family history.
“Nov. 11 is Veterans’ Day, a time to remember all those who served, past and present,” said Bryan Dunnigan, the founder and president of the Sophia Coxe Memorial Foundation, which has the Coxe House in Drifton, where the monument now stands.
“Here we are, 158 years later, remembering these veterans. and all the veterans who served their country in time of need.”
Charles and Alexander Coxe fought for the North in the Union Army, Dunnigan said.
“They both mustered out as majors at the end of the Civil War,” Dunnigan said. “Alexander serves as aide to Gen. (George) Meade without
compensation. I read that in his obituary. Charles was in the Sixth Pennsylvania Lancers, (U.S.) Cavalry. Both of then had fairly nice, distinguished records during the Civil War.
“Charles is actually wounded, and that kind of plagues him for the rest of his life. That’s the part of the family that did the Egyptology. He actually dies in Egypt.” (The Coxes spent a lot of time in Egypt and brought back archaeological treasures to the then-new Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, which a family member endowed.)
The Coxes served during the Civil War era, 1861 until 1863 — and one of them could have been at Gettysburg.
“Meade was there, so it’s very possible,” Dunnigan said.
Walter Pogirski, a retired war re-enactor of the 81st Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company K, which mustered out of Eckley and Alexander was part of, confirmed the company was at Gettysburg.
“The 81st fought at the wheat field, the second day” of the battle, Pogirski said.
Charles and Alexander were two of the five Coxe brothers. “Alexander and Eckley mostly ran Coxe Brothers and Co.,” Dunnigan said. “All five brothers were part of it, but in different aspects.”
Sabatos actually enhanced a monument placed on the Coxe House grounds in the early 1990s, Dunnigan said. The Eagle Scout had to work hard — not only to get donations for the monument, but to build it, Dunnigan said.
“Ben is one hard-working individual,” Dunnigan said, “This was all hand work. He had to dig all of the posts, and the footer was 18 by 46 (inches), and they wanted at least 12 inches of pour, so we had to mix almost 450 pounds of concrete by hand. This kid got a workout.
“He was very diligent, very persistent in this project. He is truly an example of what a Boy Scout is and should be,” Dunnigan said. “He really embraced this. He’s into history, and he is a real go-getter. It took two and a half months to do it.”
All donations Sabatos obtained for the memorial were materials — Lowe’s Home Improvement Center donated all the lumber; Ben’s grandmother and grandfather, Jan and John Sabatos, donated the two arborvitae shrubs on each side of the monument; one of the local associates, Donna Schade, donated the internal plantings, and VFW Post 8253 in West Hazleton, where Dunnigan is a past commander, donated the American flag.
Walters Monument Co., Summit Hill, donated the monument itself.
“The father and son were both Scouts,” Dunnigan said of the owners.
Sabatos, son of Dave and Dawn Sabatos, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 473, based at the Freeland American Legion. He said Dunnigan gave him the idea to build the monument.
“It was mostly Bryan’s idea, but when he gave me the idea, I loved it,” Sabatos said. “I like the historical aspect of it. I was really proud to get help from him.”
A student at the Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences in Drums, Sabatos is interested in studying computer science after high school. In addition to his parents, he was accompanied at the dedication ceremonies by his sister, Abby.
Post 473 did a gun salute at the dedication, and taps was played.
Aside from the 81st Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company K, the VFW and the 143rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, mustered out of Luzerne, also were represented.
Boy Scout Ben Sabatos poses at the monument in honor of Charles and Alexander Coxe that he completed as his Eagle Scout project. The monument stands outside the Coxe home in Drifton, where it was dedicated Saturday.
Bryan Dunnigan speaks during Saturday’s ceremony.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5010 and American Legion Post 473 of Freeland participated in the dedication service for a monument honoring Civil War veterans Charles and Alexander Coxe. The honor guard included, from left, John Davis, American Legion senior vice commander; George Merenich, VFW commander; Paul Thomas, Legion adjutant; John Sullivan, Legion service officer; and Joe Barna, VFW senior vice commander.
Civil War re-enactors participating in the dedication were, from left, Walter Podgorski and Mike Berta, 81st PA Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and Bruce Geiger and Jay Bonito, 143rd PA Infantry Regiment.