Crown Point Road trip

William J. Sperry marble marker in the woods. Photo by Ron Patch

Last week, Lonnie Lisai and I went exploring some of the 1760 Crown Point Road in Cavendish. Lonnie is now on the board of the Crown Point Road Association. Lonnie wanted to show me the site where, in 1760, a soldier died while building the Crown Point Road. He was buried right beside the road.

We were on Brook Road when Lonnie pulled over. I followed Lonnie a short distance into the woods to see a small marble marker for a Civil War soldier. Another 150 yards or so and we reached the gravesite for the soldier who died building the Crown Point Road.

This simple marker is just a slab of rock, maybe 28 inches tall. It is rough stone, lacking any carving or identification. Danny Clemons and I have seen these simple stones in some of the earlier, more rural cemeteries we’ve visited. This grave to an unknown soldier is marked with an American flag.

When I saw the marble marker for the Civil War soldier, I immediately said, “I know this guy. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and from Cavendish.”

It reads, “WILLIAM J. SPERRY MAJ. CO E 6th VT. INF CIVIL WAR DEC 28, 1840 MARCH 3, 1914.”

I knew he was buried in the Cavendish Village Cemetery. So why was his marker in the woods? Here is part of William Sperry’s service record:


“Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient. He entered Civil War service soon after the start of war, being mustered in as a private in Company E, 1st Vermont (three month) Volunteer Infantry on May 9, 1861. He served through the engagement at Big Bethel, Va. in June 1861, and was mustered out when his enlistment expired on Aug. 15, 1861. On Oct. 15, 1861, he was mustered in as a Sergeant in Company E, 6th Vermont Volunteer Infantry, and served continually through the war, receiving promotions to 2nd Lieutenant on Aug. 21, 1862, 1st Lieutenant on March 3, 1863, Captain on Aug. 8, 1864, and to Major on Jan. 7, 1865.

At the Oct. 19, 1864 Battle of Cedar Creek, Va., he assumed command of the regiment when he became the senior unwounded officer.

He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in the final Union Army assaults on Confederate positions at Petersburg, Va. on April 2, 1865.

His citation reads, ‘With the assistance of a few men, captured two pieces of artillery and turned them on the enemy.’

Brevetted Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Volunteers to date from April 2, 1865, he was appointed full Lieutenant Colonel on June 4, 1865, but was mustered out on June 26, 1865, before the rank could become official. His medal was awarded to him on Aug. 12, 1892.”


The Union victory at Cedar Creek was considered a turning point in the North’s favor. This victory assured the re-election of President Lincoln.

Years ago I read something about a Medal of Honor being lost in the 1927 Cavendish flood. My memory fades with time, but I do recall it was found years later downstream. I mention this because in 1928 Sperry’s widow was issued a replacement Medal of Honor.

Why is Sperry’s marker in the woods? This marker was his first marker. His rank is given as Major (not Lieutenant Colonel), and there is no mention of his Medal of Honor. So, sometime later the first marble marker was replaced with another, corrected marble gravestone. The replacement marker reads: WILLIAM JOSEPH SPERRY MEDAL OF HONOR CIVIL WAR LIEUT COLONEL 6th VT INF DEC 28 1840, March 3 1914.

This replacement marker corrects the error of Major on the first stone to Lieutenant Colonel as well as having a Medal of Honor engraved thereon.

How or why this first marker ended up in the woods I do not know. One thing is for sure, Sperry is not buried in the woods. Both the first and second marble markers are Government Issue.

Sources for this article include “Peck’s Roster of Vermont Civil War Soldiers and Sailors,” Find a Grave, Danny Clemons and Ken Barrett.

Lonnie and I have made a couple trips together. First we went to Summit Cut in Mount Holly. That was a real workout. We plan to make additional trips in the near future.

A while back Lonnie asked for my assistance identifying objects at the Adams Grist Mill Museum in Bellows Falls. I was able to identify many of artifacts. I share Lonnie’s enthusiasm.


This week’s old saying: “Squirrels are like in-laws. They don’t leave ‘til the food is all gone.”




Back To Top