The public is invited to join County Historian Michelle Henry at Forest Hill Cemetery Wednesday to recognize Sarah Sykes Sinfield, a Civil War pensioner who served with the 72nd NY Volunteer Infantry from 1861-1864.
The dedication ceremony will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Sinfield’s gravesite. Signage from the cemetery’s front gates at 55 Lambert Avenue will direct visitors to the site.
The Fredonia American Legion Post no. 59 will participate in the dedication ceremony, as well as the 20th Maine & Calvert Arms Fife and Drum Corp.
Sinfield and her husband, William, were residents of Dunkirk at the start of the Civil War. William enlisted in Company E of the 72nd NY Volunteer Infantry in May 1861. Sarah begged Captain Patrick Barrett for permission to accompany the regiment to Washington, D.C., and spent the next three years with her husband and his company.
Sarah’s dedication to the regiment put her life in danger – she was present at some of the conflict’s fiercest battles, where she treated the wounded as they were brought from the front lines. Even though she was not an enlisted soldier, Sarah marched with the company, often carrying the packs of men who were wounded or too sick to carry their own equipment.
In 1884, Congress awarded Sarah a pension for her dedication and service to the Union cause. The Congressional Record stated that she rendered great assistance to the regiment, and that her presence and worth were of incalculable value to the sick and wounded soldiers. She and her husband carried the regimental flag in many local parades until Sarah’s death in 1894.
In 1917 the Women’s Relief Corps purchased a granite gravestone that includes her name and date of death but no mention of her military service.
In 2013, Sarah’s story was discovered by the County Historian’s office while researching Dunkirk Lighthouse keepers. With the enthusiastic support of the late James C. O’Brien, who was president of the Chautauqua County Historical Society, a dedicated fund was established to collect donations for a marker for Sarah’s grave.