California was a long way from the Battle of Gettysburg. And Sonoma County was busy fighting its own “battles,” mostly wars of words, between the Petaluma Yankee traders and the Johnny Rebs who had settled the Russian River Valley.
So it is understandable that the Gettysburg 150th anniversary last week got a lot more attention in the eastern part of the country.
That's not to say there are not connections to be made.
Among the several hundred Civil War veterans buried in Sonoma County cemeteries, there are 166 in Santa Rosa's Rural Cemetery — 146 Union, 20 Confederate, including several whose tombstone inscriptions indicate that they were members of regiments that fought at Gettysburg.
We know that Nathaniel Stevens' regiment, the 8th Illinois Infantry, was there. And Amasa Arnold's 14th New York Infantry came from Brooklyn, and Joseph Wilcoxen served in the 147th New York Infantry. Both these New York units fought at Gettysburg. All three of these “old soldiers” rest on the hill above Franklin Avenue.
The Friends of the Rural Cemetery keep track of such things. Five years ago, in their publication called “Tombstones and Tales,” researchers Charles Christian and Ray Owen wrote about another Gettysburg survivor who made his mark — quite literally — in the history of Santa Rosa.
By 1870, Gus Fisher, a young stonemason from Vermont, had arrived in Santa Rosa and opened Fisher Marble and Granite, the first “tombstone” business in Santa Rosa. As 22-year-old Cpl. Augustus Leander Fisher, he had been mustered into the 13th Vermont Infantry in 1862.
He is described by a comrade in the regimental history:
“A man of happy make up, he had a way of saying and doing funny things which made him a favorite with all. If the rain poured in torrents, you would hear Gus Fisher yell, 'Ain't you glad you enlisted?' A little commissary whiskey would set him to preaching and singing gospel hymns and under all conditions he was happy and tried to make others happy.”