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Hero receives overdue honors

Marines and elected officials gathered at Woodside's Calvary Cemetery last weekend to honor a Civil War hero from Manhattan by giving him a headstone after he had laid in an unmarked grave for more than a century.

The New York chapter of the Marine Corps League unveiled a headstone Sunday that honored Henry A. Thompson, a Marine who had received the Medal of Honor after he fought against the Confederacy at Fort Fisher in South Carolina in 1865.

Thompson, who had been part of Ships Company USS Minnessota, had been buried in an unmarked grave at the Woodside cemetery following his death in 1889. He was 48. Thompson was born in England in 1841 as Roderick Connelly, but changed his name when he entered the military, Cavallo said.

Al Cavallo, public relations officer for the Marine Corps League, said the league had worked for more than a year to give Thompson a proper headstone.

"Nobody knew he was here and that he had fought with the Marines during the Civil War," Cavallo said. "This is part of our history. A lot of Marines are very proud. We leave no one behind."

More than 75 people gathered at the cemetery for the Sunday ceremony, including Marines, Civil War re-enactors, City Councilman Anthony Como (R-Middle Village) and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).

Como said he thought it was an appropriate time to honor Thompson since the city had held its numerous memorials for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks during the previous week.

"It's always great to honor the men and women who fought for us to be here today in this great nation," he said. "I've never had the honor of serving, but I wanted to come out and show my gratitude."

Members of the 14th Brooklyn Company's regiment fired a 21-gun salute to the soldier following the ceremony.

Cavallo said the Marine Corps League could not track down any descendants of the soldier, who had lived in Manhattan. It was unclear why Thompson had been buried without a headstone.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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