Veterans’ Agent Chris Tighe prepares the ground for the April 21 dedication of new headstones at the Old South Burial Ground on Main Street in Peabody for four Minutemen killed at the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

PEABODY | The earthly remains of four Revolutionary War Minutemen from Peabody have been lost to history. Yet when new memorials are dedicated to them on Saturday at the Old South Burial Ground on Main Street, National Guard veteran Don Perry will be there.

The gleaming white headstones don't close the book, he said.

"But it's almost like giving a person a face," he said.

The event caps a decade seeking the resting place of Benjamin Deland Jr., Ebenezer Goldthwaite, George Southwick Jr. and Samuel Cook Jr. The four died in ferocious fighting with British troops withdrawing toward Boston after the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

Brought home to grieving families, they were buried at the little cemetery off Main Street.

Others killed in action, including Henry Jacobs, were sent to family plots in Peabody and Danvers. Yet, over the years, the location of the Burial Ground graves was lost.

In the 1990s, the Peabody Veterans Council led an effort to locate them and provide proper memorials. The city even hired a researcher, but ancient documents gave no conclusive evidence. The search is complicated by the changing boundaries of the cemetery.

"The streetscape changed," said Dan Doucette of the Historical Society.

Last year, however, Veterans' Agent Chris Tighe decided the time had come to erect some sort of monument. Until now, the four names were merely listed on a plaque at the gate.

At his urging, the National Archives provided five headstones, including one to replace a worn-out stone over Henry Jacobs in West Peabody, off Lowell Street near Edgehill Road. That will be dedicated at 6 p.m. tomorrow, April 19 | the date of the battle.

The larger affair on Saturday will honor Deland, Goldthwaite, Southwick and Cook, who may never have had headstones. Perry, who is also a re-enactor with the Danvers Alarm List Company, forerunner of today's National Guard, will be at both ceremonies.

"It's our way of honoring 300-odd people that marched out from Danvers that day," he said.

Also participating on Saturday will be Mayor Michael Bonfanti, Col. Mark Ray of the National Guard's 101st Field Artillery | recently returned from Iraq | the Peabody Veterans Council, Historical Society President Bill Power and additional re-enactors from Glover's Regiment of Marblehead.

The Guard will fire a howitzer. Tighe urges the public to attend, particularly descendants of the four Minutemen.

With the nation at war, the issue of the four lost soldiers has taken on a new urgency. Some veterans, Tighe said, are dissatisfied, fearing the headstones mark the end of efforts to recover the remains. He sees it differently.

"If they ever do find remains, there is now a place to bury them. ... We're trying to do our best for these guys," he says.

Bob Erbetta of Glover's Regiment, a Navy veteran, will attend. Pointing to the military axiom "Leave no man behind," he recalls watching the aircraft carrier Oriskany pull into Subic Bay, the Philippines, during the Vietnam War. A fire at sea on Oct. 26, 1966, had killed 44 on board.

Videotape from the tragedy was shown as a training film, Erbetta said. The flight deck ablaze, rockets flying from burning aircraft, a chief could be seen running to a fighter plane. Heedless of his own safety, he carried a fire extinguisher and set a path of foam, allowing the pilot to escape with his life.

"That's a shipmate," Erbetta said. "That's why they don't leave any man behind."

Likewise, he said, the Peabody Minutemen, who were among the first casualties of an American army, must be honored, remembered and never left behind by those who enjoy the freedoms purchased with their sacrifice.

If you go

r What: Dedication of headstones for fallen Minutemen

r Where: Old South Burial Ground

r When: Saturday, April 21, 10:30 a.m.

r Parade after: Main Street to Pierpont, to Sewall, to Lexington Monument

r Annual ceremony: Lexington Monument on Washington Street, noon

r After: Osborne-Salata House, 35 Washington St., opens to the public with military artifacts on display until 2 p.m.

r For more information: Call 978-538-5925

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