Nine days before his death at Spotsylvania Court House, Va., Thomas Eayre penned a letter to his mother, hoping to calm her fears.
With the Civil War in full swing, the 21-year-old Union soldier had been exposed to terrible fighting but always had come through unscathed.
"I shall write you again the first opportunity I have if I am able to do so and I stand no better chance to get shot now than I have many times before - I as much expect to write you next Sunday as I did last," Eayre wrote on May 3, 1864.
The Burlington County man told his mother he had just been assigned the rank of assistant adjutant general and enclosed "another picture" for his album.
But Eayre, of Vincentown, wouldn't write home again. While carrying important dispatches, he was shot through the heart May 12 by a Confederate sharpshooter.
He's one of the town's 75 Civil War heroes who will be honored by an unusual float in Vincentown's 131st Memorial Day parade, one of the oldest continuously held events of its kind in the county.
The float traditionally celebrates veterans from more recent wars but will focus this year on the Civil War as a way of also marking the war's sesquicentennial.
It will carry the photos of five soldiers and the names of 70 others, as well as a group image of about 100 veterans who attended an 1889 Decoration Day reunion at the town's Camp Woods section (now called Eagle Walk) in Southampton Township. Decoration Day later became known as Memorial Day.
"Vincentown is a microcosm of every community in Burlington County," said county historian Joe Laufer, who has been giving Civil War talks and tours partly focusing on the town. "The people really came forward during the war, responding to the call to defend the Union."
The parade will step off on Main Street in Vincentown at 10 a.m. Monday, after various ceremonies across the community.
The idea for the float came from the Southampton Historical Society, said Bob Ritter, the organization's president, who has been helping prepare it in his garage over the last several days.
"It was hard to get photos of the soldiers," said Ritter, a longtime Vincentown resident and retired TV production teacher. "The pictures of some soldiers - along with names of others on the float - will represent all veterans of the Civil War."
One of the soldiers in the photos is Martin Haines of Company C, 34th New Jersey Volunteers, who lived on Mill Street in Vincentown.
Honoring the vets "is a great idea" that recalls the town's sacrifice, said Haines' great-grandson Bill Haines, a former Burlington County freeholder who lives in Medford. "The Civil War was a defining moment in American history.
"It decided whether we would be one nation, and whether we would remove the stain of slavery," he said. "The idea that people on both sides would go off to fight like they did is almost unimaginable."
Haines, one of the owners of the Pine Island Cranberry Co. in Chatsworth, said he remembered his family taking him to the Vincentown Memorial Day parade every year.
"When I was a kid, it was a big deal," he said. Afterward "we had a barbecue at my grandfather's house" in Vincentown.
Haines' sister Holly, a co-owner of the cranberry business, said she planned to attend the parade.
"Many of the folks in the Civil War still have family roots in the area," said the Lower Bank, Burlington County, resident.
"The Civil War veterans deserve recognition," she added. "There were men from our community who put their lives on the line for something they believed in.
"It was something they were passionate about and what they did should be commemorated."
Among those pictures on the float is one of Thomas Eayre's brother George Stretch Eayre of the Colorado Light Artillery, said Laufer, the county historian.
George Eayre founded the Vincentown Grand Army of the Republic Post 49 and named it after his brother Thomas, who is buried in the Quaker Burial Ground on Main Street. George Eayre and Martin Haines are buried at the Baptist Cemetery on Landing Street.
One of their fellow veterans, Elijah Birdsall Woolston, also will be pictured on the float. He was a member of the Fourth New Jersey Militia and a surgeon at the National Military Hospital in Beverly in 1864.
Other honored veterans include Col. Timothy Bryan Jr. of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry; his uncle Capt. Guy Bryan 2d of the Fifth New Jersey Volunteers; and his son Guy Bryan 3d of the 18th Regiment, Pennsylvania Cavalry. Bryan 3d was a prisoner of the Confederate's infamous Libby Prison in Richmond, Va.
"We want to remember all of these veterans," Laufer said. "They were part of a town that responded dramatically when the call came."