The inspiration for Memorial Day began in 1865 when a group of newly freed slaves in Charleston, SC dug up a mass grave of 257 Union Civil War soldiers who were prisoners of war at Hampton Park Race Course and gave them individual burials. It is said they did this to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for their freedom. However, the official day was ordered by Union General John A. Logan on May 5, 1868 when he designated May 30 as a day to remember fallen soldiers. 

Scan_20160531A member of The National Society of Daughters of the Union since 1997, I have 16 documented Union soldier ancestors.  One of them is Stephen Fletcher Lee, brother to my great-great grandfather, John Seaton Lee, also a Union soldier of the Civil War.  John died of  severe injuries received in the war, but not until he was mustered out.  Since Memorial Day is to commemorate those who gave their lives while serving their country, I salute my gg-uncle, Stephen Fletcher Lee.  He is my only ancestor who died in action, though most of them died from injuries or disease suffered during the bloody Civil War.

NOTE:  This in no way is meant to diminish the Confederate soldiers who also fought and died in the Civil War.  I am a Kentucky native where we had brother fighting brother often.  I simply have never found a Confederate soldier in my lineage and this ancestor is the only one I have that died in the line of duty, to my knowledge.

Grave of Stephen F. Lee Andersonville Prison, GA

Grave of Stephen F. Lee
Andersonville Prison, GA

Stephen Fletcher Lee buried at Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

Stephen Fletcher Lee buried at Andersonville Prison in Georgia.


Stephen Fletcher Lee died at the age of 25 years, the last three comparable to walking through the fires of hell. He was a brother to my gg-grandfather, John Seaton Lee. Stephen was mustered in as a Private in Co. A of the 1st Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry at Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky on Oct. 28, 1861 and appears on the Muster Out Roll at Camp Nelson, KY on Dec. 31, 1864. He was in the Battle of Wild Cat. He was a farrier and furnished his own horse and equipment. He became missing in action on Oct. 19, 1863 after he and his horse were captured by the Confederates at Philadelphia, Tennessee on Oct. 14, 1863. He was sent to Andersonville Georgia (with a notation of “or Americus, Ga”) February 15, 1864 after being confined to prison in Richmond, VA from November 1, 1863 until Feb. 15, 1864. He was admitted to the hospital at Andersonville, GA on June 30, 1864 and died on July 16, 1864 of anasarca or scorbutue (diarrhea). He is buried in Andersonville, GA among the prisoners of war in grave #3398. He entered the army at the age of 22 and died as a POW at the age of 25.

Camp Andersonville, Sumter County, GA opened in Feb. 1864 consisting of 26 acres and holding over 32,000 Union prisoners. Difficulties: Lack of fresh water, sanitation at a minimum as the stream in the prison yard also served as the latrine. Known deaths there: 13,000.

Harriet Wilkinson Lee, Stephen’s mother and my ggg-grandmother , filed for and was granted a Mother’s Pension for her son’s military service. She filed on Sept. 10, 1868 and was granted $8.00 per month commencing July 17, 1868.

Stephen lived at home prior to enlisting for three years on July 20, 1861. He was a blacksmith, like his father.

John Seaton Lee buried in Liberty, KY - Bowman Cemetery

John Seaton Lee buried in Liberty, KY – Bowman Cemetery

(The above picture taken by Debbie Lee Cooper)



About jtzortman

Author of "WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW" - A Grandparent's Journey Through Grief, first place award winning novel "FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST" and award-winning novel "SNOW ANGEL". Contributing author to anthologies "Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides", "American Blue", "Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook" and "The Centennial Book of The National Society of Daughters of the Union 1861-1865". Numerous articles, poems and short stories published since 1990. Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Winner of ten writing awards. I live in a quaint Colorado mountain tourist town with my husband and Siamese cat. When deeps snows blanket the terrain and spectacular views from my windows, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.
This entry was posted in American History, Civil War, family, Jackie Taylor Zortman, Memorial Day, veterans. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. A nice tribute to your ancestors and to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I just returned from our annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the park. Thanks for helping us remember.


  2. jtzortman says:

    Thank you, Mike. I appreciate you taking the time to do so and to let me know you did.


  3. I have never heard that story of the former slaves digging up a mass grave of Union soldiers and honoring each with an individual grave. That’s something you should post on Facebook. The story of your ancestors was also very interesting. Like all wars, the lives lost hard to take, but as it is said many times Freedom isn’t free. Today is also a day to recognize the Confederate soldiers that died in the civil war. They are considered American veterans and should be so honored.


    • jtzortman says:

      Absolutely, Joseph. I am a Kentucky native and we had brother fighting brother in many cases. I have nothing against the Confederate soldiers, just have never found any in my lineage. My family came from Tennessee, as well, before migrating into Kentucky, but they all chose to be Union soldiers in the war.


  4. Barbara Shepperson says:

    Thanks for the tribute to our ancestors, Jackie! It means a lot to think of them on this Memorial Day.


  5. Debbie Lee Cooper says:

    As Barbara said…Thanks for the tribute to our ancestors…so many times you put into words what I am thinking……Hope all of our cousins take a moment out and remember what this day is about…..


  6. jtzortman says:

    Thanks, Barbara. I’m glad you enjoyed my little tribute. Stephen Fletcher Lee is the only one of 16 ancestors of ours that actually died while the war was still going.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s