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.
A 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.
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.
(The above picture taken by Debbie Lee Cooper)