Memorial Day is here again.
Our family’s research includes ancestors who proudly wore military uniforms throughout our Nation’s history. In addition to cousins, uncles and siblings, we discovered a paternal Great Uncle who served in the Merchant Marines. There also was our Maternal Grandfather who served in the Navy during the Spanish American War, and his father who served with the U.S. Army in Texas during the Indian Wars. And finally–Joseph B. Stratton, our paternal Grandfather who served in the Civil War.
We family members always refer to my Grandfather by initials “JB”. Every year after the annual Memorial Day Ceremony inside Doylestown Cemetery I visit my Grandfather’s marker in the Veterans’ section where he rests. In 1864 – 1865, JB served in the Union Navy. I always make it my mission to stop at his marker, tap twice on the top and whisper my greeting: “Hi JB”. My father was less than 3 months old when JB died but when he spoke of my grandfather it planted a seed that ultimately encouraged us to search deep into our ancestral heritage.
JB was a Landsman on the USS Calypso, a vessel that roamed the southern east coast where their mission was to blockade supplies from reaching the Confederate army. Although JB’s marker denotes service on the USS Daylight, that was a brief final assignment before he ended his Naval service.
We’re gifted with an original letter written by JB to his sister on April 16, 1864 after the USS Calypso “… came near being lost while coming around Cape Hatteras the worst place on the coast of America …” . Neatly written line by line with few misspellings and near perfect grammar, his letter records a moment in our Nation’s Civil War history that includes his thoughts on being a Black Man fighting for ” … Father Abraham”. My sister Judith presents a lecture of our family’s genealogy that includes JB’s life as we’ve so far learned. Each time she reads the letter at these presentations, the attendees are carried 152 years into the past where one man’s words leap with a fragment from America’s Civil War Naval History:
Should Providence spare me I will settle down and let my bruised arms hang up as monuments of this holy Struggle for Freedom. … God blefs (sic) old Abe and Mrs. United States and the union …”
We’ve since learned through our research that JB also wrote letters dictated to him from his USS Calyso shipmates. Judith’s diligent goal is to discover other Americans who are descendants of relatives that served on the USS Calypso and may possess letters that match JB’s expressive style.
Some years ago VFW Post 175 of Doylestown received funds to replace the weathered markers of local men who died after serving in the Civil War. When we learned about this in an article from the paper we said, “Let’s get JB’s marker.” JB’s marker was loaded onto Judith’s car and it now rests under the mature blue Spruce tree in our garden.
Joseph B. Stratton died on July 7, 1900 at age 68. His marker was the first local Civil War veteran to be laid in Doylestown Cemetery. My father Grayson Savoy, born May 21, 1900 was the last of JB’s eight children, all of whom went on to successful lives and careers.
Memorial Day. A time for reflection.