Memorial Day: Honoring a Civil War Soldier, Part II

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry concludes her story about the life and service of Civil War veteran Captain Samuel Judson Fletcher. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

Today I continue with my tribute to Captain Samuel Judson Fletcher (1831-1924) who served in Company H of the 15th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War. (See: Memorial Day: Honoring a Civil War Soldier) Captain Fletcher came close to dying during the war – and then it happened again, during peacetime.

Photo: Samuel Judson Fletcher (1831-1924), son of Ephraim Spring Fletcher and Margaret Ann Chapin. Courtesy of Ronald Guilmette, Massachusetts State Police Museum
Photo: Samuel Judson Fletcher (1831-1924), son of Ephraim Spring Fletcher and Margaret Ann Chapin. Courtesy of Ronald Guilmette, Massachusetts State Police Museum

After the war, Fletcher was appointed as a state police deputy constable for Worcester County, Massachusetts, on 26 July 1867. While on duty he faced death again: in May of 1870 Fletcher, along with another patrolman named Clarke, raided the home of Patrick Collins. When Collins discovered it was a liquor raid, he, his wife, and other men brutally attacked Fletcher and Clarke. Fletcher was beaten and stabbed, and thought killed.

The incident was reported by the Boston Traveler.

An article about Samuel Fletcher, Boston Traveler newspaper article 2 May 1870
Boston Traveler (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1870, page 2

This article reported:

“Both [Fletcher and Clarke] were terribly beaten and bruised; and Fletcher was thrown upon the floor and held by the four men while Mrs. Collins stabbed him several times in the head and face. Clarke made his escape and gave the alarm.

“A number of people proceeded to Collins’s house, but Fletcher could not be found. The church bells were rung, and the whole population, men, women, and children, turned out; and after a diligent search he was found about six o’clock in the morning, insensible, in Mr. Henry Taft’s barn, about a quarter of a mile distant from Collins’s house. The four men and the woman were arrested, and Fletcher was able late in the day to identify them. This morning there are hopes that the wounds will not prove fatal.”

I suspect that Fletcher sought refuge in the barn owned by Israel Plummer, the father-in-law of Henry Taft, who married Israel’s daughter Emma. I found Taft’s family living with the Plummer’s in the 1870 census in Whitinsville, Northbridge, Massachusetts. Henry served in the 15th Massachusetts Regiment, Company H, with Fletcher, and the families intermarried and were prominent citizens of the Worcester County area.

Photo: Henry Spur Taft (1834-1909), son of Smith Taft and Hannah Albee. He married Emma Plummer, daughter of Israel Plummer. He mustered into service with the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a 1st Lieutenant in 1861. Courtesy of John Bank's Civil War blog
Photo: Henry Spur Taft (1834-1909), son of Smith Taft and Hannah Albee. He married Emma Plummer, daughter of Israel Plummer. He mustered into service with the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a 1st Lieutenant in 1861. Courtesy of John Bank’s Civil War blog

The day after the Boston Traveler report, the Lowell Daily Citizen and News gave an update.

An article about Samuel Fletcher, Lowell Daily Citizen and News newspaper article 3 May 1870
Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts), 3 May 1870, page 2

This article reported:

“A telegram to Major Jones yesterday stated that State Constable Samuel J. Fletcher, who was so brutally assaulted in Uxbridge Saturday night, will probably recover, although his injuries are very severe. He bears the reputation of a quiet, courteous, and faithful man, and was a brave officer in the 15th Regiment, being several times wounded, once by a bullet passing through both checks. He has been a member of the legislature two years, and was appointed on the Constabulary on recommendation of Gov. Bullock. His visit to the house of Collins was undoubtedly to obtain the supply of liquors which had just been put in for Sunday selling. All the parties have been arrested.”

The Salem Register gave this update two days later.

An article about Samuel Fletcher, Salem Register newspaper article 5 May 1870
Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts), 5 May 1870, page 2

In this report we learn that eight people in all were arrested in the illegal liquor ring, as well as details of Fletcher’s terrible injuries:

“The opinion of the physician at first was that Fletcher would not survive… Fletcher received eleven wounds on the head and face, but the skull was not broken, as at first supposed, and he will probably recover.”

Fletcher survived, recovered, and went on with his duties. He lived to a ripe old age of 93! He never neglected to honor his fellow comrades and kin who fought alongside him.

He was a member of the David A. Russell GAR Post #78, Whitman, Massachusetts, and the General J. G. Foster GAR Post #163, South Framingham, Massachusetts.

Photo: monument dedicated to the members of the Massachusetts 15th Regiment in 1900, which Samuel Fletcher attended. Courtesy of John Bank's Civil War blog
Photo: monument dedicated to the members of the Massachusetts 15th Regiment in 1900, which Samuel Fletcher attended. Courtesy of John Bank’s Civil War blog

In 1900 Fletcher was present when the Heroes’ Memorial Monument at Antietam battlefield was dedicated to the 15th Massachusetts Regiment. The event was covered in the Boston Daily Advertiser, which noted that there were about 600 attendees. General John Kimball, who commanded the regiment as a colonel at Antietam, delivered an oration that late-summer day.

An article about a Civil War monument at Antietam battlefield, Boston Daily Advertiser newspaper article 18 September 1900
Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 18 September 1900, page 10

The 12-foot-high monument cost $2,000 and was made of Troy granite “surmounted with a lion and inscribed with the names of those killed and wounded.”

Note: Just as an online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, helped tell the stories of Samuel Fletcher, they can tell you stories about your ancestors that can’t be found anywhere else. Come look today and see what you can discover!

Note on the header image: photo of the grave of Captain Samuel Fletcher, Pine Hill Cemetery, Cemetery Lane, Sherborn, Massachusetts. Courtesy of Susan Tyler, Sherborn Cemetery Commission, Sherborn, Massachusetts.

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