Memorial Day: Honoring a Civil War Soldier

Introduction: In this article – in honor of Memorial Day – Melissa Davenport Berry writes 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.

In honor of Memorial Day, I remember Captain Samuel Judson Fletcher (1831-1924) who served in Company H of the 15th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War.

Photo: Captain Samuel J. Fletcher in uniform
Photo: Captain Samuel J. Fletcher in uniform. Credit: B. Sprague, 159 Westminster St., Providence, R. I. Courtesy of the Medford Historical Society.

The 15th Regiment was engaged in many battles during the war, from Ball’s Bluff to Petersburg, and suffered the tenth highest fatality rate amongst Federal regiments. The regiment was composed almost entirely of men from Worcester County, Massachusetts.

I begin with Captain Fletcher’s obituary, published in the Springfield Republican.

Article about Samuel Fletcher, Springfield Republican newspaper article 15 July 1924
Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 15 July 1924, page 7

Here is a transcription of this article:

FUNERAL OF VETERAN RECALLS DAYS OF ’61

Capt. Samuel Fletcher Served with Distinction in Civil War

Turners Falls, July 11 – The funeral of Capt. Samuel Fletcher was held at his home at Gill yesterday afternoon. Rev. Thomas B. Vincent officiated. Capt. Fletcher had an unusual record.

He was born in Bethel, Me., in 1830 [correction: 31 March 1831], and graduated from Brown University in the class of 1857. He had intended to make teaching his life work, but the Civil War coming on, he enlisted in the 15th Massachusetts Regiment and shortly afterward was made a captain. At the battle of Antietam [correction: Gettysburg; see below] he was shot through the face and lay for several days on the battlefield before he was taken to the hospital. Fourteen [correction: ten] months later he lost part of a hand at the battle of Gettysburg, and after he recovered, he was presented with a sword as a reward of valor. After the war he was for several years connected with the state police and he also served in the Legislature as a representative from Northbridge. He is survived by his widow, three daughters, Mrs. P. W. Eddy [Bertha Judson Fletcher, wife of Peleg William Eddy] and Mrs. Walter Clapp [Alice Luther Fletcher] of Gill, and Mrs. James E. Adams [Nellie Chapin Fletcher] of Newton, and one son, Edward F. Fletcher [married Alice Brooks Clark] of West Newton. The body was taken to Sherburne for burial.

Capt. Fletcher, in his published war tales My Civil War Reflections, tells of the injury to his jaw at the Battle of Gettysburg (transcribed 1900, Courtesy of Ronald Guilmette, Massachusetts State Police Museum):

Gettysburg, July 2nd 1863: In a few minutes General Ward, our Colonel who lost his leg at Balls Bluff, was killed, and I was shot in the head, the ball passing through my face. I was unconscious for a short time [before] I came to. I was surrounded with the dead and wounded of the Blue and of the Gray.

My cousin Edward Chapin, orderly of the company, was shot in the leg. I said, “Do you not know me?” He said, “It cannot be possible.”

Sergeant James Williams helped me to a place of safety with Stanton, Lieutenant Buss, and Chapin.

As members of the regiment came to see us, [they] said Stanton and myself could not live; but Buss and Chapin would get well.

In a month they were dead, while Stanton lived a good many years.

Like many families who had several enlist during the Civil War, not all returned home alive.

Captain Fletcher lost his brother James, age 23, killed in the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862; and brother George, age 19, killed in the Battle of Gettysburg on 3 July 1863.

His cousin Edward Fletcher Chapin [son of Nicholas Baylis Chapin and Margaret Fletcher], age 23, was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg on 3 July 1863 and died in a Maryland hospital.

Fortunately, his brother William Walter Fletcher and brothers-in-law George W. Davison and William J. Flagg survived. All served in the 15th with Captain Fletcher.

Stay tuned: Captain Fletcher almost faces his maker once again in another duty of service after the war!

Photo: members of the Fletcher family (clockwise from upper left): brothers Josiah and George and their parents, Ephraim and Margaret. George was killed at Gettysburg.
Photo: members of the Fletcher family (clockwise from upper left): brothers Josiah and George and their parents, Ephraim and Margaret. George was killed at Gettysburg. Courtesy of John Bank’s Civil War Blog Civil War history lost … and found and Sherry Fletcher, a direct descendant.

Genealogy:

Parents: Ephraim Spring Fletcher (1805-1868), son of Samuel Fletcher and Lydia Spring; married Margaret Ann Chapin (1808-1897), daughter of Phineas Chapin and Eunice Taft

Children:

  • Samuel J. Fletcher m. Ellen A. Luther
  • William Walter Fletcher Elizabeth Stratton Thurston
  • Mary Jane Fletcher m. Edmund Chamberlain Flagg
  • Josiah Spring Fletcher 1st Elizabeth Rankin and 2nd Elizabeth Jane Dillon
  • Abbey Elizabeth Fletcher m. Warren Davison
  • Emily Maria Fletcher m. Robert Allen Rogers
  • Louis Clark Fletcher m. Lillian Wright
  • Clara Amanda Fletcher m. Edward Walker Wood
  • George Fergo Fletcher, died at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at age 19
  • James Brainerd Fletcher, died at the Battle of Antietam, Maryland, killed in action

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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