As Memorial Day approaches, I can’t help but think of the many women and men that sacrificed their lives for our nation. I’m grateful for their service that allowed me the freedoms that I have today. Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. (History.com, 2009) Through my membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, I honor my patriot ancestors who fought for this nation’s independence, although this day isn’t for them; it is for my ancestors that died in service to the United States.
This Memorial Day, I honor my 5th great uncle Elisha Leander Anthony. He was born on May 14, 1845 in Uxbridge, MA to Rev. Elisha Anthony and Roxcelanna Pollock Anthony. He died of typhoid fever in the Civil War on June 26, 1864 at Camp Parapet, Shrewsbury, LA. Although I had known that he had died in the Civil War, I didn’t know much about him. Thanks to my local library- the East Providence Public Library, I was able to access his military records through Fold3.com for free.
Leander enlisted in Company L of the 11th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops Heavy Artillery on December 8, 1863 in Providence, RI. I can almost picture him, thanks to the detail in his enlistment record. He was of medium height- 5’8”, had dark eyes, and light hair. His occupation is listed as a shoemaker. Leander never had the opportunity to live up to his potential and pursue this career. His life was cut short, but it is clear that he made his mark. As a free person of color, he made the difficult decision to leave his life of comfort and fight for the freedom of his African heritage brethren in bondage. That in itself is a remarkable decision to make.
With Memorial Day on the horizon, I found myself doing research into my ancestors that served in the military. Sometimes my genealogy research leads to remarkable discoveries and my search for information on E. Leander Anthony certainly did! In reviewing the pension application that his parents submitted after his death, I discovered a letter that he had written to his father on his death bed. Ever the dutiful son, he enclosed his last check in the letter. His Methodist upbringing is also clear in the letter. Besides those two things, what stuck out to me in this letter was how brave he was facing imminent death. He wrote, in part:
But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ I am prepared to go. I have a hope in Christ in him I put my faith. And here let me say my dear father that should the messenger of death by the direction of the Almighty take me ___ you and my friends at home must meet me in heaven for by Grace I am going there. As much as I should like to meet you all again in This life if it is the will of God that I should not do so I surely submit. I am not afraid to die.
May we all be as brave as Pvt. Elisha Leander Anthony. I’m honored to have him among my ancestors. Although he was not fortunate to have children, his legacy lives on. I cherish the fact that I share part of his name in my middle name. I will carry his memory with me.
This Memorial Day, take some time to recognize those that fought and died in service to the United States. Visit a local cemetery, volunteer to place flags and flowers on their graves. Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 PM, to pause and think upon the meaning of the day. Whatever you do, make sure that they are never forgotten.
*Please excuse transcription errors. *
Anthony, E. L. (n.d.). [Letter written June 26, 1864 to Rev. Elisha Anthony]. In Fold3 by Ancestry (pp. 14-15). Retrieved 2020, from https://www.fold3.com/image/311878053.
History.com Editors. (2009, October 27). Memorial Day. Retrieved May 21, 2020, from https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history
Tuttle, C. (2020). Rows of American Flags [Digital image]. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history#&gid=ci0230e631700b2549&pid=rows-of-american-flags-on-memorial-day