Monday, 26 May 2008

Fallen Leaves

Memorial Day (in the United States) is a time to celebrate the lives of those who have fallen in the service of their country. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it was instituted as a Federal Holiday following the American Civil War. Most Americans think of it as the kick-off for Summer and a time for partying, but my memories of this holiday are different than most.

As the child of two parents who served their country during World War II, I was raised to respect and remember the fallen. Each year, my father would go to his VFW Post (which I believe was Walter C. Campbell Post #544) in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to gather bundles of small flags and a list of gravesites on which to place them. He would drive from cemetery to cemetery in the Greater Boston Area, seeking out the headstones of those soldiers and sailors. At times, I would accompany him, marveling at the number of "stars and stripes" gently waving in the breeze. I was too young at the time to realize that under each flag lay the body of a victim of war.

Most of the ancestors in the Family Harvest tree who served their country in times of conflict survived. However, there are some who did not. In their memory, here are a few stories:

Caleb Harrington
American Revolution

When the word arrived in that the British Regulars were on their way to Lexington and Concord to destroy the ammunition supplies of the colonists, Caleb was among several of his kin to assemble on the Lexington parade grounds. He was also one of the first to die that fateful April morning.

There is much debate over who fired the first shot of the American Revolution. Whichever theory you may believe, of the known 77 colonists on the parade grounds of Lexington that day, eight colonists lost their lives: John Brown, Samuel Hadley, Caleb Harrington, Jonathan Harrington, Robert Munroe, Isaac Muzzey, Asahel Porter, and Jonas Parker.

According to the account of Joshua Simonds, who was in charge of the town's stock of ammunition which was kept in the upper gallery of the Meetinghouse, Caleb Harrington was shot and killed as he left after replenishing his supply of powder.

My 2nd cousin 6 times removed

Jonathan Harrington Jr.
American Revolution

Jonathan Harrington was also on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775. He was killed on the defense line during the second round of fire. He fell in front of his own house on the northerly end of the common. Although mortally wounded, he staggered towards his home, falling before reaching there. His wife saw him fall, then rise, the blood gushing from his breast. Stretching out his hands towards her, as if for assistance, he fell again. Rising once more on his hands and knees, he crawled across the road toward his home. His wife, Ruth (Fiske), ran to meet him at the door, only to watch as he expired at her feet.

My 2nd cousin 6 times removed

Theodore Francis Haviland Jr.
World War II

On January 19, 1942, Theodore Haviland was on his way home to his family in Savannah, Georgia. He recently had been transferred from another vessel (when that ship went into government service) to The City of Atlanta. The ship had sailed from Boston, January 9th, and from New York the following day.

At 9.09 in the morning, the unescorted and unarmed City of Atlanta (Master Lehman Chapman Urquhart) was torpedoed by U-123 about 12 miles south of the Wimble Shoals Buoy and about eight or ten miles off the coast of North Carolina.

The German torpedo hit the port side of the ship, forward of the #3 hold. When it struck, the ship listed sharply and quickly, making it difficult for the crew (eight officers and 38 crewmen) to abandon ship. It took about ten minutes for the force of the blow to cause the vessel to roll over - none of the four lifeboats could be lowered in time to save the crew. Only one officer and two crewmen survived, clinging to the wreckage of their ship. After six hours they were picked up by the American railway car carrier Seatrain Texas.

Theodore did not survive.

Although not an "official" casualty, Theodore did die during World War II, serving aboard a merchant vessel which was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. The United States had been at war for just 6 weeks when his vessel was torpedoed. In my eyes, he is as much a hero as the other members of the Family Harvest Genealogy who perished in defense of Liberty.

My 1st cousin once removed

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