Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering a soldier....

Today is Memorial Day. A time when most Americans, hopefully, take the time to say thank you to our fallen soldiers and sailors and to pray for those who remain in the field.

I am thinking of one particular soldier today. His name was Finis Ray. He was born around 1814 in North Carolina. As a young man, he moved west to Missouri, where in 1839 he married Miss Susan Isabel Carman. They set up housekeeping on the frontier and began raising a family. They had five children. Their youngest, Rebecca Lavina, was born on Christmas Day 1856. In July 1860 tragedy struck when Susan Isabel died. Hard times were just beginning for this family.

In December of 1861, with the Civil War raging throughout the country, and particularly dreadful in the Ozarks, Finis Ray donned the navy blue uniform of the Union Cavalry. He was a volunteer with the 4th then the 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

For the next few months, his unit fought the Confederates throughout the southwest part of the state. This area was considered important by both the Union and Confederate armies due to the many mines in the region. Whoever controlled this area would have an advantage because of the ready supply of lead available for ammunition.

On May 30th, the 14th was stationed in Neosho, MO. Commanding officer, Colonel John M. Richardson, later wrote that he sent "six reliable men" into the woods for picket duty that night. Finis was one of those men. One has to wonder what he was thinking that night as he sat in the woods, watching for the enemy. Was he thinking of his 5 children home alone without him? Or perhaps he was remembering his beloved Susan Isabel.

The next morning, May 31, 1862, the Confederate forces attacked. The Union forces at the battle were routed by the Second Mounted Cherokee Rifles. The Confederate commander, Colonel Stand Watie, stated in his report following the fight that the Union "loss in wounded was undoubtedly heavy. Many if not the greater part, of the Federal forces escaped on foot, and their dead and wounded were found some distance from Neosho, they having fallen in their flight."

The report from Colonel Richardson of the 14th included this information, "Our loss is 8 wounded, 2 missing, and 1 taken prisoner by the enemy."

Finis Ray was one of the missing. No one even knows what happened to his body. Some of the deceased soldiers were buried in the cemetery in Neosho. Their are no grave markers for them. Later the local people erected a monument in their honor.

Eventually some of the bodies of the soldiers from Neosho were reinterred in the National Cemetery in Springfield, MO when it opened. Some of these were unknowns. Our family has chosen one of those unknowns to honor by laying a wreath on the grave in memory of Finis.

Finis Ray made the ultimate sacrifice in hopes of preserving our beloved nation. Today, I take time to honor and remember this dear great-great-great-grandfather of mine and the many other men and women through the years who have given their all for our country. Thank you to each of you. Your sacrifice has not been forgotten.

No comments:

Post a Comment