Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Our boys fought like heroes"

For Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to do a post on a relative who gave his life in service to his country. Of the many ancestors and relatives I have who fought in various wars over the past four centuries, there is only one that I know of who actually died in service: Thomas B. MACE, my 3rd great-uncle.

Thomas was born about 1843 in Plaistow, New Hampshire, the first surviving child of John and Sophronia (nee BLY) MACE. His middle initial likely stands for his mother Sophronia's maiden name. He was followed by a brother, Daniel Webster (b. 1845), and sisters Elizabeth (b. 1847) and Sarah Ellen (b. 1849). Elizabeth was my 2nd great-grandmother.

Thomas's father John, whose parentage I am still trying to discover, disappeared in 1848, and a pregnant Sophronia was left to provide for herself and her children on her own. Things must have been very difficult, because in 1857, at the ripe old age of 14, Thomas left home to join the Navy. He was listed as having brown hair, a light complexion, and hazel eyes; his height was just 4 feet,  8 1/2 inches. 



In the 1860 census, Thomas was listed in the household of a neighbor as a hired farm hand ; his mother Sophronia had just gotten remarried to Joseph FELLOWS a year earlier, so either they couldn't provide for him or they didn't want to.  

On 22 August 1861, just a few months after the outbreak of the Civil War, Thomas enlisted with Company K of the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry Regiment. 

On 5 May 1862, the soldiers of the 2nd New Hampshire met the Confederates at Williamsburg, Virginia, and a fierce battle ensued. By the day's end, 16 members of the regiment were dead, and 19-year-old Thomas B. Mace was among these fallen. Many more men were wounded or missing.




In spite of Thomas's fate, his younger brother Daniel would enlist in 1864 in the 50th and 59th Massachusetts Infantry. Daniel would be captured at Petersburg, Virginia on 19 July 1864, and held at notorious Andersonville prison camp. He was exchanged in November, and survived. It is a descendant of his, in fact, who recently contacted me and who is helping me try to break through the brick wall of his father's line.

In August of 1869, a recently-widowed Sophronia (husband Joseph FELLOWS had passed that April) filed for her late son Thomas's pension. I can only figure that she must have really needed the money. 

Thomas, at an age where today he would have been starting college, gave his life in the line of duty. May he and others who died in service to the United States never be forgotten.