Letter to the Editor - Memorial Day Remembrance

To The Editor:

Memorial Day Remembrance - For the past several months I have been working on family history notebooks for our three daughters. It has been an interesting and inspiring journey. My hope in sharing this one discovery is that others will be motivated to explore their ancestry. Every family has a unique and fascinating story. In my research one thing has led to another…some mysteries have been solved, others are lost in obscurity. One unanswered question pertained to our great-great-grandfather, James Arthur Kitchen, who served during the Civil War with the Sixteenth Regiment Co. B Connecticut Volunteers, Infantry. We were told growing up he had died of starvation, a prisoner of war in South Carolina. Research showed he was held at Andersonville in Georgia and then moved to Florence, South Carolina, but there was no mention of where he was buried. One February morning I called the Florence National Cemetery, and within two hours my call was returned. The director told me there were no records for James Arthur Kitchen. When I shared what we knew, she explained there were two possible answers. After the fall of Atlanta, some prisoners (approximately 10,000) were moved (over three hundred miles) from Andersonville to Florence. He might have been among the many who did not survive that move, or he might be (one of 2,300 unknowns) buried in one of sixteen trenches. She also told me that if official documentation proving his death occurred in Florence could be provided, the VA would order a memorial headstone for him. With all of this in my head and a prayer in my heart, I began searching and was able to find an official Muster Roll for his regiment containing the necessary information. The entry noted that “Kitchen, James A. … Died Nov. 15, ’64. Florence. S.C.” This along with other supporting documentation was forwarded to the director at FNC who responded immediately with exciting news. A memorial headstone for our ancestor had been authorized! In a follow-up call to the Florence National Cemetery on April 6th, I was told the headstone had recently arrived and was scheduled to be set the following day.

On April 7, 2017 we flew our flag here at home in Colbert, Washington in honor of James Arthur Kitchen who died over one-hundred fifty years ago on November 15, 1864. He had been captured after the Battle of Plymouth (NC), April 20, 1864. When the Union troops realized the battle was lost, the color-guard tore each flag from its staff, and strips torn into shreds were distributed among the members of the 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers in order to save them from the enemy. The strips were concealed in various ways through the weary days of imprisonment. James survived six months at the prison camp in Andersonville before being moved to Florence where he died a month later. James Kitchen was the great-grandfather of Willard, Edward, Dorothy (Guire), Raymond, and Russell Ketchen. He was survived by his wife, Sarah Jane (Hatch) and their three children - James Eugene (grandfather to the Ketchens above and father of Benjamin Ketchen), Elizabeth Evangeline, and Mary Jane

Kitchen along with an older brother John Kitchen and nephew Andrew Quincy Kitchen who also served during the Civil War.

What follows is from a letter James wrote to Sarah Jane dated Saturday, March 26, 1864 - a month before he was captured at the Battle of Plymouth: "Well, just as the sun arose the Corporal of the guard came with 2 guards and the flag and hoisted the flag to the top of the pole, which was the tallest flagpole by several feet of any in the place. And as there was quite a stiff breeze blowing at the time, and I being on guard there, I watched it as it went up and unfurled the stars and stripes to wave in the pure air of heaven. And it seemed to me as though it never looked so beautiful to me as it did that morning, and my mind and in fact my whole being, seemed to be swallowed up for a few moments with thoughts that clustered around that flag. And I could not keep my eyes off from it and the idea suddenly flashed across my mind that the stars and stripes of our glorious flag should never more float over slavery again...I felt like singing that good old song: ' The star spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O're the land of the free and the home of the brave.'...And while my mind was engaged in such thoughts as these, every little while big tears would start and roll down my face in spite of my efforts to keep them back."

The faith and vision of our ancestor, Pvt. James Arthur Kitchen, and his love for our country and flag live on in each of us. Happy Memorial Day! And may God bless America!

By Sue Oulette Ketchen