In August 1862 during the darkest days of the American Civil War, Osgood Tracy volunteers to fight for the North, leaving behind the love of his life, Nellie Sedgwick, for the front lines. There, the twenty-two year old idealistic young man discovers a baptism of fire and alongside comrades he’d give his life for, endures a physical and emotional journey back, all the while hoping Nellie, whose photograph and love he carries with him, embraces him at the end.
On the home front, though, Nellie fights her own battles. Fraught with family calamity, guilt, and courtships, she dutifully represents the Union, first at home in Syracuse, New York then Washington, D.C., as she struggles with a decision that may haunt her forever.
A historical novel based upon one of the largest private letter caches in the country, written by a direct descendant, FIGHTING FOR NELLIE is a page-turning story swirling with passion and jealousy, abolitionists and slave owners, politicians, war heroes, and rebels, and the quest for undying love. A story demonstrating that life can change in an instant, war alters everything, and we must fight for what we love, FIGHTING FOR NELLIE will remind readers of Cold Mountain from a Northerner’s perspective and a contemporary All Quiet on the Western Front.Endorsements Dedication Read More
Passionate about reading and writing since a young girl and inspired by true stories and memorabilia handed down by my beloved grandfather, I write historical and current fiction based on true events, as well as nonfiction and poetry. For me, writing is one of the ultimate ways to express my self, experiences, and what inspires my soul, such as acts of kindness, courage, and stamping out individual and social injustices.
A native of Central New York and graduate of Hobart & William Smith Colleges with a B.A. in English and history, I worked for many years at a Boston publishing company in editing, sales and marketing. I live on that city’s North Shore with my family — am proud of our three sons’ — and Golden Retriever, Scout, a ‘pathfinder.’ My passions besides writing, family, and friends include photography, music, running, swimming, skiing, walking nearby beaches, the Adirondack Mountains, and watching every sunrise and sunset possible.Read More Writing Samples
What People Say About Sarah Tracy Burrows
It sits here, daily, on my desk, and as my Facebook profile pic. The photograph of you and me; the selfie we took after our walk one year ago today – January 28, 2018 – snapped at the morning hour I write this.
It was a day much like today, in regards to weather. The sun shone bright, though it was warmer. There was no snow, surprising for a winter day in Syracuse, New York. I had been visiting you and Dad for several days. We’d had a special time – taking walks, visiting an abolitionist museum, sitting by the fire in the evening, looking at photo albums, reading short stories your grandmother, “Granny Tracy,” wrote about growing up in Rome, Georgia late 1800s, and you, Dad and I meeting your granddaughter, Alison, for dinner (1/27/18).
Four weeks before, you’d been here at our home, for Christmas.
Standing in the driveway after a walk that morning, one year ago today, at 11:37am and 45 seconds, to be exact, we took this photo. It is the last walk and photograph of just the two of us we would take together, on a “normal” given day.
Afterward, we met longtime family friends, Sue and Tory Beeching, for lunch, a mother daughter get together. In the parking lot before Sue and Tory and we went on our separate ways, I suggested a photo. A man happened to be walking by and offered to take it. Sue laughed, like she always likes to do.
This would be the last photograph taken with her best friend – you – for just nine days later, a final hemorrhagic stroke would rob you of your speech, much of your mobility, and ultimately, another nine days later, on February 15, your life.
Therefore, I am especially thankful for these reminders each day and one year later, of that beautiful, now extra special, time we shared together.
When I left for home that afternoon – one year ago today – and drove up the hill, you waved goodbye from the driveway, like you always did. And, like I always did, I rolled down the window, looked back and beeped the horn. You were waving your arms as if you were doing jumping jacks, though your feet were planted firmly on the ground. And you were smiling, like you were daily, sending me on my way with loads of love.
Looking back at this “year of firsts,” Mom, and now today, this “last normal day we spent one year ago,” it hasn’t been easy, to say the least, especially holidays and birthdays.
Valentine’s Day 2018 (the day before you passed)
Fourth of July
Dad’s August birthday
Your Halloween birthday
But truthfully, every day is difficult, and when February 16, 2019 arrives soon – the first day of the second year without you – I can’t imagine there will be any day, week, month, year or event that Dad, our family, I, and your friends, will miss you less. And, Mom, that is a testimony to the wonderful person you were; Kind, loving, forgiving, patient, selfless, and supportive.
Thank you for how much and how you loved. It is why we and so many others loved you so dearly. You were a true “lady.” In every sense “genteel,” full of grace and class, like I recall Granny Tracy being.
Mainly, Mom, you were special, and I your lucky daughter.
Nothing could have prepared me for your loss, not even when I held you the last 5 nights of your life, when I knew you were going to die, because up until then you were still with us.
But in our hearts, Mom, you have not nor will you ever die.
I have no choice but find comfort in the fact you are with me and part of me, each day, everywhere I go and in everything I do. I hear your sweet voice and constant encouragement. I imagine you saying, “it will be okay,” and that gives me strength. Even in the darkest moments, which are most often on “normal days” when it is quiet, the love you gave and embodied continues to give me strength, and always will.
These next few weeks – this “end of the first year” – will not be easy. We miss you so very much. To help ease, or perhaps try to ignore, the pain from losing you physically, I keep busy, by loving those you did and I do. I also continue to write, research, learn new things, and photograph that which I find to be beautiful or important in this world. I remind myself how often you told me you enjoyed looking at my photographs. I take them often thinking of you.
To me, Mom, today, nearly 12 months later – one year minus 18 days – it is still unfathomable that you are no longer with us here on Earth. Moving forward, I will continue to think of and talk to you daily, and though I ache to hear you speak to and hug me again, I feel your love each and every moment.
I pray and believe we will one day be together again and that you are watching over us all. Until then, know how much you are loved, and missed.
Love Your daughter,
WALKING THE PATH
On a cold, clear, windy, late November day last week, I visited Andover, Massachusetts, where, during the ‘Great Delusion of 1692,’ forty-five women and men residents were accused of being ‘witches,’ arrested and imprisoned, including my 8th great grandmother, Mary Clements Osgood.
Mrs. Mary Clements Osgood, center
Since a young girl, I enjoy walking awhile in the paths my ancestors’ and their friends, and ‘enemies’, traveled. Mary’s is certainly one, but I find many stories interesting, and connected, branching from one to the other.
With the aid of preserved letters, documents, photographs, paintings, and other historical information, I travel back in time, so to speak, acquiring knowledge about what they endured, enjoyed, where and how they lived, traveled, and whom they loved. In many ways, to me, learning about them is like doing a puzzle, playing a detective game. The end result – the prize – a window into the past, often colorful, like stained glass.
In Andover, more women and men were accused and arrested under the idea that they were ‘witches’ than in either the town or village of Salem, yet on that day, I didn’t go to Andover thinking of them or Mary. But as is often the case, one track led to another. Rather, I was thinking of Mary’s husband, my 8th great grandfather, Captain John Osgood, born in Wherwell, Hampshire, England in 1631.
At age 7 in April 1638, John sailed to America with his father (also named John), mother, Sarah Ann Booth (Osgood), and younger sister, Mary, on the ship, Confidence, landing in Ipswich during the month of June. After a quick stay there with 1633 emigrant and relative, Christopher Osgood, John settled his family for three years in Newbury until he moved them to a settlement called Cochichowicke (Great Water) which he named Andover, for his home town marketplace ‘across the pond.’
John Osgood built his home on the banks of the river, today at the junction of Osgood and Court Streets. He came to own 600+ acres of land, in what now is North Andover. His barn, on the east side of Osgood Street, still stands, along with his second home, on the National Register of Historic Places.
Surrounding both is land he called “Great Wide Meadow,” as referred to in 1690s’ deeds, including a long, sweeping hill then called ‘Weir Hill’ with views of the valley and the lake. Of recent, hill is named Osgood Hill, now public paths and wooded areas for all to enjoy and roam. Edgewood, An Independent and Life Care Community, sits on 100 acres of John’s original land (including John’s original 1600’s barn and original house, now a guest house for visiting families) with Osgood first names marking street signs and mailboxes.
Finding out about John, I then wanted to know more about Mary. Born in Ansley, Warwickshire, England in 1637, her father was Reverend Robert Clements, a prosperous English wine merchant living at Croft, near Leicester city. During the 1620s and 1630s, Clements owned a fleet of ships which sailed between North America and England. During a shipwreck, his brother, John, lost his life sailing one or as a passenger.
When Mary’s mother, Lydia, died in March 1641, when Mary was four, her oldest brother, Job, seems to have traveled to New England, and along with ten others, settled Haverhill, Massachusetts. He soon asked their father to sell his English estate and join him. Clements did, emigrating with four of his eight children, leaving Mary – the youngest – in England, probably with grandparents, and two sons fighting in the English Civil War (they would eventually earn land grants and live in Ireland). At about 5 years of age, Mary re-joined her father, in New England.
Reverend Clements remarried in 1645, in Haverhill, and on November 15, 1653, in the same town, performed the marriage ceremony of Mary and the young Captain John Osgood, age 20. Mary was just 16.
While John volunteered service to the militia (30 years total), helped found North Parish Church, and became the first representative to the General Court of Andover, Mary gave birth to twelve babies. The couple buried two within the first year of birth, another two within a year and a half, the twelfth and last, just a month old, when Mary was about 54 years old, the period of time which she would, eleven years later, along with fellow neighbors and friends, be accused by rivals of having performed ‘witchcraft.’
At age 65, Mary was “examined” in Salem before John Hawthorne and other “Majestie’s Justices.” On September 8, 1692, supposedly after being “brow beaten,” Mary confessed to the incident below, which again, occurred shortly after the birth of her last baby (whether before or after its’ death I do not know yet) and indicted in January 1693. Recanting before Increase Mather, a powerful Puritan clergyman and president of Harvard College, Mary was imprisoned in Salem.
From the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archives and Transcriptions:
The examination and confession (8. Sept. 92.) of Mary Osgood , wife of Captain Osgood of Andover, taken before John Hawthorne and other their Majesties justices:
She confesses, that about 11 years ago, when she was in a melancholy state and condition, (following the birth of her last child) she used to walk abroad in her orchard; and upon a certain time, she saw the appearance of a cat, at the end of the house, which yet she thought was a real cat. However, at that time, it diverted her from praying to God, and instead thereof she prayed to the devil; about which time she made a covenant with the devil, who, as a black man, came to her and presented her a book, upon which she laid her finger and that left a red spot…
Rev. Increase Mather’s Report of his Conversation in Prison with Mary Clements Osgood:
Being asked why Mary prefixed a time, and spake of her being baptized in The Great Pond, &c., about twelve years since, she replied and said, that, they asked the time, to which she answered that she knew not the time. But, being told that she did know the time, and must tell the time, and the like, she considered that about twelve years before (when she had her last child) she had a fit of sickness, and was melancholy; and so thought that that time might be as proper a time to mention as any, and accordingly did prefix the said time.
Being asked about the cat, in the shape of which she had confessed that the Devil had appeared to her, &c., she replied, that, being told that the Devil had appeared to her, and must needs appear to her, &c. (she being a witch), she at length did own that the Devil had appeared to her; and, being pressed to say in what creature’s shape he appeared, she at length did say that it was in the shape of a cat. Remembering that, some time before her being apprehended, as she went out at her door, she saw a cat, &c.; not as though she any whit suspected the said cat to be the Devil, in the day of it, but because some creature she must mention, and this came into her mind at that time.
“Stripings” of many, death awaiting execution, and the public hangings of approximately twenty women took place over a period of time. Specifically regarding Andover, three persons were hung and one Andover woman died before execution. Many of the girls, women, and men (mainly women, yet one girl as young as 4, who was executed) were accused of having “fits,” unable to control their muscles, privately and in public. Since the 1970s those ‘fits’ have believed to have been hallucinations caused by the ingestion of a common grain, poisoned naturally with a fungus; ‘ergot poisoning’ having effects much like that of LSD).
After some time, Mr. Dudley Bradstreet, Andover’s Chief Justice, who had issued the warrants and arrest of forty-eight suspected “witches,” finally refused any more. Bradstreet petitioned for the release of Mary and others (after which, and for, he and his wife were themselves accused of being ‘witches,’ and had to flee North Andover for their lives). After four-six months in prison in Salem, Mary was released, with four other women. Bradstreet had, for all his weaknesses previously, saved them.
Learning more of Mary’s story, I contemplate her admittance that she experienced ‘melancholy’ after the birth of a child. Today this most certainly would be understood as postpartum depression, thought by many doctors to be caused by a copper overload. I recall a similar experience myself within 12 hours after the birth of one my three sons’ and Mary birthed twelve, and the time in which she lived was certainly much more difficult for her than for me. Sympathizing with Mary has made me appreciate and understand a bit of the time she lived and imagine what she went through.
One of Mary and John’s children – my 7x great grandfather – Lieutenant John Osgood, born 1654, also spent time in prison. Active in the militia, an inn holder and serving frequently as selectman, he was popular among the townspeople of Andover, mainly due to his opposition of England taxes. He was imprisoned in August or September 1687, five years before Mary was accused of being a witch. Mary and John eventually left him their house, where the first recorded town meeting was held in March 1656.
In previous visits to North Andover, I have seen that house, (the guest house at Edgewood). I have also driven by the historical home at 440 Osgood Street, that of Samuel Osgood, who, three generations after Mary and John, was an American Revolutionary War colonel, First United States Postmaster General, and member of Continental Congress. His home housed Harvard’s library during the war against England.
A new house I discovered, however, upon this visit to Andover, after being given the address by the executive director at the North Andover Historical Society, was the address of my 5th great grandfather’s house, numbered 815 Osgood Street. I found the colonial – about a mile from the Colonel John Osgood House. Red in color, a sign to the left of the doorway read “Dr. Joseph Osgood, 1752.” (His father, my 6th gg, another John Osgood, born 1683, Deacon and Lieutenant of Militia, his wife, Hannah Ayres (Osgood) of Haverhill, born 1662).
I parked my car in front of the white picket fence, in need of painting, and got out, to stand before the open gate leading up the brick walk to the front door. Though I was disappointed at the unkempt condition of it, being in its presence for the first time felt very special.
I envisioned my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Vose Osgood (Tracy) – Dr. Joseph Osgood and wife Margaret’s youngest grandchild – born April 1804, running up the path to the door, anxious to greet her grandparents, and they her. After they opened the door, perhaps they bent down and wrapped their arms about her as they picked her up to a hug, with the aroma of a Sunday supper wafting from the kitchen fire.
Sarah’s photograph and diary of 1862 were thankfully preserved. Sarah’s father – my 4th great grandfather – George Osgood, was also a doctor, like his father, whose house I now stood in front of, had been. Her mother, Sarah Vose, daughter of Colonel Joseph Vose of the 1st Massachusetts Regiment who fought alongside George Washington during the American Revolution, was born in Milton. She’d had a baby at 42 years of age and died when Sarah was eight years old, at age 50, of tuberculosis, or “consumption.”
Standing there at Dr. Joseph Osgood’s house, I had just exited my warm car but not having worn a warm enough jacket, shivered. I contemplated what life must have been like, in the early 1800s. Considering a fall, winter, or spring day and night, and New England weather, the house inside would have have been cold.
The family would have gathered around the fireplace (there is one chimney on the house) – talking, reading, studying, playing music etc. Babies would have been born in the bedrooms, died there, too. With no antibiotics, children often did, of diptheria.
Joseph and Margaret, like Mary and John, and so many couples, lost numerous children, specifically they lost three sons age @two and one age 14 ten months, the graves of which I would later see that day. Losing all those children might have been enough to kill my 5th great grand mother (or make her, like Mary Clements Osgood, “the witch,” delusional) but Margaret lived until 1797, to age 78. Fortunately, the third child, born in 1754, another John Osgood, would live to see adulthood and old age.
Remnants of what might have been the outhouse was a helpful reminder that there had been no running water and of course, no electricity. I considered what the Osgood father and son doctors must have seen in their lifetimes, practicing generalized medicine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They would have visited most homes in town, to doctor babies, children, women, and men for all different reasons including illness, injury, birth and death.
Suddenly, bringing me back to the present, was the current owner or renter exiting the back door to his parked car in the driveway (probably wondering who the crazy girl was taking iphone photos). I soon got back in my car but sat a time thinking about how my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah, lived in North Andover until her later twenties when she moved to Syracuse, New York.
Sarah left the only home she’d known with her older half sister, Elizabeth Osgood (Putnam) and Elizabeth’s husband, Captain Hiram Putnam of Salem who had been commissioned by the wealthy Boston merchant, Joseph Peabody, to captain ‘The China’ twice around the world trading coffee, tea and spices. He later wrote he felt “ready to get away from the sea.” Ironically, Hiram’s male Putnam ancestors, of Salem, and the Peabody’s, were lead accusers in the witch craft movement.
Though Sarah moved away, during her 97 years of life she often reminisced upon her beloved North Andover. Suggesting that, along with many preserved letters, is a poem, below, written for her 93rd birthday by her nephew, George Osgood, giving insight into the beauty of the land and the love the Osgood generations held for it.
After leaving Massachusetts and arriving in Albany, Sarah met her love, James Grant Tracy, whose father, Captain Jared Tracy of Norwich, CT, was a commissary during the siege of Boston and later fought the enemy at sea. Sarah and James married and resided in Syracuse, where they lived the rest of their lives, though Sarah as a widow when their oldest son, James Grant, was 13.
This part of Sarah’s story I am familiar, for I have been engrossed in it my entire life, through letters, stories and memorabilia which my maternal grandfather, John Bayard Tracy, shared with me while I was growing up in Syracuse, in Sedgwick Farm. As a single parent, Sarah raised four sons, losing the youngest to diptheria within the same year of her husband’s death. Two of her remaining three sons’, Osgood and William, volunteered to fight in the American Civil War.
In Syracuse, I knew Osgood’s daughter-in-law, my great grandmother, Florida Bayard Tracy, who lived until I was ten years old. For that reason, to me, as a young girl, the past didn’t seem so long ago. I was amazed that I knew “Granny Tracy” whose father-in-law had fought in the Civil War, then some 110 years before. (Her father, Captain John Seay, and two brothers, fought for the Confederacy, for she’d grown up in Rome, Georgia).
At present, I understand better what my grandfather once shared and documents and books indicate. Having lived in Boston now more than half my life – the last 13 years on the North Shore of Boston and a 35-minute drive to Andover and 15 minute drive to where the ship, Confidence, arrived in Ipswich with my Osgood emigrant ancestors -it is part of my journey in adding to the puzzle, walking on and extending the path.
Almost twenty-four years ago, while living in Boston, I chose Andover to shop for and purchase my wedding dress, with my mother by my side. I chose it knowing our family history there, but not to the extent I know now or appreciate. While standing there last week in front of my 5th great grandfather’s house then circling around half of it which I could, I felt full circle, my past tied to my present, and future.
I only wished my mother, who passed this year, could have been with me.
When I got back in my car, I cranked up the heat, put the car in drive and headed down Osgood Street, about 1/4 mile. I turned left, winding up a steep hill into the Steven’s Estate at Osgood Hill. At different times during the 1700 and 1800s, Osgood’s and Steven’s married. The red brick mansion and grounds are now owned by the Town of N. Andover, used for special functions.
Proceeding at the top, by the house, designed by prominent Boston architects and built in 1886 for Moses T. Stevens, an American textile manufacturer and a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, I parked at the carriage house.
Heading to the trailhead of Osgood Hill, paths extend in three different directions.
I first walked to the right, to a private drive, at the end of which might sit Sarah’s childhood home, now a private home, with magnificent views overlooking “The Great Meadow” and beyond, to the Colonel John Osgood Guest House and original barn, and Edgewood.
Walking back to the trailhead, I then took the path to the left, wrapping around Osgood Hill at its lower point. With woods on either side of the Hill, it reached the East side, with views extending through down the valley to Lake Cochichewick, which the Osgood’s called “The Great Pond.”
Among this path, where generations of Osgood’s roamed, Mary Clements Osgood, accused of and stating under duress, spent time, including that which when she was, as she stated in trial, ‘re-baptized by Satan,’ in its’ water with her friends. I couldn’t help but wonder whether, on a warm, late spring or summer day, Mary and/or they were just having fun, like I might today with my friends and neighbors.
Perhaps a young man joined them, a man Mary described as a “Black Man,” and during trial, under verbal and physical abuse by the “Justices” at Salem, she referred to him as “Satan.” Mary’s great grandfather, less than a hundred years later, would allow African Americans and women as members of North Parish Church long before other New England churches did, and 80 years after that the Osgood Tracy brothers would go to war to end slavery…
With the majority of the leaves off the trees, a clear view presented through to Lake Cochichewick, “The Great Pond.” White birch trees and Oaks interspersed the woods, standing and covering the ground, causing a lightness and brightness to the dense forest. Original stone walls ran from the top of the Hill from the original estate, now private (at the end of the private drive I’d walked from the first path, perhaps the very house in which Sarah spent her childhood, yet another stone to turn) down toward the lake.
After a ten minute walk, the path opened to the wide lawn of green grass, to Osgood Hill (once Weir Hill) and a breathtaking view of sky and tree line. In my opinion, whether intertwined to this property through ancestors or not, you can not help to take in its natural beauty and feel connection to the land.
The wind rattled the dry leaves still clinging to the branches. Hawks circled overhead. Though it was my second walk on Osgood Hill ever, and the second time within this year, it felt more special even than the first. I felt closer to the past, like it was swirling with the brisk air.
I followed the worn path amongst the green grass and reached the top of Osgood Hill, looking back from where I came. I took in the panoramic views. The lake in the distance sparkled in the sun, shooting through the clouds. The white birch trees stood at its shore’s edge, mixed among the others, the grass on the Hill was still green, with small patches of snow here and there, and the sky spread to the horizon.
When it was time to go, I followed path markers into the woods at the top of the hill, at its’ highest point, enjoying the quiet of the woods, imagining, generations ago, my ancestors walking right there too.
But as the path became less marked, which would connect to the trail below, and being alone, I decided to head the way I arrived, down the hilly meadow, to circle the lower path, just above the lake.
Back to the Steven’s Estate and at my car, I drove out back down hill, to Osgood Street and headed to the First Burial Ground in N. Andover, in “The Great Meadow.”
I entered the wrought iron gate just as a school bus about a 1/4 mile away dropped middle grade or elementary students off, with the sound of the children laughing and happy to be dismissed. As I stood by the Osgood gravestones, the boys, wearing their backpacks, were soon hopping over the stone wall, cutting through the old, historic cemetery. I imagine, from the surprise of them seeing me, that it is a daily occurrence, one which I found beautiful and touching – the incongruence of life and death connecting, and a reminder that life goes on.
I would say, in ending, that I now certainly have a better understanding of the terrible injustices of, mass hysteria and cruelty, and broad area besides Salem affected by the witchcraft movement, reminded of what I learned in middle or high school that I had forgotten. I look forward to researching.
And in looking back at these numerous past generations, I am humbled by the experience. What I have discovered this past week and over the years, is that life, though different then and always changing, was still similar in so many ways and perhaps will always be.
Walking awhile in my ancestors, their friends and neighbors footsteps helps me to find and appreciate my own, and others. It not only shapes me, but inspires me, and in general, keeps me learning. It gives me a sense of who I am, who came before me, and what I want to accomplish.
Through the process and in life in general, I have found that some paths are smooth, others rough, some unmarked, many not straight. These stories above, and others, attest, paths can swerve. Change. End. And during our journey on the path of life, many people and places guide us, offering or giving direction, especially in our early years. When children, we often do not have the option of following which path we might choose for ourselves. As we grow older, we have more power of choice, though often time and/or commitments keep us going in one direction, often as if with blinders on.
Yet at any given point, new paths might branch off, and in changing direction, for want or not, we may find, that along with the path, our very selves and souls widen too.
Poem for Sarah Vose Osgood Tracy, written in 1897 for her birthday by her nephew, George Osgood:
A noble, Syracusan dame,
Whose years are only ninety-three,
The distant home from whence she came,
Today, in thought, would truly see.
As she in memory wanders back
Through pleasant scenes of long ago,
She views her native Merrimack
By hills and valleys grandly flow.
Again she trips with girlhood’s feet
Along the bank of vernal green,
Where, with the broader river, meet
The waters of the fair Shawsheen.
The Pond among its groves and hills,
Beneath the radiant sunset sky,
Again her heart with rapture thrills,
While joy and gladness light her eye.
The “China” down by Salem shore,
With sails all spread, she still would see,
Which long through calm and tempest bore
The hero noble, brave and free.
The hero left the ocean tide
With those whose lives her own endear;
And lived by Onondaga’s side
For many a long and happy year.
O what romantic feelings wake,
As she delighted rides away,
By wild Oneida’s lovely lake,
To spend her sweetest, happiest day.
Though she may love to muse awhile
On scenes where she delights to roam,
She better loves the gentle smile
Of one who cheered and blest her home.
The father and the little child
Must sweet remembrance bring today,
As they in love and beauty smiled,
Ere from the earth they passed away.
Her loved ones who have gone before,
A down the valley, dark as night,
Will gladly find the other shore
Aglow with heaven’s unclouded light.
The boys’ who bravely left her side
When bugle notes were loud and clear,
Through the sad fields of war to ride,
Today are grouped beside her here.
These sons will guard with tender care
The home of gladness, peace and love;
And seek by earnest thought and prayer
A brighter, happier home above.
On Veteran’s Day, I looked at my iPhone to check the time. It happened to read 11:11 November 11. This time oddity caught my attention. The sight of three 11s at once seemed significant. I snapped a photo of my home screen, not knowing how long until the last second of the minute would pass and time would change.
At first glance, the 11’s reminded me of the twin towers’.
Later that afternoon, when researching Veteran’s Day, I learned “the major hostilities” of WWI on the Western Front officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, the 11th month of the year, 100 years before, in 1918, when the Armistice of Germany went into effect and Allies of WWI and Germany signed an agreement – and hence “Armistice Day” was created. (In 1954 the United States government re-named the honorary day to Veterans Day.)
“Wow, the time was significant,” I thought, and felt it was a sign.
Veterans Day, Western Europe and specifically, Germany, led me to thinking of different wars and times in addition to WWI and WWII, in other centuries, and events which sparked war, often by those who would later become war veterans. Many of these people, and of course I am not referring to those like Adolf Hitler or the like of him or any racist, but those fighting specifically against racism, initiated war, I believe, not because they wanted it but rather felt war was the last means to the freedoms they sought and believed right regarding governmental policies, equal Civil Rights, and religion. They fought in all ways to prevent physical fighting yet were not willing to relent, compromise or back down on important issues due to fear of themselves dying or losing all they loved.
Specifically, one such circumstance, during the English Revolution of 1688 and 1689, during the Boston revolt in the ‘Dominion of New England,’ which, at the time included New Amsterdam (now New York City) on the night of June 2, 1689, supporters of England’s King James II were upon seizing Fort William (where official government documents and funds were held) to massacre their Dutch fellow-citizens, when an armed mob gathered to overthrow the existing government.
Crying “Leisler,” the group rushed to the New Amsterdam home of my 8x great grandfather, Captain Jacob Leisler, a German born American colonist, the son of a Calvinist French Reformed minister. Leisler, eighteen years old at the time of immigration, and without his parents, had become a self made military captain, wealthy merchant and trader. He often aided – financially and emotionally – the same people that were then asking him to take control of the city and ultimately the entire province from appointees of King James II.
Popular and probably the only wealthy resident in the province sympathizing with the Dutch lower classes (Leisler was often known to pay for the freedom of slaves from Africa and/or white people from elsewhere who had arrived to New Amsterdam who could not pay ship fees), Leisler was, within an hour, in possession of the keys of the fort, which had been seized. Four hundred of the new party signed an agreement to hold the fort “for the present Protestant power that reigns in England,” while ten people comprising a committee of the city freeholders assumed the powers of a provisional government, declaring Jacob Leisler in charge, commissioning him “captain of the fort” (today known as the Battery in Lower Manhattan).
Thus began the period known as ‘Leisler’s Rebellion,’ in the midst of England’s Glorious Revolution. During the time of the Rebellion, a revolt reflecting colonial resentment against King James II, Leisler called the first Inter Colonial Congress in America and brokered the largest New York land deal to date for immigrant Huguenots to settle on while Colonel Nicholas Bayard, (the sixteenth mayor of the city and a man ironically a man related to Leisler through Peter Stuyvesant), escaped the city to avoid assassination.
When an English major landed with two companies of soldiers, demanding the fort back, Leisler refused. Leisler and a group of men, including his son in law, Jacob Milborne, bearing the same first name, were arrested and imprisoned for treason and murder. When Royal authority was restored, a trial was held. Leisler and Milborne fought for their lives against judges who were political enemies under the influences of England, excessive alcohol, and ties of family, “whose acts were described as ‘inhuman and gross.’”
Before Leisler and Milborne were executed by hanging, Leisler made a long speech, stating that he acted “for the glory of the Protestant interest, the establishment of the present government, and to protect the province from outside forces.” The new government seized Leisler’s land, which he’d set up for French Huguenot refugees. That land later became the town known today as New Rochelle. In 2013 a monument of Leisler was erected there. The Leisler Institution in New Rochelle holds Leisler’s letters and memorabilia, and others pertaining to the Leisler Rebellion period. The lower part of Manhattan, “the Battery,” which Leisler also owned, was in addition confiscated by the English, later returned to his son. Posthumously, the names of Leisler and his son in law were cleared and their bodies reinterred in the Dutch Church in New York, and in the early 20th century several plays were written and played in Leisler’s name, one being “A Story of Old New York.”
Just shortly before Leisler’s Rebellion, not far away from New Amsterdam, in Hartford, Connecticut, on the night of October 31, 1687, another ancestor of mine, Captain Joseph Wadsworth, according to the legend of the Charter Oak, spirited the Royal Charter of 1662 out of Sanford’s Tavern and the hold of Sir Edmund Andros, raced across the bridge over the Little River and hid it in the hollow of an ancient oak tree on the grounds of Samuel Wyllys’ home in Hartford. To many 19th-century defenders of the legend, the hiding of the Charter was a precursor for the later, more widespread, defense of colonial rights that led to the American Revolution and independence. It is telling that Hartford, Connecticut’s residents resisted the attempt by an agent of the British crown to illegally take their rights.
Less than one hundred years later, on May 20, 1775, in opposition of England’s control, my 4th great grandfather, Joseph Vose, born and raised in Milton, Massachusetts, led a group of 60 men on a mission to burn a light house in Boston Harbor. He was later chosen Colonel of the 1st Massachusetts Regiment and became part of General George Washington’s staff, fighting beside Washington at the Battle of Yorktown.
From Williamsburg on March 25, 1781, General Marquis de Lafayette wrote Colonel Vose: “It is my wish that you have the detachment in the most perfect readiness tomorrow. Should his excellency the Commander in Chief in consequence of having heard of the British fleet send orders for the return of the despatches which will be be opened by my aid-de-camp, I desire the you will not as before directed put them in execution til further notices from me, as it’s improbable that the Commander in Chief can be acquainted with this last circumstance relative to the meetings of the fleets. I request you will present this to his Excellency, Gov’ Lee and to Commander Nicholson, the Commanding Officer of the the Reg and my two aid-de-camps. I have the honor to be your obedient servant, Lafayette.”
I was reminded, too, of how veterans, though time, inspire other generations of veterans. My 2nd great grandfather, Colonel Osgood Vose Tracy, of the 122nd New York State Volunteers, who fought in the American Civil War from 1862-1865, wrote after the Battle of the Wilderness, “At that moment, in the bloodshed and horror, fighting the enemy face to face with bayonet, sword, and rifle, less than five feet apart, I thought of my great grandfather Vose at the Battle of Yorktown, took courage and fought on.”
About the same time before the American Revolution, my 4th great grandfather, Colonel John Bayard, a delegate from Pennsylvania, who my grandfather, John Bayard Tracy, was named, was elected to the convention of Pennsylvania in July 1774, and re-elected in 1775. This group, originally the revolutionary counter to the official assembly, eventually replaced it as the legislature for the new government. When regiments were raised for the defense of Philadelphia in 1775, John became Colonel of the second regiment. In 1776, when the convention became a constitutional assembly, he was named to the Committee of Safety. In March 1777, he became a member of the state’s Board of War, and Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, re-elected in 1778.
In the meantime, the law firm he co-founded, Hedge & Bayard, became one of the firms under contract with the Continental Congress to supply the Continental Army. John himself fitted out a ship sent out as a privateer. But, in the fall of 1777, the British occupied Philadelphia. Bayard moved his family to a farm at Plymouth, Pennsylvania and took to the field with his regiment, which fought at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Princeton. General Washington cited Colonel Bayard for his gallant leadership in the Battle of Princeton.
In 1781, Bayard became head of the Board of War, and joined the state’s Executive Council. Under Pennsylvania’s 1776 Constitution this was a sort of combination of the roles of a governor’s cabinet and the state Senate. In 1785 Bayard was elected to the Congress of the Confederaton, the successor of the Continental Congress. He served in 1785 and 1786, attending their meetings in New York.
In the 20th century, my grandfather, John Bayard Tracy, thankfully did not serve in wartime but like his brothers, attended Culver Military School. During WWII, his youngest brother, Marine Colonel, Charles “Ted,” Sedgwick Tracy II, saw action at Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jimo. A quartermaster, Ted was in charge of planning and getting supplies by boat to three marine divisions, landing on dangerous beaches and foreign land. For a job well done he was awarded the Legion of Merit. I recall my Uncle Ted with only a smile on his face and zest for life. He rarely spoke of his own war ordeal yet gladly spoke of the experiences of those ancestors who fought before him.
My grandmother and grandfather’s youngest son, John Bayard Tracy Jr., a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, who loved to fly, would go on to give his life for our country when, while co-piloting a plane on a SAC mission back from Russia during the Cold War on February 9, 1962, it exploded, killing him and all other six men on board, their bodies never able to be recovered. I consider my Uncle John and all those on board that fateful day veterans of war and am very proud of their passion and service.
On each Veterans Day while I was growing up, I recall my parents and grandparents honoring the day, by speaking of it and bringing plants and flags to the cemetery. I have always enjoyed attending ceremonies and parades in honor of those living war veterans and those deceased. It is important for veterans to see that they are not forgotten, that their services in wartime to our country and our freedoms were not in vain. I hope that I have instilled in my three sons that whenever they see a veteran with a hat on to thank them for their service. Shake their hand. Talk to them. Get to know them and a bit about their service if they so allow.
And of course it is not only living veterans and/or those veterans killed in action that deserve recognition. It is their family – spouses, parents, children, grandchildren – and friends, affected by the sacrifice that service men and women made and make, leaving their homes, those they love and love them, and especially, of course, those that never came home.
I am grateful this Veterans Day and Thanksgiving for the generations of those veterans that fought and protected the freedoms we have today in our country and pray that the many battles of days and wars before, in both war time and that leading up to war – in fighting ground to ground, face to face, air to air – today and moving forward will be with the use of words and a shake of the hands.
Veterans Reunion Speech
Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
Brevet-Major William Gardiner Tracy
122nd New York State Volunteers
“We meet today, the veteran survivors, to commemorate the most notable events of our lives; the noblest acts of our career; to recount the dangers that we have passed; to relate our former triumphs won, and to mourn for our heroes fallen.
We have all borne our part in the heat and burden of the day of strife. We have all endured the long and weary, dusty march; we have dropped to earth almost too tired to rise again; we have shivered through the night in the cold and wet bivouac, and frequently suffered the real pangs of hunger and thirst.
To us all the sharp ring of a rebel bullet has been a familiar sound, as well as the dull and sickening thud that announced the bullet had reached its mark; the very earth has sometimes trembled under our feet from the discharges of musketry and artillery; we have known the despair of defeat and felt the blood pounding through our veins as we joined in the surging wave of victory.
Once more, sometimes as a strain of martial music strikes the ear, or a discharge of cannon is heard, a vision arises before us of other summers, of fields of yellow grain and tangled forests; once more we see the serried lines of gray and blue, we hear the shriek of the shell and the yell of the rebel charging column, and once again the tragedy of violent and immediate death of well-beloved comrades is enacted before our eyes.
We shall never cease to feel a thrill of pride so long as we continue to breathe, that in the morning of our lives, when everything was at its brightest and its best, when the dew was on the flower and the night was on the wave, when life was still “the roses hope while yet unknown,” that we were willing to sacrifice it all for the love of our common country.
That we were willing to give up the full pleasures of this world which we had just begun to experience as men, to throw down our work, to destroy the careers we had marked out for ourselves, and all for no other purpose than to preserve intact the nation that gave us birth.
Our lives were as sweet, our happiness as dear to us then as life and happiness are now to the men who walk our streets to-day, yet were we willing to surrender all, without hesitation and without scruple.”
My father, William Platner Burrows, today a resident of Manlius, New York, often tells my two older brothers, his seven grandchildren and I that the number seven is lucky. For many reasons, I believe it is, too.
To begin, Dad was born Aug. 7, 1930, in Syracuse, New York. It was a Thursday, his father’s day off from the office. Dad is the oldest of two. His sister, Barbara, was born four years later on the same date, Aug. 7, though I wrestle with whether that was lucky for them. Dad and his sister, who each have seven letters in their three names, grew up on Fayette Boulevard. Dad loved playing in the nearby fields and spending time “shooting the breeze” with his best friend, Jud Johnston, who lived across the street.
As a young teen, an incident occurred when my father was crossing a road; a traffic light fell on him, breaking his nose. Dad was lucky, as the situation could have been worse and I have always thought the slight swerve Dad’s nose takes is a cool piece of what comprises his story.
We have learned from stories Dad enjoys telling us that his childhood was a bit mischievous. At some we laugh, others gasp. The latter I will leave out but in general, Dad liked to fish and shoot off the .22 rifle his father, Floyd, born in 1876, gave him on his 16th birthday for “sticking with the clarinet.” Dad’s father was a doctor who had an office open five days per week but seven days per week made house and hospital calls. When Dad borrowed the family car, he made sure to check in often with his father in case he needed it for a call.
Dad’s mother, Gertrude, born in 1903 and a registered nurse in Labor and Delivery at Crouse-Irving Hospital, where she met Dad’s father, from time to time received phone calls about Dad from the school principal and neighbors, but thankfully my father turned out just fine. For all the innocent trouble Dad caused, he worked that much harder — such as shoveling heavy snow quickly from the driveway in the dark so that his father could leave for a call and working various jobs, including caddying at a golf course, logging hours at his father’s office and heavy construction.
In 1952, Dad graduated from Hobart College and in 1955 Syracuse University Law School. The next thing Dad did we all agree he was most lucky for and that was marrying his high school sweetheart — Ann Livingston Tracy — the epitome of “sweetheart.”
Back home after two years stationed with the Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with Mom teaching school there, Dad worked his way up the ladder in the local law world. I recall many nights after dinner he sat for hours at the kitchen table, making notes on his yellow legal pad. Dad never complained about the workload; in fact, he seemed to like it, saying there was never a day he didn’t want to go to work. For that, he is lucky.
Over the years, Dad’s hobbies, many with Mom by his side, have included playing football and lacrosse, running track, skiing, canoeing, learning to fly fish, attending Syracuse University football and basketball games, buying fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market, attending the Syracuse Symphony, museums, volunteering legal services for community associations and church, enjoying food (dating back to the love of his mother’s baked goods and Sunday roasts), building things with his sons such as a red race car (with No. 7 painted on it) and lean-to, taking boat rides, reading newspapers and books, listening to music, hiking, walking and “puttering around, keeping busy.”
As daughters often do, I have always and do look up to my Dad. When I was 3 years old, my parents were building their camp on Big Moose Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. That summer we tented on the property. There, many mornings, in the fresh air near the covered well, I watched Dad shave. My job was to hold the mirror for him. He was up early, dressed in his khaki pants, stained with turpentine, white T-shirt and work boots, ready for the day.
He smelled of fresh shaving cream, which he had mixed with his favorite soft bristle brush in a cream-colored mug and then, with a circling motion covered his cheeks with before running the razor in parallel, smooth strokes, as I watched, thinking in awe, “That’s my Dad!” When finished, Dad tapped his cheek with his index finger and leaned toward me, suggesting I “plant” a kiss on it. I was always quick to do so.
Every Friday evening each summer after Dad would return to the lake from Syracuse after working the week. I would often wait for him a quarter-mile from camp, sitting on the tall rock around the curve at Punky Bay, with the tall pines overhead and to each side blueberry bushes from which I picked and ate, smiling once I heard the sound of his car tires moving over the gravel of the Crag Point Road, knowing then that he was near.
When I was 10, in the summer of 1977, Dad rowed for me in the four-mile “Lake Swim.” Dad rose at 5:30 a.m. before the sun broke, woke me, and made hot chocolate, filling it to the top of the Thermos. Along with the Thermos, he packed Hershey chocolate bars and several towels. At the door, Mom, wrapped in her long, pink bathrobe and looking sleepy, gave me a hug and kiss, wishing me luck.
In the fog of South Bay, Dad drove us off by aluminum boat, heading to West Bay, where approximately 40 swimmers and I soon jumped into the water. After completion of the first mile, I took occasional breaks by holding on to the side of the boat while Dad handed me the Thermos cup from which I sipped, feeling the hot liquid warm my cold body, and pieces of Hershey bar, which re-energized me. Back I went to swimming, the majority of the time using the breaststroke, keeping my head above water.
I don’t recall Dad talked a lot, though I might have. Dad meant business. He didn’t want me distracted. I did well until about three-fourths of a mile from the end at Clark’s Point. My left leg had gone heavy and I was dragging it along in the water. Feeling exhausted, I said, “Dad, I can’t go any further.” I wanted to get into the boat, but Dad wouldn’t let me. He thought I’d come too far and that I could push on. I realized Dad was right when I finished the swim, and is the reason I could be proud that I did and was the youngest person then to date to do so.
Today, my Dad is still my hero. He sacrificed to provide for my brothers and me, our mother, and to plan for our future. I am thankful for the lessons Dad teaches, among them work hard, don’t whine, save for your retirement and give back. As Dad says, “There’s no free lunch.” I like, too, that Dad has a special presence, booming voice and sense of humor.
“Grandpa sure has some ‘zingers!’” his youngest grandchild, our son Andrew, exclaims.
People of various ages often tell me they enjoy speaking and spending time with Dad and I know that he enjoys their company.
For me, this Father’s Day is more special than others before. It is the first one that I let Dad know how much I appreciate him without my mother by his side. When Mom passed Feb. 15 of this year, a large piece of our hearts and spirit left with her. But in thinking of how much my Dad loved my mother, and she him, I am comforted. There wasn’t a morning I remember while growing up that Dad left for work when he did not kiss Mom goodbye, or upon his return in the evening.
The last time Dad kissed Mom goodnight, the evening before she died the next morning, was Valentine’s Day. They were blessed with 70 years together, and though there is never enough time and it is extremely painful for all of us to go on without Mom — especially Dad — I want my father to know that not only did he, and does he, do a great job taking care of his three children, our spouses and his seven grandchildren, but he took great care of Mom, beginning to end.
Every year on my birthday, Dad tells me that I am his and Mom’s “frosting on the cake.” Well, I think Dad is the candles’ spark. Dad lights up our family and those who know and love him. For so many reasons I am proud of, appreciate, and love my father. I am lucky to be his daughter.
— Sarah Winch is a resident of Wenham.