29 May 2007

Stranger Honored on Memorial Day

Gray, Maine sent more men to fight in the Civil War in proportion to its population than any other town in Maine.

Surrounded by flags fluttering at their tombstones, lies the body of a Confederate soldier.

Lt. Charles Colley of Gray Village went to fight for the Union. He was one of 175 men wounded in the battle at Cedar Mountain, Viriginia. Colley was removed to an Alexandria, Va medical facility where he later died. His parents, who lived in on Colley Hill, sent money for his body to be embalmed and sent home to Maine. When the coffin arrived, it wasn’t the body of their Union soldier they found, but that of a Confederate soldier. They buried the boy in the Gray Cemetery and a few weeks later, the body of Lt. Colley arrived in Gray.

The Confederate's tombstone reads, “Stranger. A soldier of the late war. Died 1862. Erected by the Ladies of Gray.”

The 15th Alabama Regiment, Confederate reenactors held ceremonies on Memorial Day at the grave of the “Stranger” in Gray Cemetery. They traveled from as far away as Massachusetts to honor the dead soldier. "His mother lost him twice," said the speaker. "Once when she sent him off to war, and again when his body was lost."

The Stranger has been featured by Charles Kurault, and in many magazine articles. It's included on the Maine Civil War Trail and people from all over stop by. When I went to the site early in the day, a medallian had been left on the tombstone reading "Sons of Confederate Veterans, Keep the Colors Flying."

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