EDWARD LEA, LCDR, USN
Edward Lea '55
Date of birth: January 31, 1837
Date of death: January 1, 1863
Biography & Loss
Lea was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Army engineer Albert Miller Lea and Ellen Shoemaker. He entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis on October 2, 1851, graduating on June 9, 1855, with the rank of midshipman. Lea was employed in active service on various stations, receiving promotion to passed midshipman on April 15, 1858, to master on November 4, 1858, and to lieutenant on November 22, 1860.
Lea was serving aboard the Hartford, flagship of the East India Squadron, when the Civil War broke out in 1861. The ship was recalled, eventually arriving in Delaware Bay in December. Lea was soon reassigned to the Harriet Lane, then attached to the Potomac Flotilla, but was soon reassigned in her to the Gulf Blockading Squadron, where he took part in operations leading to the capture of New Orleans in April 1862. Lea was subsequently promoted to lieutenant commander on July 16, 1862. Harriet Lane pushed further up the Mississippi that July to engage enemy batteries around Vicksburg, and was then assigned to the blockade of Galveston, which she helped capture in October 1862 in the Battle of Galveston Harbor.
When Confederate forces retook Galveston on 1 January 1863, Lea, serving as the first officer (executive officer) of Harriet Lane, was wounded in the abdomen and side. He subsequently succumbed to his wounds in the arms of his father, who was serving as a major of artillery in the Confederate Army, and who had witnessed the capture of the Harriet Lane by the gunboat CS Bayou City from shore, and had rushed to the ship to find his son dying.
Lea and his captain, Jonathan M. Wainwright were buried together at the Trinity Episcopal Cemetery in Galveston. After the war Wainwright was re-interred at the Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, but when a relative suggested that Lea's remains be reburied next to his mother in the Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Albert Lea refused, stating that his son would have preferred to remain where he had fallen in battle.
From Find A Grave:
Edward Lea was an 1855 graduate of the US Naval Academy and rose to the rank of Lt. Comdr. His father, Albert Lea (namesake of the Minnesota city) was a US Military Academy graduate and engineer. When Civil War began, Albert joined the Confederacy while Edward remained in the US Navy. A family schism ensued and neither had contact until a fateful reunion at the Battle of Galveston, Texas. Lea's ship, the Harriet Lane, was at Galveston to occupy the city. Confederates under Gen. J.B. Magruder attacked the Federals on January 1, 1863 and defeated them. Ironically, Albert Lea was serving on Magruder's staff while Edward was executive officer on the Lane under Capt. J.M. Wainwright. During the battle, both Edward Lea and Wainwright were casualties. Albert Lea boarded the Lane and found his son Edward mortally wounded. After a brief reconciliation, Albert left to find medical help. As Edward lay dying, his only words were "My father is here." After the battle, Magruder authorized Albert Lea to hold a funeral including both Union and Confederate personnel. Edward Lea, along with Wainwright, was buried with military honors in Galveston. Lea's tombstone bears his final words, "My father is here."
He was appointed to the Naval Academy from Ohio. He is listed on the killed in action panel in the front of Memorial Hall, and is buried in Galveston, Texas.
From The New York Times on February 8, 1863:
Lieut Commander EDWARD LEA was born in the City of Baltimore, on the 30th day of January, 1838. His father, Gen. ALBERT M. LEA, graduated in the Topographical Engineers at West Point, and his mother was a grand-daughter of SAMUEL SHOEMAKER, Esq., Mayor of Philadelphia before the formation of the Government. Having conceived a fondness for the Navy, EDWARD LEA entered the Academy at Annapolis in 1851, and graduated therefrom June 9, 1855.
From this time until the day of his decease he was employed in active service upon various stations, having passed rapidly through the several grades of Master and Lieutenant to that of Lieutenant-Commander, to which position he was commissioned July 16, 1862, not quite eleven years from the date of his entry into the service.
Upon the breaking out of the rebellion he was master on board the frigate Hartford, then the flag ship of the East India squadron, which vessel was recalled shortly afterwards by command of the Department. Upon her arrival in Delaware Bay, all the officers attached to the ship were required, before landing, to take the oath of allegiance, and to his lasting honor, be it known, that of six then present he was one of two who went manfully forward and subscribed his name in full, remarking afterwards that when it was proposed he "gave one glance at the old flag flying at the peak," and obeyed its silent, though patriotic summons.
Shortly after this he was assigned to the Harriet Lane, then attached to the Potomac flotilla, from whence, running the blockade gauntlet with the Pensacola, he was ordered with his vessel to the Gulf, where he took quite a conspicuous part in the bombardment and capture of Forts St. Philip and Jackson and the City of New-Orleans.
From this scene of active operations he was ordered to the blockade off Pensacola, and thence to Galveston, where, after a most gallant and heroic defense, fighting his vessel to the very end against the enemies of his country, he fell overpowered, on the 1st of January, breathing his last upon the deck of the vessel he had so long defended.
We might well pause here and point with pride to the undimmed record of his faithful career in the public service as the most imperishable monument to his worth and gallantry, but our admiration of his many virtues and exalted patriotism, tempts us to add, that in all the higher qualities which adorn the Christian and ennoble man, EDWARD LEA stood foremost! Of a warm and impulsive nature -- a generous, noble-hearted disposition, a devoted son and a faithful friend, his memory will ever be cherished by those who met him in the private walks of life, as it must be honored by his companions in the service. Early impressed with the truth of the saying, "it is man's highest glory to be good." he became a devoted and consistent member of the church in his fourteenth year, from which time he walked steadfastly to the end, never swerving from the chosen path of rectitude and fulfilling every Christian obligation with a zeal and devotion worthy of example to the world.
Acting Midshipman, 2 October, 1851. Midshipman, 9 June, 1855. Passed Midshipman, 15 April, 1858. Master, 4 November, 1858. Lieutenant, 22 November, 1860. Lieutenant Commander, 16 July, 1862. Killed in battle 1 January, 1863.
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Camp 2 is named for Edward.
The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.
The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.
The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.
Edward is one of 7 members of the Class of 1855 on Virtual Memorial Hall.
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