March 19, 2012

Lea Family Divided by Civil War

written by Rosa Morgan

You could cut the tension with a bayoneted saber as Albert Miller Lea asked with contempt, "Son, how can you turn your back on the Southern Cause when it's in your blood to defend it?"Though Albert was a formidable figure in science, engineering, politics, and military endeavors, his son, Edward, stood his ground against him, for he was was an up and coming officer in the Union Navy and confident of his own abilities. With simmering anger Edward pronounced, "I do not desire my family’s love if I can only possess it by becoming a traitor to my country!"
Albert tweaked his mustache, growling, "Know that if you decide to fight for the Old Flag, it is not likely we will meet again except face to face on the battlefield."
With emotions running high, the two men, like many other families torn asunder by the war between North and South, went their separate ways.

At twenty-six years of age, Edward was Lieutenant Commander aboard the Union steamer, Harriet Lane, and one of the first into the harbor to capture Galveston, Texas, in October 1862. There he remained defending the Gulf of Mexico island until the frigid night of January 1, 1863 when Confederates led by General John Bankhead Magruder, made their bold attack.

Armoring the decks of two river steamers, the Bayou City and Neptune, with cotton bales, the Confederates entered the west end of Galveston bay and successfully commandeered Edward's ship.

Mortally wounded, Edward lay on the ship's deck, unaware his father, Albert, was also on the island, but under the command of the Confederate forces. Atop one of the tallest residences near Broadway, possibly Ashton Villa, Albert had observed the Galveston Battle with much trepidation and when the fighting ceased he revealed to Gen. Magruder that his son had been serving on the captured Union ship, Harriet Lane.

Shocked, Magruder responded,"My God! Why didn’t you tell me this before? Of course you must seek him out immediately." By the time Albert found his fatally wounded son, all past grievances had evaporated. Gently cradling his son's head in his arms, he cried with regret, "Edward, this is your father. I am here to take care of you." "Yes, I know," the young commander responded with a sense of relief, "but I cannot move." Torn with fear and indecision, the father reluctantly left his son's side to go ashore and find medical help. When the dying Edward was asked by those in attendance if there was anything they could do to ease his suffering, he calmly answered, "No, my father is here."

Albert didn't return in time to see his son alive, but on the following day with both Confederate soldiers and Union prisoners attending Edward's funeral, he solemnly said above his son's coffin, "Allow one so sorely tried in this his willing sacrifice to beseech you to believe that while we defend our rights with our strong arms and honest hearts, those we meet in battle may also have hearts as brave and honest as our own. We have buried two brave and honest gentlemen. Peace to their ashes; tread lightly over their graves."

On an island in the Gulf, in a field of yellow blossoms stands Edward Lea’s gravestone with his last words engraved upon it: "My father is here."


  1. wonderful article. Thank you. I was wondering where I could find more info on this fascinating topic?