Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

LEE, GEORGE W (1845-1923)

Santa Cruz Sentinel (January 21, 1923)

DIED: LEE- in Santa Cruz, Jan 20, George W. Lee, aged 77 a native of Arkansas. Body will be shipped to San Jose, where services will be held, thence to Oakland for cremation.

San Jose Mercury (January [?], 1923)

Civil War Record of One Who Died in Santa Cruz

George W. Lee, a pioneer resident of San Jose, and a veteran of the civil war, died at Santa Cruz early Saturday morning after an illness of nine months. He was born in Arkansas, April 29, 1845, and came to California with his parents in 1849. In 1850 his father died in San Francisco and soon after his mother he moved to San Jose. In 1853 she took a second husband, Archibald W. Naylor.

In 1862 George W. Lee enlisted in the California battalion, which on arriving in he east was made a part of the Second Massachusetts cavalry, commanded by Colonel Charles Russell Lowell, cousin of the famous poet and essayist. The glorious record of the battalion is a part of the history of the nation and its initial service was in fighting Mosby's guerrillas. Afterward it joined the army of the Potomac under Hooker, assisted driving Early out of Maryland, was with Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley and at Appomattox when Lee surrendered to Grant.

Mr. Lee was captured by Mosby's men on February 22, 1864, and after a few weeks incarceration in Pemberton prison, Richmond, was transferred to the notorious prison at Andersonville, Georgia, where he remained for 14 months, a period of horror, privation, and suffering. Of the 22 prisoners captured with him he was the only survivor. At the close of the war he was carried out of the foul pen, blind and helpless, and it was months before his sight was restored.

Returning to California he remained at the home of his mother and step father for awhile, then journeyed to Arizona, where for several years he fought the Indians, drove government mules and acted as cowboy. From Arizona he went to Easter Oregon and engaged in sheep raising. In Oregon, in 1877 he was married to Miss Louise Latellier, who survives him. Two children were born of this marriage, Mark and Elsie. Mark while at the head of a big machine shop in Oakland, died in January 1922, leaving a widow but no children. The daughter, Elsie, is the wife of Dr. W.L. Cothran of Santa Cruz. She has one child, a boy.

About 30 years ago Mr. Lee returned to San Jose and for several years was probation officer for Santa Clara County. His rare kindness of heart, his strong sympathy for the outcast and the fallen, made him an ideal officer. In all his humanitarian work he was only assisted by his devoted wife.

Mr. Lee removed to Santa Cruz in 1919. Before his departure from San Jose, he collaborated with Mrs. Bertha M. Sinclair (B.M. Bower) in the writing of the "The Gringos" a story of pioneer days in California. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and for several terms was colonel of the battlefield veterans. His sweetness of disposition, his never failing generosity and his life of rectitude drew to him a circle of strong friends who will deeply regret his death.

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