A Veterans Day story

WCCO Producer Dan Cook shares the story of his family's Civil War connection

Dan Cook
November 12, 2018 - 4:58 pm

Dan Cook

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I’m often asked what one of my tattoos means. It’s actually a combination of elements from a couple of Civil War battle flags.

Why?

I’ve been interested in the history of the Civil War since Ken Burns released his “Civil War” series on PBS in 1990. Combined with a couple of family vacations to Pennsylvania which included trips to Gettysburg, I was hooked in my teens on the amazing stories of the most cataclysmic war in our nation’s history.

But as far as I knew, I wasn’t related to anyone who served in the war. The paternal wing of my family came over from Ireland in the early 20th century, so that line was out. And while I knew the maternal wing of my family had immigrated from Canada, I thought that had happened well after the war. That was until my mom started doing some digging and found a wing of her father’s family that had immigrated in the mid-19th century.

Edward LeMire (nee Lemere) was born in 1840 in rural Wisconsin. He joined Company F of the 25th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry in 1864, just in time to be shipped south to be attached to Sherman’s Army of the West, and take part in the Battle of Atlanta. “Uncle Ed” – as I’ve come to know him – was captured in one of his first battles near Decatur, GA.

Dan Cook

After being captured, he was sent to Andersonville – the most notorious prison in the Civil War. The only person ever convicted of, and executed for war crimes during the Civil War was Captain Henry Wirz, the commandant of Andersonville. That’s how horrible the conditions were and how poorly the prisoners were treated.

Fortunately for Uncle Ed, his stay was a brief one – a matter of months. General Sherman liberated the prison in September of 1864. Having been considered to have “done their duty”, the freed prisoners – including Uncle Ed - who were healthy enough to be moved were sent to Washington D.C. to be mustered out of the army. Upon reaching the nation’s capital, he was attached to the 12th Wisconsin regiment and was granted a Honorable Discharge.

Uncle Ed spent the rest of his years in Somerset, WI, raising a family which several generations later would include my grandfather, Chet Durand who served his country in the Navy in WWII.

On this year’s observance of Veterans Day, we take time to say thank you to those who’ve served, including those who served in the single most defining conflict in this country’s history. Thank you Uncle Ed and thank you to all the veterans past and present.