Headstone finally marks grave of Civil War veteran
Virginian Leroy T. Harris, born in 1836, died in 1915, was a private in the Confederate States Army, that much is clear from the headstone.
There’s more to Harris than that, though, Ken Garrison learned in the process of identifying his burial plot in Orchard Mesa Cemetery.
That plot is now marked with a stone supplied by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the second grave to be so marked in the cemetery.
Some of Harris’ descendants are to gather at his grave at 1 p.m. today to dedicate the headstone and hear “Amazing Grace” and “Taps” played on the trumpet in his honor by Prof. Calvin Hofer of the Colorado Mesa University Music Department.
Garrison, a commander in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, learned a great deal about Harris in his research seeking out the burial places of Confederate veterans.
In doing that, he has found graves in Nucla, Ouray, Palisade, Collbran—the list goes on, he said.
Harris, Garrison learned, served as a private in Capt. Griffin’s Company, also known as the Salem Flying Artillery, of the Virginia Light Artillery, and he apparently participated in four or five major battles, Garrison said.
At one point he was treated at a hospital in Richmond.
Perhaps most significantly, Harris was present at the end of the war.
“He was at Appomattox when (Gen. Robert E.) Lee surrendered” the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. U.S. Grant on April 9, 1865, Garrison said.
Harris, like many other veterans of both sides, made his way west, eventually settling in Utah.
His death certificate identified him as a carpenter, but a news account at the time identified him as a “Westwater doctor.”
Exactly how Harris came by the honorific is unknown, Garrison said, but it wasn’t unusual for Civil War veterans of necessity to have acquired some medical skills.
Harris wasn’t well-known in Grand Junction, but his obituary noted that he was “the father of Mrs. Florence Butler, popularly known as the cattle queen of eastern Utah.”
Harris apparently fell from a porch while left alone and his body was discovered some time later.
He was buried in the Orchard Mesa Cemetery with nothing to mark the history he witnessed.
About 50 people, including descendants living in Utah and Grand Junction, are expected to gather at the gravesite, where Garrison said he scattered some Virginia salt on Harris’ grave, salt taken from near his place of birth.
Garrison, whose lineage includes W.W. Witherspoon, who died in battle, will continue his search for the graves of Confederates.
For him, he said, “It’s a labor of love.”