The Stranger of Gray, Maine

In Gray, Maine, a large town just north of Portland, there is a town cemetery. Amid all the graves marking the founders and farmers and sundry Yankees, lay a Confederate soldier. He died during the second fight at Bull Run, most likely. Along with him in the long-ago battle, historians think, also died a Union soldier from Gray named Lt. Charles H. Colley. Gray sent more men and boys to the Civil War, proportionately, than any other Maine town. Over 200 went to fight, and as happened with Lt. Colley, many did not return alive.

When the Colley family heard the news that their son had fallen, they awaited the coffin containing his body to be sent back home. When it arrived, longing for one last look, they opened it and sadly discovered that it was not their son, but the man who lay inside was dressed in a Confederate uniform. There had been a mix-up.

Even more sorrowful now, the family decided that with the cost the families must bear in transporting the body, and the length of time it takes to travel, they would not send the body back, but instead inter it in the Yankee village's cemetery.

They marked the grave thus: "Stranger. A soldier died in the late war, 1862. Erected by the Ladies of Gray."

The Colley family decided that their son was lying somewhere they knew not, and hoped that a southern mother wold take care of him just as they would do for the southern stranger now a permanent part of the northern town.

Each Memorial Day, the Ladies lay flowers by his grave, along with an American flag. Beginning in 1956, a confederate flag was erected at his grave. "They were sent here by A. MacGregor Ayer of Fairfax, Va., and Mabur Jones of Columbia, S.C. who read about the soldier stranger in a news dispatch last year." Each Memorial Day, the Stranger's grave receives as much careful attention as do the graves of the northern veterans.

The 15th Alabama Regiment Company G re-enactors are stationed in central Maine, and annually they arrive at Gray to perform honors for the fallen soldier at the Gray Memorial Day ceremony.

Jeanne Adams photo
Jeanne Adams photo

Elizabeth Prata photo
Source, screen grab from Summer Paradis video of Stranger
Bangor Daily News, May 3, 1977

I respect those who served. Thank you!


  1. The irony of a man who fought in grey to be sent to Gray and laid to rest there so far from home. One day the whereabouts of everyone including those in the sea will be known.


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