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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Seventeenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 10th, 1886.

 p114  N. Sayre Harris
No. 416. Class of 1825.
Died, April 22, 1886, at Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Penn., aged 80.

The Reverend Nathaniel Sayre Harris, son of the Reverend Nathaniel Harris, and Catherine, daughter of Colonel John Cox, of Bloomsburg, (near Trenton) New Jersey, was born there September 29, 1805.

He was appointed from New Jersey and was a cadet at the Academy from September, 1821 to July 1, 1825, when he was graduated and promoted in the army to brevet Second Lieutenant, Fifth Infantry, July 1, 1825, and Second Lieutenant, Third Infantry, July 1, 1825; promoted to First Lieutenant, Third Infantry, September 11, 1829.

He served as follows: On frontier duty at Fort Snelling, Minnesota,  p115 1825‑6; in garrison at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, 1826‑8; as Adjutant, Third Infantry, at Regimental Headquarters, February 19, 1827 to October 19, 1830; at the Military Academy, as Assistant Instructor of Infantry Tactics, from January 21, 1831 to January 1, 1834; and on Recruiting Service, 1834‑1835. He resigned May 31, 1835, with furlough for six months.

Beginning with October 3, 1834, he was two years a student at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, and for another year studied pastoral theology under the Reverend John A. Clark, D. D., Rector of St. Andrew's Church, Philadelphia, officiating as lay reader under Dr. Clark, until his ordination. He was ordained Deacon by Bishop H. U. Onderdonk, May 28, 1837, and Priest, by the same Bishop, July 8, 1838; when he was appointed Chaplain, United States Army, but declined. He was Rector of the Church of the Evangelist, Philadelphia, 1837‑1841, and of the Church of the Ascension, 1841‑1842, when he was appointed Secretary and General Agent of the Domestic Committee of the Board of Missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church, which office he held 1842‑1847. He was Rector of the Church of the Nativity, Philadelphia, 1845‑1852; of St. Paul's Church, Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, 1852‑1855; of Ascension Church, Baltimore, Maryland, April 9, 1855–April 7, 1856; and in Hoboken, New Jersey, he was Rector of Trinity Church, 1856‑1865, and of St. Paul's Church, 1866‑1871. During his Rectorships in Hoboken he served as Chaplain of the Hudson County Brigade, New Jersey Militia, from June 3, 1859 to master, 1869, his commission being vacated by disbandment of the Brigade.

In 1871, Mr. Harris was compelled to go abroad to be with his youngest son, who had been ordered to Europe by his physician, on account of an illness which was a few years after terminated by the son's death. In 1877, Mr. Harris returned to the United States, but took no regular charge. A severe illness soon after his return, made rest for the remainder of his life a necessity; and all the clerical duty he could perform was occasional aid given to some overworked Rector. In the autumn of 1885, his strength began to fail rapidly; and in the early part of 1886, his symptoms indicated softening of the brain, which progressed rapidly, and finally utterly impaired mental faculties which had been remarkably clear and strong. In the latter  p116 part of February, 1886, he was brought home to the residence of his eldest son, the Reverend Doctor John Andrews Harris, Rector of St. Paul's Church, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, where he quietly breathed his last in the early morning of April 22.

He was a man pure, brave and true; and a soldier to the last. In the condition of his mental faculties, before he was finally confined to his bed, it was impossible to make him see, by any reasoning, why he should do certain things or go in certain directions — for instance, to bed when bed‑time came. At such times his son would touch his elbow and give the command, "Attention! forward, guide right, march!"; the effect was electric; the old gentleman straightened himself instantly, and stepping off as if on parade, would march to his room, and then parade being dismissed, would go to bed at once. Even when confined to his bed, he was under the impression constantly that it was necessary to be up — which utter weakness made impossible — and go out to attend to some duty or other. At such times the words "I am Officer of the day, sir, and will see the matter attended to," would at once quiet him down and give apparent relief from the sense of the responsibility which weighed upon him.

These circumstances are mentioned as perhaps of interest to his old brothers-in‑arms, in showing how to the very last, when the light of reason had been extinguished, the military instinct still survived and was strong. The more intimately he was known in every relation of life, the more absolute was the conviction that he was a man "Sans peur et sans reproche."

J. A. H.

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