Following his election as President in 1860, Abraham Lincoln undertook a train ride to Washington that would take him through Albany. He arrived here on February 18, 1861 with his wife and three sons. As their train passed the West Albany railroad shops, an electrical switch was turned off at the nearby Dudley Observatory, causing an electromagnet mounted on the roof of the Capitol in downtown Albany to release a metal ball that slid down a pole, signaling to military officials to start a 21-gun salute in Capitol Park.
Albany’s Congressman Erastus Corning, the founder and first president of the New York Central Railroad, had been instrumental in donating a high quality telescope and time-keeping system at the new Dudley Observatory. Each morning a worker started up a dynamo (generator) at the observatory and at exactly 12 noon he turned on an electrical switch that ran a wire to an electromagnet on top of a pole mounted on the roof of the Capitol. The energized electromagnet pulled up the metal ball. Every night at exactly midnight, the worker turned off the switch which caused the ball to drop.
One of these “Time Balls” controlled by the Dudley Observatory had also been mounted on the train station in New York City. It was important to the railroads that New York City and Albany were on exactly the same time so that trains could run accurately.
Since few people at that time had watches and the pocket watches that existed usually showed a variety of times, it became traditional in both New York and Albany for partiers to go downtown on New Years Eve “to watch the ball drop.” Today the ball was being used to signal the President’s arrival.
Albany’s Democratic Mayor George Thacher met Lincoln at the train station, and they rode in a carriage to the Capitol. Thacher, Thurlow Weed, State Republican Chairman and editor of the Albany Evening Journal, Republican Governor Edwin D. Morgan, U.S. Senator Ira Harris and probably Democrat Congressman Erastus Corning hosted Lincoln.
As the carriage proceeded down Broadway and turned right to go up State Street, it passed Stanwix Hall, the current residence of John Wilkes Booth. Undoubtedly, Booth watched with almost all of Albany as the new President went by. Another spectator was Clara Harris, daughter of Senator Harris. Clara and her fiancé and step-brother, Henry Rathbone would be reunited with President and Mrs. Lincoln at a later encounter with Booth.
Booth was in Albany starring in the play The Apostate at the Gayety Theater. He had fallen on his dagger during a performance earlier in the week and had been sidelined for several performances. He was spending his time in the Stanwix bar and lobby, criticizing Lincoln and the Union to the point where the Gayety’s treasurer, Mr. Cuyler, told him to keep his comments to himself or he would discourage attendance. Thurlow Weed’s Albany Evening Journal said of Wilkes’ performance: “Undoubtedly one of the finest actors this country has ever produced.”
Lincoln spoke to a joint session of the Legislature, attended a dinner with Gov. Morgan and returned to a large reception at the Delavan House.
The main topic of conversation was the seceding of southern states, as Jefferson Davis was being sworn in as president of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia while Lincoln was speaking in Albany. Part of the reason for Lincoln’s visit was to judge the breadth and depth of support. At each stop in New York, Albany being no exception, the strong demonstration of patriotism gratified him. Support spanned all economic, religious, ethnic and political boundaries. After spending the night at the Delavan House, Lincoln departed Albany knowing that the people were behind him.
Lincoln left Albany by train, departing for New York City and then Washington. Albany’s Maj. John Titcomb Sprague accompanied Lincoln.
Booth stayed in Albany continuing his performances at the Gayety, where he was joined by married Albany actress Henrietta Irving and they resumed their romance. On April 26, at the Stanwix Hotel, Booth tried to break off his relationship with Irving which resulted in Irving thrusting a knife at Booth’s chest which he deflected with his arm, resulting in a slash to his face. Irving then turned the knife on herself, but, according to an Albany Police Report, “did no real harm.”
Thus, during the Lincoln and Booth visit to Albany, Booth was nearly killed … twice.
Early Sunday morning, April 14, 1861, barely two months after Lincoln left Albany, news arrived that Fort Sumter had been fired on and by morning had surrendered. Fort Sumter was not far from Washington, and this news hit Albany like a shock wave. Gov. Morgan called an emergency meeting of all his staff and leaders of the Senate and Assembly that afternoon in the Executive Chamber in Albany. A bill was drafted calling for New York to appropriate $3 million to provision and provide 30,000 New York Militia to support the preservation of the Union.
By the next morning, panic hit the North. The entire federal army at this time was only 14,000 men, many stationed in the West. Most state militias were much larger, and the militia of the State of Virginia, which had seceded that morning, outnumbered the entire federal army.
The same day, Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for “75,000 troops to suppress insurrection from the southern states that had seceded and to cause the laws to be duly executed.” By the end of the day, three more states, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas seceded and the states of Kentucky, Missouri and Delaware refused to send troops. Most important was Maryland because after Virginia seceded, it controlled the only railroad access to the Capitol. Gov. Thomas Hicks and Baltimore Mayor George Brown telegraphed Lincoln, “Send no troops here” and “The excitement is fearful.”
Telegrams received at Albany:
“War Department, April 15, 1861. Call made on you by tonight’s mail for 17 regiments of militia for immediate service,” Simeon Cameron, Secretary of War.
April 17. “Virginia seceded; Harpers Ferry taken; Washington endangered; ready all night to serve orders.”
April 18. “Lose not a moment in issuing your orders for additional regiments for Washington.”
April 18. “To Governor Morgan at Albany. The Southern Tier Rifles have unanimously resolved to tender their services to the general government. The Colonel awaits your Excellency’s orders.”
April 19. “Davis being within one day’s march of Washington with an army …”
April 19. “… have militia armed at once and … instant departure of 20,000 troops to Washington.”
April 20. “Troops must go on tonight, or Washington is gone.”
April 20. “To Gov. Morgan at Albany. The impression here is that Washington will be taken before Monday. Comdr. Vanderbilt and Mr. Aspinwall tender to you all steamers necessary.”
April 20. “Send the first regiment you get ready in fast steamer up the Potomac. Simeon Cameron, Secretary of War.”
April 21. Albany’s 25th Regiment departed for Washington.
The next day, the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, sent to defend Washington, was attacked by a mob in Baltimore and four soldiers were killed. A Baltimore committee was sent to meet with Lincoln to demand that no soldiers be sent through the city and that he make peace with the Confederacy on any terms. Lincoln refused.
Washington was under siege as Marylanders destroyed the railroad bridge and cut telegraph lines. A confederate assault was expected daily. On April 25, New York’s 7th Regiment arrived in Washington. Within days several other regiments including Albany’s 25th began to arrive.
Albany’s 25th Regiment, NYS Militia, 575 men, under the command of Col. Michael K. Bryan was ordered to stand ready on April 19, and on April 21 received orders to depart to defend Washington. Albany’s 25th Regiment was comprised of the Albany Republican Artillery (Co. A), Gen. Richard Montgomery Guards (Co. B), Gen. William J. Worth Guards (Co. C), Albany City Volunteers (Co. D), Albany Washington Light Infantry (Co. E), McGraw Guards (Co. F), Albany Emmett Guards (Co. G), Garde Marquis de Lafayette (Co. H), Albany Washington Rifles (Co. L) and the Albany Burgesses Corp (Co. R).
This was Albany’s volunteer militia. Albany had had an organized volunteer militia since Albany was first founded in the early 1600’s. Company A was recruited, armed, trained and financed by the Van Rensselaer family, Albany’s original Patroons. Originally called “The Van Rensselaer Guards,” Steven Van Rensselaer renamed them the “Albany Republican Artillery” after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
The rear company, the Albany Burgesses Corp was always provided by Albany’s burgers or downtown merchants.
The voluntary Albany militia had fought in the French & Indian War on the side of the British, at Saratoga in the Revolutionary War, in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.
The 25th Regiment boarded a paddle-wheel steamboat in downtown Albany and was transported to New York City, where they boarded the steamer Parkersburg, which took them to Annapolis; they then marched to Washington, where they reported to the commander of the Army, 75-year- old Major General Winfield Scott. Scott had been a major general since the War of 1812 but at the outbreak of hostilities had rushed from his headquarters in New York to his post in Washington and was commanding the defense of the Capitol.
On May 23, Albany’s 25 th was the second regiment to exit Washington and cross Long Bridge to Virginia (the first was the 12th NY Militia). Once across the bridge, they proceeded to Arlington Heights where they constructed a wooden fort and encampment that Colonel Bryan named “Fort Albany.” On their way to Arlington Heights they encountered and captured two Confederate soldiers, the first two prisoners taken in Virginia since the start of the war. Fort Albany along with three other such forts remained the main guardians of the road to Washington for the duration of the war.
Trying urgently to raise troops quickly, Governor Morgan walked down Albany’s State Street from his home at State and Eagle Streets to the National Commercial Bank and saw Ezra Parmelee Prentice, a wholesale fur merchant and president of the bank. Based solely on the discussion between Morgan and Prentice, the National Commercial Bank authorized the issuance of up to $3,500,000 in cash to recruits presenting drafts for bounty payments issued by military boards throughout the state. This avoided the time loss and expense of calling a special session of the legislature.
During the next four years, New York would send 474,000 men, 1/8 of New York’s entire population, to comprise 1/5 of the Union Army. Ten regiments and one artillery battery would be raised in Albany County. Albany troops would play major roles and take casualties at almost every major battle of the Civil War.
Albany’s 25th Regiment under Col. Michael K. Bryan was one of the first to report to defend Washington. They built and manned Fort Albany and guarded the Union withdrawal after the Battle of Bull Run. In 1862, they were assigned to General Max Weber but were mustered out prior to the battle at Antietam. Col. Bryan was later killed leading his troops in the Battle of Port Hudson, Louisiana in May, 1863.
Albany’s 43rd Regiment contained 5 companies known as the “Albany Rifles,” 2 companies from NYC, one each from Montgomery County, Washington County and Otsego County. They started the war under Col. Francis L.
Vinton with 706 men in September 1861. The 43rd fought at the siege of Yorktown, Lee’s Mill, Williamsburg, and the Seven Days’ Battle losing 71 killed, wounded and missing. The 43rd took part in the battle of Antietam, Chancellorsville, lost 138 men at Salem Church and 66 in an assault on Marye’s Heights and Deep Run. Additional companies and recruits were added periodically.
They rushed to Gettysburg arriving on June 2, 1863 and fought on June 3. In the autumn of 1863, the 43rd fought at Rappahannock Station, Locust Grove, Auburn, and Mine Run. However, for the 43rd , the worst was yet to come – in the Battle of the Wilderness they lost 198 soldiers.
Now down to 7 officers and 92 men, the 43rd fought at Spottsylvania, North Anna, Totoptomy Creek and Cold Harbor. They were in the first wave of attackers in the Assault on Petersburg. They were rushed to Washington and repulsed the enemy at the attack on Port Stevens where Col. Vissher and 5 enlisted men were killed and 29 wounded.
They participated in the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley where they engaged the enemy at Charlestown, Opequan, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. They participated in one final assault at Sailor’s Creek and were present at Appomattox to witness Lee’s Surrender.
In total 2,327 men had served in the 43rd . Of these, 813 had been killed, wounded, captured, or died of disease.
Albany’s 44th (People’s Regiment or Ellsworth Brigade) raised at Albany in Sept. 1861, contained two Albany companies, two from Erie County and one from Herkimer County together with many scattered squads reporting to Albany. The 44 th left on October 21, 1861 with 1061 men under Cols. Stephen W. Stryker, James Clay Rice and Freeman Conner. They lost 1 dead and 2 wounded at the Siege of Yorktown and then 85 killed or wounded at Hanover Court House, 54 more casualties at Gaines’ Mill, 100 at Malvern Hill, 71 at Bull Run, and 49 at Shepardstown. With 362 casualties, a call went back to Albany to recruit and send more troops.
Two new companies, totaling 700 new recruits, left for war in October, 1862. One of these new companies was the ROTC class from the Albany Normal School, a college for teachers in Albany. The Albany Normal School later became the Albany State Teacher’s College and later State University of New York, Albany. Professors Kimball and Husted became Captain Kimball and Lieut. Husted and commanded the company.
The Albany 44th , now commanded by Col. James Clay Rice, was stationed next to Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine on Little Round Top at the end of the Union line at Gettysburg, the main target of the Confederate army’s attack on the second day. Their brigade commander, Col. Strong Vincent, was killed only minutes into the battle causing command of the defense of the critical Little Round Top to fall to Col. James Clay Rice. The 44th lost 111 casualties that day.
They later fought at Bristol Station, Rappahannock Station and Mine Run. In 1864 they fought at The Wilderness Campaign and Bethesda Church, later at Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, and Poplar Spring Church. On Oct. 11, 1864 the 44th was mustered out at Albany.
They would suffer a total of 730 casualties from their peak enlistment of 1,585 before they were mustered out in Albany in June, 1863.
The Albany 113th (7th Artillery Regiment) under Colonel Lewis Owen Morris participated in Po River, North Anna River, Tolopotomy Creek, Cold Harbor (where Colonel Morris was killed), Petersburg, Dead Bottom and Reams Station.
The 113th suffered 24 killed, 71 wounded and 12 missing at the 1st engagement at Cold Harbor. At the second engagement they penetrated the Confederate defenses, seized a Confederate battle flag and took 300 prisoners, as well as several artillery pieces, at the cost of 76 killed, 248 wounded and 116 missing inside enemy territory.
At Petersburg, they led an unsuccessful charge, losing 35 killed, 105 wounded and 304 taken prisoner. After Petersburg, their regiment, originally 66 officers and 774 men who had departed Albany, was reduced to 6 officers and 168 men, 677 had been killed, many more wounded. Of these, 4 officers and 213 enlisted men died in captivity in southern prisons.
Albany’s 11th “Flying” Havelock Battery was raised after a call for recruits was made at the Albany Young Men’s Christian Association. Reverend A. A. Von Puttkammer, pastor of Albany’s German Baptist Church was elected captain. Von Puttkammer would admit none but “men of Christ character into his command and proposes to observe worship three times a day when practicable” according to an interview he gave to the Cincinnati Gazette.
Albany’s 11th fought at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (3rd day), Mine Run, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna River, Tolopotomy Creek, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Deep Bottom. Of 158 men, Von Puttkammer’s battery suffered 8 killed and 25 wounded.
Albany’s 3rd Regiment (The 1st Albany Regiment, Albany Washington Rifles, Albany Lafayette Guards) under Colonel (later Brigadier General) Frederick Townsend fought at Fortress Monroe and Big Bethel. Reorganized in 1864, they fought at several battles surrounding the major battle of Petersburg.
Albany’s 10th (177th NYSV, Albany Zouave Cadets, Albany Washington Continentals) under Colonel Ira W. Ainsworth was transferred to defend New Orleans and participated in the battle for Port Hudson, Louisiana.
Albany’s 10th , renamed the 177th New York Volunteer Infantry, lost 161 men but only 9 in battle. The other 152 deaths resulted from disease in the swamps of Louisiana.
Albany’s 91st under Brigadier General J. M. Brannan was transferred to Key West, Florida, and then Pensacola, Florida, before joining General Nathaniel Banks in New Orleans. They fought at Irish Bend, Bayou Vermillion, Port Hudson and later Donaldsville suffering 165 casualties. Moved back to the northeast, they joined the Army of the Potomac and fought at Petersburg, White Oak Ridge, Five Forks and the Fall of Petersburg.
The 91st lost 395 total casualties. Their biggest losses occurring at Port Hudson where they lost 149 men and Petersburg where they suffered 230 casualties.
Albany’s 18th Regiment fought at the Battle of Bull Run, West Point, Gaines’s Mills, Charles City Crossroads, Malvern Hill, Crampton’s Pass, Antietam, First and Second Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and 7 Days’ Battle, The 18th suffered 229 casualties, 5 officers and 70 enlisted men were killed.
The 28th , 34th and 16th NYSV Regiments were also mustered in at Albany but mostly included recruits from surrounding counties.
As had happened during the French and Indian War and later the Revolutionary War, Albany was converted into a military camp. Lincoln’s original request for troops designated Albany, New York City and Elmira as military marshalling points. Troops from the entire northeast, including upstate New York as far west as Buffalo, east to Vermont, New Hampshire and western Massachusetts reported to Albany.
During one six month period, 63 regiments passed through Albany on their way to war; this did not include any Albany regiments. Regiments would usually stay only one day, being transported efficiently by the Hudson River Railroad or steamboat to New York City and then to a southern destination. The Watervliet Arsenal became the largest supplier of military goods and weapons in the country. (One of the reasons so many troops may have passed through Albany was that they had to cash their bounty payment drafts at National Commercial Bank.)
Thousands of volunteers began to arrive in Albany even before authority to receive them came from Washington. Political differences were forgotten; flags flew from every building: public buildings, church steeples, schools, homes and businesses.
Most buildings flew more than one flag. Nationalities vied with each other to raise companies; British, French, German, Irish and Scottish companies were raised in Albany. The Albany Shaker Community, unable to serve for religious reasons, made and donated everything needed to supply a hospital.
After the first months, returning troops, including the sick and wounded, flowed back into Albany from the battlefields. All of these troops needed to be fed and cared for. They needed a place to camp for the night. As the war went on, many families of the troops became destitute. Those who lost sons, brothers, fathers and husbands needed to be consoled. Both the soldiers and their families suffered greatly.
Mayor George Thacher led Albany’s humanitarian efforts to combat these growing problems. The Citizens Military Relief Fund and the Ladies’ Army Relief Fund were formed. These groups started a Great Sanitary Fair held in Academy Park in Albany. Its officers were Mayor Thacher, Congressman Eli Perry, Chauncy Williams and John Taylor Hall.
A huge temporary building, named the Army Relief Bazaar was constructed. It was built in the form of a double Greek cross; 189 feet long on the eastern nave and 160 feet on the western side, with a transept 205 feet long and 28 feet high. Immediately upon entering the building were located the great national booths of England, Scotland and Ireland, manned by the St. George, St. Andrew and Hibernian Provident societies. To the right were located the United States, the Yankee, and the German booths.
These booths competed to see who could raise the most money for the humanitarian causes. To the right of the entrance was the Curiosity Shop, thought by many to be the largest draw, housing “curiosities of every kind, both the rare and beautiful, relics of great value and age, and everything attractive and novel.” The Shaker booth was filled with exquisite products from the Shaker community.
There were Schenectady, Saratoga Springs and Troy booths; Spanish, Japanese, Dutch, Swiss, French, Italian and Russian booths, as well as an Indian wigwam manned by people dressed in Native American costumes and a Gypsy tent presided over by a Gypsy queen. There was a War Trophy booth displaying military memorabilia and an autograph booth selling autographs from military generals and prominent citizens.
But most important was the donation from President Lincoln: the original draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Delivered by Secretary of State William H. Seward’s son, Fred, to Emily Weed Barnes, daughter of Thurlow Weed, the original draft was raffled off with lottery tickets going for $1 each. Fred Seward had been the night editor of the Albany Evening Journal prior to the war and knew Emily well. The winner of the drawing was Gerrit Smith, an abolitionist leader who had bought a large block of tickets.
Smith had developed a large community of farms in North Elba (Lake Placid) where he offered to house any escaped slave family free-of-charge. Smith called the community “Timbuktu” and hired a farm manager to oversee the operation: John Brown, later of “Harper’s Ferry” fame.
Smith told residents of Albany about his farm and asked local residents to refer interested former slaves to him. However he refused to tell anyone where the farms were located in fear of a federal marshal enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law. A humorous saying originated in Albany: “If you follow his directions you will get so lost you’ll wind up in Timbuktu.” Everyone knew there was a Timbuktu but no one knew where it was, except that it was way off where no one would find it.
Smith donated the Emancipation Proclamation back to the Sanitary Commission, which then sold it to the State Education Department for $1,000 with the condition that it was not to leave Albany. After the destruction of the final handwritten draft in the Chicago Fire, the State Education Department in Albany became the owner of the only remaining copy of the Emancipation Proclamation written in Lincoln’s hand.
Funds raised from the bazaar amounted to $111,493.49, and it was deemed a great success.
Many other efforts continued in Albany to assist the soldiers and their families. The Albany branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was formed in April of 1864 with the goal to promote the spiritual and temporal welfare of the officers and men of the U.S. Army and Navy and to house those in transit. Thomas W. Olcott, John F. Rathbone, Levi Dedrick and William McElroy were the first officers.
Large contributions of money and services were provided. The Soldiers Refreshment Committee served meals to 16,709 soldiers in transit in a six-month period. Almost every town and church formed a soldiers’ aid society, collecting useful articles and food for the troops.
Individuals did their part: Mrs. Samuel Pruyn received a letter from an acquaintance in Washington asking for stores for the needy soldiers, as well as the sick and wounded. Her gift of two large boxes of clothing prompted a return letter pleading for more. Her efforts raised 287 boxes and barrels of materials forwarded to Washington.
Benjamin Payne, at the request of Mrs. Pruyn, went to Washington and was so appalled by what he saw that upon his return, he mounted a relief effort among the farmers outside Albany. They sent 600 barrels of fruits and vegetables to the troops.
Albany artist Erastus Dow Palmer donated five pieces of sculpture to be auctioned for aid for the hospital. Palmer also obtained many art objects from his friends and associates to be exhibited at the fair. Stephen Van Rensselaer donated funds to provision thirty troops and donated $1,000 to the war fund. The editors and publishers of the local newspapers donated free services to publicize the bazaar and the many other fund-raising functions. Thurlow Weed and Joel Munsell’s publications were singled out for special praise.
Albany’s railroads, steamboats and telegraph companies donated considerable free services. The firm of Van Sickler & Forby was praised for packing and shipping many of the boxes and crates destined for the soldiers. Mrs. Amos Dean, treasurer of the Albany chapter of the National Freedman’s Relief Commission, donated $1,000 on behalf of the group.
In April, 1861, Albany’s Gen. John F. Rathbone took over Albany’s Industrial School and converted it into a hospital. He built three additional buildings to house the sick and wounded. Dr. John Swinburne, also of Albany, was the hospital’s chief surgeon but left to serve at the front and was replaced by Dr. Mason Fitch Cogswell. Upon Dr. Cogswell’s death, he was replaced by Dr. James H. Armsby (founder of Albany Medical College). The hospital, originally called The Barracks, was converted to a full U.S. general hospital and renamed the Ira Harris General Hospital, in honor of Albany’s U.S. senator.
Albany’s Dr. J.V.P. Quackenbush succeeded Dr. S.O. Vanderpoel as Surgeon General of the New York State forces in 1863. Quackenbush oversaw the work of 584 volunteer surgeons in service to the New York Militia. Large numbers of Albany volunteers served in both the Albany Ira Harris Military Hospital and the field hospitals.
Typical of the activities in Albany was the raising and outfitting of the 44 th Regiment. Originally known as a Zouave Regiment or People’s Regiment, it was formed as a result of a very patriotic appeal to raise a volunteer regiment consisting of one man from every town or ward in the state to “avenge the noble blood spilt on the soil of Virginia.”
Despite the wide-ranging appeal, most volunteers were from Albany. The regiment was raised, splendidly outfitted and drilled to a high level of expertise in Albany. A large celebration was held to mark its send off. The 44th demonstrated its prowess in marching, firing and loading by companies, platoons, and the entire line. A newly invented battery consisting of 5 guns discharged 60 balls a minute. It was described as a “truly terrible instrument of destruction.”
Mrs. Emily Barnes presented the 44 th ’s Col. James Clay Rice with a beautiful sword. Col. Rice said that he felt like one of the knights from King Arthur’s Roundtable being sent off to do God’s work. Stopping their march at the home of Congressman Erastus Corning, the standard bearer was presented with the regimental colors by Mrs. Corning. The demonstration was described as “deeply moving.”
The regiment went on to fight in 12 major engagements and many skirmishes. Originally 1,060 men, they would suffer a total of 730 casualties from their peak enlistment of 1,585 before they were mustered out in Albany in June, 1863. Colonel (later Brigadier General) Rice was killed at Spotsylvania.
Upon their return to Albany, they again marched to the home of Erastus Corning, honoring Corning with a marching salute as they passed his home. A shocked Mrs. Corning welcomed the small group of battle-worn surviving troops and received the tattered colors that she had originally given them. She presented them with a new flag. Most of the officers and recruits she had welcomed previously were dead. The Albany newspapers reported that “It was an event for which Mrs. Corning had not been properly prepared.”
The surviving troops proceeded to the Capitol, where they were greeted by the governor, and then to Congress Hall, owned by Albany’s black businessman Adam Blake, where the city hosted them to a large celebration.
With private donations, Albany constructed a Soldiers Home to care for the returning disabled, unable to care for themselves. On June 7, 1862, Albany Rural Cemetery’s trustees donated a section, named the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Plot, at the cemetery to bury and honor Civil War dead who were not buried in family plots. All costs of internment were born by the cemetery.
The Soldiers’ Plot is marked by a soldiers’ monument of granite bearing bronze plates with the names of 648 Civil War veterans from the city of Albany who died while serving. The bronze plates were cast from a melted-down Civil War cannon. One hundred and forty-nine soldiers are buried in the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Plot.
Albany, April 25, 1865
Four years and 2 months passed since Albany held a welcoming reception for President Lincoln. Today is now April 25, 1865. President and Mrs. Lincoln are back in Albany.
The President was inaugurated for a second term on March 4, just over a month ago. At the Inauguration Dinner, the President gave up his seat to Pauline Harris so that she could sit with Mrs. Lincoln while the President welcomed guests.
On April 9, just 16 days ago, we were all happy to hear that General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse and most of the war was over.
Two days later on April 11, President Lincoln gave an address stressing the need for Reconstruction. Clara Harris was a guest of Mrs. Lincoln and sat next to her during the speech. A few rows behind them sat John Wilkes Booth.
Only 3 days later, on April 14, Good Friday, 11 days ago, President and Mrs. Lincoln invited Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone to attend the play, Our American Cousin, at Ford’s Theater in Washington. During the play, the Lincolns, Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone would have their third unfortunate encounter with Booth.
This morning, April 25, 1865, just after midnight, the President and his family again arrived in Albany. The President was again escorted to the Capitol in downtown Albany. Immediately a line began to form.
This morning, April 25, 1865, at 2:30 am, fugitive John Wilkes Booth was cornered in the Garrett tobacco barn in Virginia.
This morning, just as the sun was rising over Albany and most residents were waking up, John Wilkes Booth was shot by Sergeant Boston Corbett, a native of Troy.
This morning, April 25, 1865, just as the sun was rising over Albany and most residents were waking up, the doors to the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol were opened and long lines of Albanians, many of whom had waited all night, flooded in to pay their last respects to President Lincoln.
This morning, April 25, 1865, just as the first Albanians flooded into the Assembly Chamber, …… John Wilkes Booth died.
Six Hundred Forty-eight city of Albany residents “Died in Action” in the Civil War, fourteen per month (some died from disease).
Two Generals and Nine Colonels buried at Albany Rural were Killed In Action:
Gen. James Clay Rice (died at Spotsylvania),
Gen. Lewis Benedict (Battle of Pleasant Hill)
Col. Lewis Owen Morris (Battle of Cold Harbor),
Col. Michael K. Bryan (Battle of Port Hudson),
Col. Edward Frisby (2 nd Battle of Bull Run),
Col. Edward Springsteed (Battle of Reams Station),
Col. Howard Carroll (Antietam),
Col. Frederick Tremain (Hatcher’s Run),
Col. James D. Visscher (died at Fort Stevens while defending against an attack on Washington),
Col. John Wilson (Battle of the Wilderness) and
Col. George Watson Pratt (2 nd Battle of Bull Run).
Twenty-seven brigadier generals and six Medal of Honor recipients from the Civil War are interred at Albany Rural Cemetery. The Brigadier Generals include:
Chester Alan Arthur
Benjamin Franklin Baker
Richard Charles Bentley
Justus Wardell Blanchard
John S. Dickerman
John Gosman Farnsworth
Henry Sanford Gansevoort
Francis H. Hayes
Rufus H. King
Therudon Ellery Lord
Selden E. Marvin
Robert Shaw Oliver
John Henry Patterson
George W. Pratt
Dr. J.V.P. Quackenbush
John F. Rathbone
James Clay Rice
John Titcomb Sprague
Sebastian Visscher Talcott
Dr. Samuel Oakley Vanderpoel
Adolph von Steinwehr
Dr. Sylvester D. Willard
David M. Woodhall
The Medal of Honor Recipients
Lt. Harrison Clark
Lt. Stephen B. Corliss
Corp. James Edwin Cross
Lt. Joseph L. Follet
Corp. Robert Henry King
Lt. John Henry Patterson
A Civil War brigadier general buried at Albany Rural, Chester Alan Arthur, became President of the United States.
Photo: Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Albany’s Washington Park.