When what has been described as “the second most destructive draft riot in the nation” broke out in Troy on July 15, 1863, worried city residents, especially African-Americans, wondered if the Dean of the Roman Catholic churches in Troy, Father Peter Havermans, would, or could, do anything to calm the rioters and curb anticipated violence.
The bulk of the two to three thousand angry protestors in the streets were Catholics who worked in the city’s mills, factories and iron works. Continue reading
Now you can see Fort Ticonderoga the way two generations of soldiers saw the great lakeside citadel in the 18th century during Fort Ticonderoga’s new sunset tour, The Place Between Great Waters. The ninety minute tour takes place on scenic Lake Champlain located just below the Fort’s imposing walls. Costumed historic interpreters will lead the tour in an 18th-century battoe while guests paddle along side in their canoes and kayaks (Fort Ticonderoga canoes will be available for rent the evening of the program). Continue reading
While reviewing some Civil War materials, I encountered mention of the New York City Draft Riots, which reminded me of my own experience with the draft back in the late 1960s. Whether there was a war or not, I had no interest in joining the military, but it was out of my hands. Vietnam was getting worse instead of better, and more troops were being sent. When I became eligible to go, America switched to the draft lottery.
While I was still in high school, my number (based on birthdays) came up in the 200s, so I didn’t have to go unless I enlisted. That wasn’t the case for men aged 18–45 during the Civil War. They had options, and not being drafted was one of them.
Few people realize that a draft of sorts was used even in the 1700s, a century before the Civil War, and that it was very similar in nature. The call for troops emanated from a central authority, whether it was the Continental Congress, or later, the President (or the Secretary of War). Continue reading
From 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday and Sunday, July 13 – 14, 2013, learn “how it’s made” 18th century style at a special Artificers’ Weekend at Saratoga National Historical Park, located between Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, NY.
What’s an artificer? Eighteenth century artificers were professional tradesmen working with armies to provide or repair supplies needed by the troops. Blacksmiths made and repaired iron and steel implements. Tailors sewed uniforms for soldiers. Woodworkers built or fixed wooden items like boxes, benches, or tool handles. Tinsmiths made or fixed canteens, cups. bowls, or lanterns. Continue reading
It’s guaranteed that you’re going to enjoy this, another unique North Country link to the Civil War. It sounds like something culled from the pages of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and begs the question: what the heck are the odds of that happening?
Though I can’t answer the question, I do recall that in my former employment, it was notable when three men all having the same first name worked in the same department. So what can you say about “The One-Legged Jims,” a group of three Civil War veterans? Continue reading
It’s a phrase most of us use, without knowing much more than it connotes an air of struggle.
A desperate struggle is exactly what was taking place when Captain James Lawrence of the USS Chesapeake made those words his final order – 200 years ago today.
The United States had been at war with Britain for nearly a year when Lawrence sailed his frigate out of Boston. Waiting for him outside the harbor was HMS Shannon, whose Captain was disobeying orders by preparing to engage an American ship one on one. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga’s newest exhibit, “It would make a heart of stone melt”: Sickness, Injury, and Medicine at Fort Ticonderoga, is now open. The exhibit explores early medical theory, practice, and experience as each relates to the armies that served at Fort Ticonderoga in the 18th century.
Organized into several sections, the exhibit presents an overview of medical practices, diseases of the army, and the treatment of wounds for the armies that fought in America during the French and Indian War and American Revolution. Continue reading
The Memorial Day weekend brings the start of the 2013 season at the Chimney Point, Mount Independence, and Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Sites. The sites open this Saturday, May 25, at 9:30 a.m.
The Chimney Point State Historic Site on Lake Champlain in Addison commands one of the most strategic locations on the Lake, of importance to human beings for over 9,000 years. The site presents the Native American, early French, and early American settlement of the area. The special exhibit is What Lies Beneath: 9,000 Years of History at Chimney Point, highlighting the archaeological findings from the 2009-2011 bridge and temporary ferry project—including the likely location of the “chimney” that gave Chimney Point its name in 1759. Continue reading
This summer, the New-York Historical Society will be displaying all fifty objects from Harold Holzer’s new book, The Civil War in 50 Objects. Though the book looks at the Civil War from many angles, quite a few of the objects originate from New York City. We spoke with the historian about the Civil War’s impact on the city, and the city’s attempt to secede from the Union! Continue reading
The same “prove or disprove” mission I undertook to investigate Mary Johnson’s claims (to have passed as a man and fought in the Civil War) was attempted by Eleanor Vashon after interviewing Mary Johnson in 1924. Several parties were involved: a pension attorney; the Massachusetts adjutant general; the Daughters of Veterans; the Convent of St. Rock, Quebec; the Canadian Red Cross; the Tewksbury Hospital; and acquaintances of Mary with whom she had shared the unusual story of her life.
The Red Cross managed to confirm that Thomas Hill indeed served in the Massachusetts 53rd, but found no record of a Saul Hill in the same outfit. They did find a Joseph Saul, and considering Mary’s age and her earlier jumbling of General Nelson Miles as Mills Nelson, the similarity was noted as a possible link. Continue reading
In Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922, while working in a private home, Mrs. Mary Johnson was badly injured in a fall. At the age of 82, with few resources at her disposal, neither Mary nor her husband Peter could care for themselves. During the next two years, the couple resided in three different poorhouses, living at Fitchburg and Tewksbury before moving to the Worcester City Farm. At Fitchburg, Mrs. Johnson had begun telling stories about her secret war past, and at Worcester, folks began to take her seriously.
According to Mary, she had served honorably in two branches of military service, most notably a stint during the Civil War. Combat was reserved for men only, but Mary openly shared the details, insisting her story was true. Continue reading
The New York State Museum will host the upstate premiere of the 30-minute film Thirst: A Civil War Story (2013) on Saturday, May 11 from 1pm to 3pm in the Huxley Theatre.
The film is presented as part of the Museum’s exhibit An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War, a 7,000-square foot exhibition commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War (on display through September 22). The free screening will be followed by a panel discussion with cast and crew. Continue reading
Limited space is still available to attend Fort Ticonderoga’s Eighteenth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 17-19, 2013.
This annual seminar focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. Continue reading
An exhibition featuring a Civil War love story, I Shall Think of You Often: The Civil War Story of Doctor and Mary Tarbell, opened Saturday, March 30, 2013 at the New York State Museum.
The exhibit focuses on the life and marriage of Doctor and Mary Tarbell of Tompkins County, New York, during the Civil War. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War, a 7,000-square foot exhibition commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Both exhibitions are open through September 22, 2013. Continue reading
Few villages in New York State can lay claim to as rich a heritage as Rouses Point, and like the oft-used real-estate axiom says, there are three primary reasons—location, location, location.
As New York’s northeasternmost village, Rouses Point can be found at the north end of Lake Champlain. Bordering on Canada to the north and Vermont to the east, for decades it was a shipping and transportation crossroads, serving both water and rail traffic. Continue reading
Recently, I was appointed a THVIP with Teaching the Hudson Valley. The role of a THVIP is to “find new and better ways to help reach Hudson Valley children and young people with place-based education,” both in and out of the classroom.
I’ve been thinking about some of the great historical sites around Orange and Ulster counties. A personal favorite, and not just because I once worked there, is the New Windsor Cantonment. Continue reading
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries states, counties, cities, towns and villages all across America erected thousands of commemorative statues, monuments, tablets and other memorials to honor their citizens who served in the American Civil War of 1861-1865. Additionally monuments that are national in scope such as those like Antietam and Gettysburg and in the nation’s capital city were constructed. There is even a memorial monument in Edinburgh, Scotland dedicated to the Scots who fought in the Union Army. It is exceptional as it is the only American Civil War memorial outside of the United States. Continue reading
Spying was a major component of the strategy and the tactics of the American Revolution. However it’s only recently that historians have focused on the intrigues, subterfuges and skullduggery that were used by all sides. Except for the spying of British Major John Andre, his collaboration with Benedict Arnold, and of the failed spying of Nathan Hale, undercover intelligence gathering operations during the Revolution is a mostly forgotten aspect of that conflict.
Nonetheless, spying was quite common in that era and George Washington was its chief proponent. Washington made full use of the 1700s tools of the spy trade including invisible ink, hiding messages in feather quills, and small silver balls for hiding messages that could be swallowed in the event of capture. He also encouraged forging documents and making sure they fell into British hands. Continue reading
The bicentennial of the Battle of Ogdensburg will be commemorated with re-enactments and special events this weekend Feb 22-24 (Friday through Sunday) at locations in Ogdensburg and Prescott, Ontario.
“Friday evening the Ontario shore will shower us with a barrage of fireworks and Saturday afternoon the invading Anglo-Canadian army will battle the American troops from the waterfront to past Ogdensburg City Hall,” said Tim Cryderman, President of Forsyth’s Rifles. “The invaders will be inspired by the skirl of the pipes and drums of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highland Regiment from Cornwall, Ontario. After the battle, they’ll give a free public concert in the Ogdensburg Public Library.” Continue reading
Since the days of the Dutch to more recent times, Ossining and its neighboring areas has been the site of magnificent homes, estates and other properties that are or once were owned by prominent New Yorkers. Many of these people were attracted to Ossining for the relatively inexpensive cost of land, the commanding views of the Hudson River and the easy commute to nearby to New York City. However, because of reduced personal circumstances, as well as changing tastes and life styles, many of these homes and estates are just memories. Continue reading