Tag Archives: Civil War

The Troy Draft Riot and Father Peter Havermans


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havermanWhen 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

Avoiding The Draft, Civil War Style


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Draft Poster Civil War 02While 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

Exhibits: Lincoln Autopsy Reports, Dred Scott Painting


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Dred ScottThe New York State Museum has added two important artifacts to its current exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War.

The artifacts include the notes taken by two physicians who attended President Lincoln on his death bed and the only existing oil painting of Dred Scott, the African American slave whose 1858 Supreme Court trial pushed the nation to the brink of Civil War.
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A Unique North Country Civil War Connection


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Plaque 77th Reg NYS Vol NYH1It’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

Plattsburgh’s Mary Johnson in Civil War


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Mary Hill Johnson 01The 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

Was Mary Johnson A Civil War Veteran?


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Mary Hill Johnson 01In 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

Albany Film Screening of ‘Thirst: A Civil War Story’


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thirstThe 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

Met Museum Civil War Events Begin Tonight


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Met Civil War EventsThe Met is offering a wide range events in conjunction with their recently opened exhibition, Photography and the American Civil War.

A Civil War Dialogue will take place this evening, Wednesday, April 10, at 6:00 PM ($25). Novelist Geraldine Brooks and historian Tony Horwitz have both written about the Civil War-and are married to one another. They will discuss their work as well as their different approaches to the Civil War and the writing of history. The discussion will be moderated by Bill Goldstein, book critic for NBC’s Weekend Today in New York. Continue reading

A Tompkins County Civil War Love Story
New Exhibition Opens At The NYS Museum


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tarbell_portraitsAn 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

Westchester County Civil War Monuments (Part Two)


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Sleepy HollowThis granite and bronze monument in the Village of Sleepy Hollow, is located near southwestern corner of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and was dedicated on May 30, 1890. by the local GAR post. Inscriptions on the front (west) face include a Latin dedication, along with “Our Union Soldiers” and the following poem: “While Freedom’s name is understood, they shall delight the wise and good; They dared to set their country free and gave her laws equality 1861-1865.”

The monument’s south, east and north faces feature bronze plaques honoring some 240 local veterans. The references to Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant reflect the fact that the Village of Sleepy Hollow lies within Mount Pleasant, which is just north of Greenburgh. The monument is surrounded by a plot containing graves of Civil War veterans. The names of soldiers killed in action are engraved into the monument’s base; those who served are listed on tablets mounted to the base. The work was made in the New York foundry of the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company.
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Westchester’s Civil War Monuments: The Kneeling Angel


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Ossining Kneeling MonumentIn 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

Peterboro Opens Heritage Season with Annual Party


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Gerrit SmithStewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) in Peterboro will announce plans for the 2013 Peterboro Heritage events at the annual Gerrit Smith birthday party on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.

The doors will open at 1:00 pm for the Stewart organizational meeting, program announcements, and overview of site hosting schedule needs and responsibilities – in-depth training to be held before we open for 2013 Heritage Season. At 2:00 p.m. Norman K. Dann PhD, professor emeritus Morrisville State College and Smith biographer will present on Gerrit Smith and Smithfield in 1863. Dann’s program will be followed by birthday refreshments. The program is open for the public with a three dollar admission for adults, and free for students and 2012 GSENHL Stewards. Continue reading

Bringing Neglected New York History to Light


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Erie - Champlain Canal Junction (Courtesy American Canals)New York’s long, rich, and vibrant state and local history has long been a source of pride and inspiration. As items on this website repeatedly confirm, there are many programs that provide creative interpretation and presentation of key events and developments.

But over the years, the New York historical community, particularly in publishing books, has sometimes tended to concentrate on certain topics and neglect or minimize others.
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Black History Progams at Adirondack Prison


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In the 1850's, black families came to the Adirondacks to farm.The Adirondack Correctional Facility at Raybrook is hosting a series of special Black History Month programs for inmates that focus on 19th Century stories of African-Americans in the North Country.

“Dreaming of Timbuctoo,” the display put together by John Brown Lives! back in 2001, reveals the story of families that came to the Lake Placid area in the years before the Civil War, to establish farms and gain voting rights. Continue reading

Emancipation Anniversary: A Grassroots Victory


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Almost lost in the depressing “Fiscal Cliff” spectacle was the anniversary marking one of the major positive milestones of our history — President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

On January 1, 1863, some 3 million people held as slaves in the Confederate states were declared to be “forever free.” Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Most of those 3 million people were still subjugated until the Union Army swept away the final Confederate opposition more than two years later. And slavery was not abolished in the entire United States until after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1865. Continue reading

Books: Fight All Day, March All NIght


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In 1862 twenty-one-year-old Morris Brown Jr. left his studies at Hamilton College to take up the Union cause. He quickly rose in rank from sergeant major to captain and acting regimental commander for the 126th New York Volunteers. Fight All Day, March All Night: A Medal of Honor Recipient’s Story (SUNY Press Excelsior Editions, 2012) is the narrative of a young Civil War officer, as told through his letters from the battlefield and edited by Civil War historian Wayne Mahood.

In letters written to his family in Penn Yan, New York, Brown describes his experiences at war: the unseemly carping between fellow officers, the fear that gripped men facing battle, and the longing to return home. Brown’s letters also reveal an ambitious young man who not only wanted recognition but also wanted to assure himself of a financial future. Continue reading

Louis Hensel: My Life in America


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Details of mid-19th-century life come alive in the letters of a German immigrant, translated by Sigrid Wilshinsky and recently published as My Life in America Before, During and After the Civil War.

Louis Hensel was born in 1817 and lived a life of travel and adventure, as colorfully described in letters to his granddaughter back in Germany. Wilshinsky translated them from Suderlein German into modern English. Continue reading