“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
“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
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
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 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
Experience the Civil War in New York with the new exhibit at the New York State Museum and representatives from related historic sites on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at a free Historyhostel / Teacherhostel event sponsored by the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education. Continue reading
January 1, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and students, educators, and general public across the North Country will have the opportunity to support a New Proclamation of Freedom for the 21st century.
On Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December, modern-day abolitionists will gather with students, teachers and the general public concerned about human freedom and human trafficking at various venues in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Activities will include an art exhibition, a screening of the popular Civil War film Glory, workshops, lectures, and a closing reception following historian David Blight’s keynote address on Saturday night. (Full schedule follows.) Continue reading
Abraham Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer will present a lecture during the evening of Nov. 9 as part of an event highlighting a two-day exhibition of Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation at the New York State Museum.
Holzer will speak at 8 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium about “Lincoln and Liberty: Re-assessing the Preliminary Proclamation in the Age of Spielberg.” Author of the new book “Emancipating Lincoln,” Holzer will explore the ever-changing reputation of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation from controversial and revolutionary order, to talismanic trophy, to maligned and misunderstood fraud — and back again to icon. The talk will come at the moment of the release of Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln,” which explores Lincoln’s concurrent roles as politician, peacemaker, and liberator. Continue reading
A massive, iconic Confederate flag, torn down by a Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, a soldier born in Saratoga County and widely remembered as the first Union officer killed in the Civil War, is now on display at the New York State Museum.
The 14-by 24-foot Marshall House Flag is being exhibited in South Hall through Feb. 24, 2013 in conjunction with the nearby 7,000-square foot exhibition on the Civil War. An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War is open through September 22, 2013 in Exhibition Hall. Continue reading
One hundred and fifty-three years ago this week John Brown led an anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, part of the radical movement of tens of thousands of Americans struggling to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War.
It’s often said that just one thing secured Brown’s place in the hearts of millions of Americans – his execution and martyrdom. But there is another more important reason to celebrate the life of John Brown – his courage in standing against unjust state and federal laws, the press, and popular culture in the cause of basic human rights. Continue reading
John Brown Lives! and North Country Community College have announced that Maine artist Robert Shetterly will be present for the unveiling of his portrait of abolitionist John Brown during Freedom Now, Freedom Then: The Long History of Emancipation, a two-day program designed for students, educators and the general public on November 30-December 1, 2012. The events will take place in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, New York.
Brown is one of the newest additions to the Americans Who Tell the Truth project that Shetterly began 10 years ago using portraits of contemporary and historical figures and their own words to offer a “link between a community of people who struggled for justice in our past and a community of people who are doing it now.”
With this portrait, Brown joins Shetterly’s pantheon of more than 180 Truth Tellers that includes Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth and Mark Twain from the nation’s past, and Bill McKibben, James Baldwin, Michelle Alexander, and Jonathan Kozol who are addressing some of humanity’s gravest concerns today.
Shetterly’s portraits have been exhibited across the country. His painting of Brown will be unveiled on Friday 30 November at North Country Community College, Saranac Lake campus, at the opening program of “Freedom Now, Freedom Then: The Long History of Emancipation”. Several other Shetterly paintings will also be exhibited at the college and at the other venues where events will be taking place.
Geared for area high school and college students, their teachers and professors, the Friday program of “Freedom Now, Freedom Then” will also feature independent scholar Amy Godine and Kenneth Morris, Jr., the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass.
Godine will talk about young men and women with North Country roots who have heeded the call for human freedman, including slain civil rights worker Andrew Goodman and criminal justice reformer Alice Green. A poster including Goodman, Green and four other civil rights champions done by Lake Placid artist Nip Rogers will also be on display.
Following in his forebear’s footsteps, Morris will talk with students about slavery in Douglass’ time and today, when more people are trafficked and held in slavery than at any other time in human history. Twenty-seven million people are enslaved in nearly every country on Earth, including the United States where State Department estimates that 15,000 women, men and children are trafficked each year. Morris will also discuss service-learning opportunities for students to join the 21st century abolitionist movement to end slavery once and for all.
Glory, the Edward Zwick film starring Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick, will be shown on Friday night (venue to be determined). Civil War Memory blogger Kevin Levin will lead a discussion immediately following the screening.
A cornerstone of John Brown Lives!’ work is to provide teachers in and outside of the classroom with high-caliber opportunities to engage with historians, scholars, anti-slavery activists and artists in an intimate setting. Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid will be the venue for a full day of workshops, presentations and conversations on the complex history of emancipation for educators, librarians, and the general public and will feature: Dr. Gloria Marshall-Browne on freedom and the Founding Documents; Dr. Margaret Washington on women and emancipation; Civil War Memory blogger Kevin Levin on film and emancipation; Magpie, the folk duo, on emancipation in song; Artist Robert Shetterly on art to promote courageous citizenship; Kenneth Morris, President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, on engaging youth, congregations and communities in emancipation today; and Dr. Franny Nudelman on emancipation our texts and textbooks.
David W. Blight, preeminent scholar on the U.S. Civil War, will give the closing keynote address, “The Historical Memory of the Civil War and Emancipation at 150” on Saturday night in Lake Placid (venue to be determined). Dr. Blight is the Director of the Center for Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University and the author of numerous award-winning books and publications including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation; and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.
For more information, presenter bios, and a complete schedule of workshops, film and music programs, visit John Brown Lives! on Facebook or contact either Martha Swan, Executive Director John Brown Lives!, or Cammy Sheridan, Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at North Country Community College. Swan may be reached at 518-962-4798 or email@example.com. Sheridan is available at 518-891-2915, ext. 1271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walter Stahr, author of a new biography on one of America’s greatest statesmen, William Henry Seward, will be visiting Florida, NY (Orange County) on October 14. The visit will include a lecture and book signing at the school founded by William Henry’s father, Samuel Sweezy Seward, which today still bears his name, the SS Seward Institute.
This will be Stahr’s third visit to Florida. His first two visits took place while he was researching his latest book, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, which took four years to complete. The biography, released in September, has already received highly favorable reviews. Continue reading
Robert Weible, State Historian of New York and Chief Curator of the New York State Museum will provide the keynote address at the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) annual dinner at 4:45 p.m. Saturday, October 20 in the Hall of Presidents at Colgate University in Hamilton NY.
Weible’s presentation “The Irrepressible Conflict: The Civil War in New York” will describe the large exhibit by the same name that opens September 22 at the state museum. The history of New York’s involvement in the Civil War – the state’s role leading up to war, during the war and Reconstruction – and the lasting impact the war had on New Yorkers – is told through four major themes: The Coming of War, The Battlefield, The Home Front, and Reconstruction and Legacy. The importance of the abolition activities in Central New York – including the acquisition of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and Gerrit Smith – will be included. Continue reading
Four Seasons, Four Years is a new Old Songs production featuring eleven singers and musicians from the Adirondacks performing a selection of songs extant in America between 1850 and 1865. This performance takes place at View (the former Old Forge Arts Center) this Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 7:30pm.
The show includes both popular songs of the period as well as songs composed in response to the Civil War itself and events leading up to it. The songs are interspersed with historical narrative specific to New York State and the New York Volunteer Regiments.
Old Songs’ presentation of Four Seasons, Four Years – The Civil War: A Musical Journey brings the songs and sounds of the Civil War back to life without stinting on the truth, the tragedy and the horror. Selections from letters, historical papers and soldier’s diaries are read between the musical passages, creating a seamless flow of narration and song.
The cast of singers and musicians include Greg Artzner, Dan Berggren, Betsy Fry, Steve Fry, Reggie Harris, Terry Leonino, John Roberts, Bill Spence, Toby Stover, Susan Trump and George Wilson. All known in their own right as fine working musicians, they have joined forces to present this unique show in observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
The songs of this period include Negro spirituals, shape-note hymns, marching songs, sentimental songs and songs and parodies written by 19th century writers such as Stephen Foster, George F. Root, the Hutchinson Family and Henry C. Work. The cast performs in individual and ensemble performances bringing these songs alive with great gusto, emotional impact and exceptional musicianship.
The production has been produced, compiled and directed by Old Songs, Inc. Executive Director Andy Spence in collaboration with the musicians. View their website at www.oldsongs.org to learn more.
You may purchase tickets by calling View at 315-369-6411 or via email info@ViewArts.org.
Tickets are $25/$20 members, and can be purchased by calling View at 315.369.6411. To learn more about View programming, visit www.ViewArts.org.
The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will honor its three 2011 inductees at commemoration ceremonies October 19 – 21, 2012. Abby Kelley Foster, Jermain Wesley Loguen, and George Gavin Ritchie will be honored with a variety of programs during the three days of the event.
The commemoration weekend opens at 3 p.m. Friday, October 19 at the Women’s Studies Center at Colgate University with a panel presentation on Abby Kelley Foster facilitated by Judith Wellman PhD. Friday evening at 7 pm performers from Milford NY will present an antislavery concert Songs and Stories of the Hutchinson Family Singers.On Saturday, October 20 at 10:00 a.m. an exhibit on George Gavin Ritchie arranged by Colgate Library Special Collections opens at the Case Library. Kate Clifford Larson PhD keynotes the buffet luncheon at 11:30 in the Hall of Presidents at Colgate. Dr. Larson will speak on Harriet Tubman and upcoming events in 2013 for the Tubman centennial. The Upstate Institute Abolition Symposia begins at 1 p.m. in Golden Auditorium at Colgate. Programs on Foster, Loguen and Ritchie will be presented during the afternoon symposia.
At 4:45 p.m. Robert Weible, State Historian of New York and Chief Curator of the New York State Museum, will present the keynote An Irrepressible Conflict: New York State in the Civil War at the annual dinner catered by the Colgate Inn. After living portrayals and dramatic presentations at 7 p.m., family members, scholars, and association representatives will unveil the honoree banners to hang in the Hall of Fame.
On Sunday, October 21, the Deli on the Green in Peterboro will open at 8:00 for breakfast. Exhibits at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro will open at 9 a.m. An exhibit on Jermain Wesley Loguen will open at 11:00 a.m. at the Onondaga Historical Association (OHA) in Syracuse. At 2 p.m. the OHA will conduct a walking tour of abolition sites in Syracuse. (Reserve at 315-428-1864 by October 16)
These programs are supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities, Abolition Agitation in New York State Sparks the War for Liberty and Justice, and with funds from the New York Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, a state agency, and the Cultural Resources Council, a regional arts council.
The public of all ages is encouraged to participate in all or parts of this annual event to learn of the important role that Central New York played in the ignition of the Civil War. For more information: www.nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org, email@example.com, 315-366-8101, 315-684-3262. Reservations for lunch, dinner, and conference packages by October 10 at mercantile.gerritsmith.org or to National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13035.
The pivotal role New York State played in the war is the focus of the 7,000-square-foot exhibition. As the wealthiest and most populous state, the Empire State led all others in supplying men, money, and materiel to the causes of unity and freedom. New York’s experience provides significant insight into the reasons why the war was fought and the meaning that the Civil War holds today. An Irrepressible Conflict will be open through September 22, 2013 in Exhibition Hall. Continue reading
Food for Thought, the popular lunch-and-lecture series at the Fenimore Art Museum, offers an in-depth understanding of the museum’s new exhibitions, including Tasha Tudor, G.C. Myers, and New York in the Civil War.
All Food for Thought programs are held on Wednesday from 12:30-2:30 pm at the Fenimore Art Museum. The museum offers two discounts: NYSHA members receive $5 off. Register for three or more Food for Thought programs at once, receive $2 off.
September 12: In Plain Sight: Hidden Gems of Native American Open Storage
Join Eva Fognell, Thaw Collection Curator, as she offers a behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s Study Center, which houses open storage of the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art. Appreciate the extraordinary range of art produced by North America’s first artists, including ritual objects, ceremonial clothing, pottery, and basketry.
September 19: Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed
Learn about America’s most prominent folk artist as Paul D’Ambrosio, President and CEO, explores the William Matthew Prior exhibition (on display through December 31).
October 10: On the Home Front: New York in the Civil War
Join John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections, as he shares Civil War artifacts from the On the Home Front exhibition. Objects tell us so much about the past and the history of those who made and used them. Learn about New York State and its place in the American Civil War through lively discussion.
October 17: Tasha Tudor Around the Year
Come for a heart-warming discussion and tour of Tasha Tudor Around the Year, an exhibition from the Norman Rockwell Museum. This exhibition illuminates beloved author and illustrator Tasha Tudor and stirs the imagination through the artist’s iconic art and greeting cards. Co-curator Jeanette Chandler Knazek reflects on the changing seasons and special celebrations as depicted by Tudor.
October 24: Oral Histories of New York’s Farm Women
Professor William Walker of the Cooperstown Graduate Program plays excerpts from oralhistory interviews with women who have lived and worked on farms in central New York State. Using recordings available on the website CGP Community Stories, Dr. Walker leads a discussion of the varied experiences of women in the agricultural heartland of the state.
November 7: Internal Landscapes: The Paintings of G.C. Myers
Guest curator Gary C. Myers joins us in a discussion and tour of his contemporary exhibition, InternalLandscapes. Learn first-hand from the artist in this amazing exhibition of paintings that provide moments of stillness and encourage reflection and a renewed sense of purpose.
November 14: Flags, Uniforms, and Insignia: New York State Material Culture of the Civil War
Ted Shuart, printing supervisor at The Farmers’ Museum and re-enactor with the 125th New York State Volunteer Infantry, discusses flags, uniforms and insignia of New York troops during the Civil War. Learn about New York State’s wartime history while looking at objects from the period and understand what they tell us about one of the most tumultuous times in American history.
Pricing Information: Lunch and lecture fee – $20 members/$25 non-members. Register for three or more Food for Thought programs at once and receive a discounted price of $18 members/$23 non-members per program. Call (607) 547-1461 with questions regarding pricing or the cancellation policy.
H. Judson Kilpatrick, a Union general during the Civil War, has been described as flamboyant, rash, and tempestuous. There’s no doubt that he was often a rogue officer, sometimes to disastrous effect. The South developed a deep hatred of him for the extreme methods he employed, but he was certainly part of the team effort that led to the North’s victory.
As every leader knew during the war, many levels of support were necessary in order to win. Despite being brash and confident in his abilities, Kilpatrick famously cited a North Country man, Captain John Viall, as critical to the general’s own success, and the Union’s as well.
John Greeley Viall, son of William and Mary Viall, was born in November 1829 in Westport, New York, on the western shore of Lake Champlain. In January 1852, when he was 22 years old, John left New York and settled in Texas. Nine months later, he purchased the San Antonio Tin, Copper, and Sheet Iron Ware Manufactory, which sold and/or fabricated stoves, cookware, water pipes, and just about anything made of metal.
Texas was still wild territory, having attained statehood just seven years earlier. Viall maintained contacts in Westport, and in a letter home in 1854, he described San Antonio as in “a state of intense excitement.” Several families had been killed by Indians, while others were scalped and left for dead in disputes along the state’s border. Viall had chosen a tough place to make a living.
In 1858, six years after he purchased the metal manufactory, the business failed. Viall returned to the North Country, where he became involved in politics. That same year, he was among the delegates to the convention in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln was nominated to succeed Stephen Douglass in the US Senate.
On September 17, 1861, several months after the outbreak of hostilities between North and South, Viall enlisted at Crown Point. For three years following induction, he served as a private, second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and captain of Company H, Fifth New York Cavalry.
From that point (July 1864) forward, John served as captain and assistant quartermaster of volunteers until his honorable discharge in November 1865. Those final 16 months of service prompted General Kilpatrick to offer high praise for Quartermaster Viall, a man burdened with tremendous responsibility.
The duties of the quartermaster were remarkably varied, deeply complex, and absolutely critical to victory. The Quartermaster Review of 1928 noted that the success of all military operations relied on the promptness and efficiency of the quartermaster.
That may sound like an exaggerated assessment of any position, but consider the Review’s description of what the job entailed during the Civil War.
“The quartermaster’s department is charged with the duty of providing the means of transportation by land and water for all the troops and all the material of war. It furnishes the horses for artillery and cavalry; supplies tents, garrison equippage, forage, lumber, and all materials for camps; builds barracks, hospitals, wagons, and ambulances; provides harness, except for artillery horses; builds or charters ships and steamers, docks and wharves; constructs or repairs roads, bridges, and railroads; clothes the army; and is charged generally with the payment of all expenses attending military operations which are not expressly assigned by law or regulation to some other department.
“… wagonmasters, agents, teamsters, scouts, and spies, all … come under the supervision and pay of the quartermaster. He must … anticipate every want of the army.
“The quartermaster … builds the warehouses at every post; repairs, refits, and furnishes all houses and offices for army use; provides all hardware and building material (nails, glass, rope, etc.) and all the machinery used; fits up hospitals for the sick; and furnishes coffins for the dead.
“He pays the mileage of officers; expenses of courts-martial, per-diem of extra-duty men; postage on public service; expenses incurred in pursuing and apprehending deserters; burials of officers and soldiers, interpreters, veterinary surgeons, clerks, mechanics, laborers, and cooks.”
For General H. Judson Kilpatrick, one of the roughest, gruffest, most controversial men in the Union army, Viall provided those services better than any of the hundreds of men who undertook them for the Union cause. The general bestowed lasting glory on him with the oft-quoted pronouncement: “John Viall is the best quartermaster in the Army of the Potomac.”
Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, the top man in the department, urged Viall to remain in the army at war’s end (ill health forced him to leave the service). Meigs himself was cited as indispensable to the Union cause by Secretary of State Seward. Clearly, Meigs’ assessment of Viall’s value was the highest of commendations.
Though working as quartermaster was the hallmark of his career, Viall did much more on the Union’s behalf, complementing a family history of stellar military service. His grandfather had fought in the Revolutionary War, “from Bunker Hill to Yorktown,” and his father had served in the War of 1812.
Impressive, for sure, but Viall’s own field experience took a back seat to none. He fought in the battles of Fredericksburg, Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, Appomattox Court House, Richmond, and dozens of others.
Throughout the remainder of his life, Viall consistently supported the military, though he struggled for reciprocation from the government. His health had suffered badly from the war, and when the military pension program was instituted in 1890, Viall began receiving $12 per month (equal to $300 in 2012).
A request for increased benefits due to stomach, kidney, and liver problems was rejected in 1892 (he was 63 at the time). Another rejection followed in 1900, even though a board of surgeons found him “totally disabled by reason of indigestion, enlarged prostate, and age.”
Finally, in 1907, the House of Representatives looked at Viall’s entire record from the Civil War. His great service was noted, leading up to a physical breakdown “from exposure and hardships in the West Virginia campaign.” Upon recovery, he had been “promoted to division quartermaster, and at the close of the war was acting quartermaster for the cavalry corps.” In retrospect, it was recognized that his efforts for the Union cause had been truly heroic.
A physician’s affidavit informed lawmakers of Viall’s current condition: “… the beneficiary is totally unable to perform any kind of manual or clerical labor due to general physical and mental debility, imperfect heart action, and senile decay.
“Other proof filed shows that the officer, owing to unfortunate financial ruin, has now nothing to live upon except the small pension of $12 per month, which is totally inadequate to maintain him. In consideration of the officer’s meritorious services for the period of four years, his great age, total inability to labor, and destitution, an increase of his pension to $24 per month is believed to be warranted.”
By an official Act of Congress on February 25, 1907, his pension was increased to $24 (equal to $575 per month in 2011).
Six years later, on September 1, 1913, John Greeley Viall—Westport native, loyal soldier, and among the best supply men to support the Union troops—died in Washington at the age of 85. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
On September 29, the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, New York, will host a second annual Americana Symposium. This year the theme is “Civil War Era Material Culture”; the event will be held at the Fenimore Art Museum from 9am until 5pm.
The symposium brings together leading scholars and experts on American history, art, and culture. After morning speaker sessions and an optional buffet lunch at noon, the 77th New York Regimental Balladeers perform in a special presentation, “Hard Times Come Again No More: America’s Heart Songs”. The balladeers preserve the songs, tunes, history, and spirit of the Antebellum and Civil War period using original musical arrangements and lyrics.
This year’s presentations include:
Symposium attendees also have the opportunity to explore the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum. Cooking demonstrations take place at The Farmers’ Museum, and a reproduction regimental silk flag will be painted at the Fenimore Art Museum. The symposium coincides with the Fenimore Art Museum’s exhibition, On the Home Front: New York in the Civil War, which runs from September 8 through December 31, 2012. The exhibition features Civil War–era artifacts, artwork, photographs and clothing.
The public is invited to explore the exciting world of Americana. Registration is limited and is $65 for NYSHA members and Archive Partnership Trust members, $75 non-members. For a complete schedule or to register online, visit FenimoreArtMuseum.org or call (607) 547-1453.
Shooting the horse of a Confederate officer convinced the rebel force which vastly outnumbered him to surrender to 1st Lt. John T. Rutherford from Waddington, St. Lawrence County, NY. Two weeks earlier, Rutherford, in command of the 9th New York Cavalry, led a successful charge that captured 90 Confederate soldiers at Yellow Tavern, VA on May 12, 1864.
Rutherford is just one of the Congressional Medal of Honor Winners from Northern New York highlighted in the traveling exhibit Hometown Heroes on display through September 15th at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton. Continue reading