Tag Archives: Civil War

Fenimore Lunch Lecture Series Spotlights New Exhibits


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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.

North Country’s Union General H. Judson Kilpatrick


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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.

Photos:  Captain’s medal of John Greeley Viall; Major General H. Judson Kilpatrick.
Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Americana Symposium: Civil War Era Material Culture


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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:

  • “Seeing the Civil War: Artists, Photographers, Cartoonists, and Pictorial News and Views,” Joshua Brown, American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning

  • “Photographic Techniques During the American Civil War,” Mark Osterman, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film

  • “Food in the Civil War,” Andrew F. Smith, food and culinary historian

  • “Emblems of Devotion: New York State’s Civil War Battle Flags, 1861-1862,” Christopher Morton, New York State Military Museum

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.

John L. Dunlap: America’s Second ‘Old Hickory’


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In 1863, urged by New York’s 35th Regiment to run for President, Watertown’s John L. Dunlap consented and was again promoted as the Second Old Hickory of America. He wanted Ulysses Grant as his running mate (Grant was busy at the time, leading the North in the Civil War), and he received impressive promises of political support at the Chicago convention.
A poll of passengers on a train running from Rochester to Syracuse yielded surprising results: For Abraham Lincoln, 50 votes; George B. McLellan, 61; John C. Fremont, 6; and Dr. John L. Dunlap, Watertown, 71!

History reveals that Lincoln did, in fact, triumph, but Dunlap didn’t lose for lack of trying. He secured the nomination of the Peoples’ Party at their convention in Columbus, Ohio, and none other than Ulysses S. Grant was selected as his vice-presidential running mate. Dunlap received congratulations from New York Governor Horatio Seymour for winning the nomination.
The widely distributed handbill (poster) for Dunlap/Grant used the slogan, “Trust in God, and keep your powder dry,” and promised, “Clear the track, the two Great War Horses of the North and West are coming! The one will suppress the rebellion with the sword, and the other will heal the nation with his medicines and his advice.”
Among Dunlap’s early campaign stops in the 1864 election were Troy, Albany, and Washington, D.C. He was handicapped by having to campaign alone since Grant was still pursuing Lee on the battlefield. But as always, Dunlap gave it his best effort. Known as a fierce patriot and a man of the people, he was very popular at many stops.
Two years later, he sought the nomination for governor and also received 12 votes for representative in the 20th Congressional Districtnot a lot, but higher than four of his opponents.
In 1868, Dunlap again pursued the presidency, this time seeking General Philip Sheridan as his running mate. Had the effort been supported, he would have squared off against two familiar faceshis former running mate, Grant, was the Republican nominee, while his former opponent for governor, Horatio Seymour, won the Democratic nomination.
Shortly after President Grant’s inauguration, he received a special congratulatory gift: a case of medicines from Dr. John L. Dunlap. In a related story (from the Watertown Daily Times in the 1920s), the Scott family of Watertown claimed that Dunlap once sent a bottle of cough syrup via Judge Ross Scott to Secretary of State William Seward (in Auburn, New York).
Seward delivered the bottle to Lincoln, who reportedly said, “Tell Dr. Dunlap I’ve tried it on my buckwheat pancakes and it’s the best substitute for maple syrup I know of.”
In 1870, Watertown’s John L. Dunlap was named as a candidate for Congress, and in 1872 he declared once again for the presidency. When General William Tecumseh Sherman toured the North Country, Dunlap met with him and suggested they become running mates. Included in his proposed platform was a single term of only four years for any president, and the elimination of electors in favor of counting the people’s votes.
An Ogdensburg newspaper supported his candidacy with these words: “Dr. Dunlap is a staid and conservative old gentleman. If elected, he would lend honor, virtue, dignity, and character to the party.” The Watertown Re-Union added, “Whatever may be said of the other candidates, Doctor Dunlap is a genuine Jackson Democrat, one of the real old stock.”
Of eight candidates, the Ogdensburg Journal said Dunlap was “the most consistent, if not the ablest, of all named. … If the people should be so fortunate as to elect him as their President, they will find him a true man.”
In Albany (the doctor’s old haunts prior to 1850), a Dunlap Club of 6,000 members was organized, and in Vermont, adjacent to his longtime home in Washington County, New York, he enjoyed strong support. For a campaign with meager resources, things were going quite well.
But then, as if to legitimize his candidacy, the unthinkable happened: an assassination attempt. The Troy Weekly Times reported that an effort to shoot Dr. Dunlap had failed, and that he had also been offered money in exchange for withdrawing his candidacy. Other newspapers denied the bribe story.
Meanwhile, the good doctor continued giving speeches in major cities (including his old July 4th oration from two decades earlier, which was ever-popular) and continued selling his medicines. He sought the nomination at several different party conventions, but was unsuccessful.
Just weeks after the 1872 election, Dunlap was off to Europe. It was at this point in his life that certain events occurred, events that would somewhat cloud his career and paint him as truly eccentricand for good reason.
Through his decades as a Washington County physician, his years of selling medicines to anyone that he met, and a lifetime of politics, Dunlap had always been a vigorous self-promoter. He loved the limelight, and it seemed to love him as well. The media was more than happy to offer the latest news on Dunlap’s unusual life. Yes, he was different, but he was clearly an intelligent man who enjoyed living life to the fullest.
Next week: The conclusionDunlap rises to the international stage.
Photo: Advertisement for one of Dunlap’s syrups (1863).
Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Hometown Heroes Exhibit in St. Lawrence County


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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

Peter Feinman: New York and the Civil War


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The Union may have won the war but the South has won Civil War tourism and its legacy. It’s an extraordinary fact of life that wherever the National Park Service has a site, a battle was fought there! And they are all in the South with the major exception of Gettysburg.

Time and time again presentations on life back then in antebellum (before the war) times begin with Gone with the Wind, still the box-office champion adjusted for inflation. What story does the North including New York have to tell that can compare with the pageantry of the South, the chivalry of the idealized plantation, and the glamour of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh? Freedom and preserving the Union that made the world safe for democracy in the three world wars in the 20th century should count for something, even for Confederates. Continue reading

World On Fire: Britain’s Role in Civil War


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Amanda Foreman’s New York Times bestseller A World On Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War  (Random House Paperback, 2012) uncovers the pivotal role Britain and its citizens played during the Civil War. The book was named one of the Best Books of the Year in 2011 by The New York Times and The Economist, and has won the Fletcher Pratt Civil War Prize, and was named as a finalist for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, the Lincoln Prize, the Jefferson Davis Prize, the Lionel Gelber Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Continue reading

Civil War Weekend at Robert Moses State Park, Massena


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The 11th annual Civil War Reenactment Weekend at Robert Moses State Park in Massena will be held this Saturday and Sunday, July 28-29. The Reenactment Weekend is part of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s (SLCHA) Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which began in 1861.

Union and Confederate reenactors will stage mock battles, perform military drills, talk about camp life, and demonstrate such skills as coffin-making, cooking, cannon firing, and medical practices. There will be a fashion show of Civil War-era clothing, a basket auction, historical displays and period music. 
Reenactors from New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Ontario and Quebec, Canada, are expected to attend, including, President Lincoln, several generals, and sutlers (vendors of period goods and clothing).
The military camps are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 am to 2 pm on Sunday. Mock battles will be at 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Closing ceremonies will follow the Sunday battle. The Marine Corps League, St. Lawrence County Detachment 408 provides a food concession both days.

The St. Lawrence County Historical Association presents the weekend, which is hosted by the 2nd Michigan, Co. E Reenactment Unit. Admission is $4 per person per day, free for children 6 and under, maximum charge of $15 per vehicle. For more information, call SLCHA at 315-386-8133, e-mail info@slcha.org, or visit their website.

In addition to SeaComm Federal Credit Union, other sponsors include Gene and Connie Barto, and Stewart’s Shops.

The St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House is open Tuesday through Saturday noon to 4 p.m., Friday noon to 8 p.m. Admission to the museum is free; admission to the archives is free for members and children, $2.50 for college students, and $5 for the general public. The St. Lawrence County Historical Association is located at 3 E. Main St., Canton. Parking is available in the back of the SLCHA, next to the museum’s main entrance.

The St. Lawrence County Historical Association is a membership organization open to anyone interested in St. Lawrence County history. For more information, or to become a member, call the SLCHA at 315-386-8133 or e-mail info@slcha.org.

Photo: Union troops from the 2nd Michigan in the field during a previous Civil War Reenactment Weekend. 

The Civil War And The Adirondacks: 1861-1865


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One hundred fifty years ago this country was torn apart by a great civil war. The Adirondack Museum will host a weekend dedicated to remembering the Civil War in the Adirondacks, the men who fought it and their loved ones at home, this Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22.

Visitors will be able to meet the members of the 118th Volunteer Infantry (the “Adirondack” Regiment”) and President Lincoln at a Civil War Encampment and learn the fate of Adirondack Civil War soldiers of the 118th themselves at a specially produced  presentation by author Glenn Pearsall on Saturday (7:00 p.m.) entitled “The Adirondacks Go To War: 1861 – 1865.”

In the Adirondacks many young men, boys really, left their hard scrabble farms and small towns for the first time in their lives to enlist. Learn what their thoughts were as they marched off to war and how they reacted to the horrors of war. Hear what it was like for the wives, children, mothers and father that they left behind, as well as the lasting impact of the war on the small towns in the Adirondacks following the war.

Pearsall spent two years researching the Civil War veterans from Johnsburg in the southeastern Adirondacks before preparing this special program based on letters and journals (which will be read by a Civil War re-enactors in uniform). The presentation will also include over 100 historic photographs of soldiers and battlefield scenes. “Each member of the audience will be given a name of a soldier from the Adirondacks who fought in the war and will ultimately find out if they survived the war,”  he told the New York History.

Pearsall’s presentation will focus on men serving with the 22nd New York (one of the first to respond to President Lincoln’s call to arms and recruited in Warren and Saratoga Counties), the 93rd (recruited from Essex, Fulton, Hamilton and Warren Counties who suffered horrific losses in the contest between U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee), the 96th or “Plattsburgh Regiment” (recruited primarily from Clinton County), the 115th (recruited from Hamilton and Fulton Counties) and the 118th or “Adirondack Regiment” (recruited from Clinton, Essex and Warren Counties, the first regiment to enter the Confederate capital in Richmond on its fall). Pearsall will also explain a special Adirondack link to the capture of John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.

The “Adirondack Regiment” will also be the focus of the weekend-long encampment at the Museum.  Mustered into service in August 1862, over one thousand North Country men served in the unit. Re-enactors will camp at the museum and share stories of camp life, and what it was like to be a soldier in the Civil War. Visitors will learn about the 118th assignments and movements, the battles they fought in, and the historic moment when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House.

President Lincoln will be portrayed by John R. Baylis, who has appeared as the 16th President of the United States at Gettysburg, Antietam, Cedar Creek, Ottawa, and as far south as Key West.

Pearsall’s presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. The program will be offered at no charge to museum members; the fee for non-members is $5.00. For additional information, please visit www.adirondackmuseum.org or call (518) 352-7311.


Photo: A volunteer infantry soldier of the  118th “Adirondack Regiment” (circa 1863, courtesy Adirondack Museum). 

Henry Markham: New York’s Governor of California


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The section of Wilmington referred to as Haselton was once known as Markhamville. The name came from settlers who arrived prior to 1800, and it was more than a century before the change was made to Haselton. Among the early-nineteenth-century residents was Nathan Markham, who earned a living in iron manufacturing before turning to farming. He and wife Susan raised six sons and four daughters. The Markham work ethic served them well.
Three daughters and two sons were teachers in area schools. Several sons became prominent businessmen in different cities, and four of them were successful attorneys. George became the president of Northwest Mutual Life, an insurance company that is now 153 years old and holds more than $1 trillion in individual policies. And Henry became the governor of California.

Henry Harrison Markham was born in Wilmington on November 16, 1840. At the age of 19, he was still working on the family farm, but extended his education by attending Vermont’s Wheeler Academy, from which he graduated in 1862. Shortly after, he moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on the western shore of Lake Michigan.
An overriding concern at the time was the war, and just as his young father (only 18) had fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, 23-year-old Henry enlisted, joining the North’s Civil War forces in December 1863. Tracking the movements of Company G, 32nd Wisconsin Infantry reveals their role in Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. Henry survived that campaign, but for him, the war ended soon after.
In January 1865 in South Carolina, the troops of the 32nd had slogged their way for days through the muddy morass of Whippy Swamp, sometimes waste deep in cold water. At a place known as River’s Bridge, the Confederates released a hellfire in defense of their position, but a relentless push forward by Union troops forced the rebels to fall back.
Dozens died in the battle, and Henry was badly wounded. After a period of recovery at Beaufort, S.C., he was mustered out in May 1865 as a 2nd Lieutenant. Returning to Wisconsin, Henry took up the study of law with a well-known firm, and within a few short years, he was admitted to legal practice at various levels, including the US Supreme Court.
When his brother Charles arrived, they formed a very successful law partnership in Milwaukee. Henry was joined in marriage with Mary Dana at Waukesha, Wisconsin, in May 1876, and from outward appearances, life was good.
But illness and the nagging effects of his war injuries took an increasing toll, compelling Henry to seek a more healthful climate. Catching his eye was a magazine advertisement: “To Health Seekers—A Beautiful Home in a Beautiful Land—A Fruit Farm in Southern California.” With 22 acres, 750 fruit trees, and a vineyard, Henry was sold. In the late 1870s, Pasadena, California, became the new Markham homestead.
In addition to operating his fruit orchard, Henry kept busy pursing civic and business interests in California. Besides investing in various mines, he helped found the Pasadena Public Library and served on the school board, assuming a position of prominence in the community.
In 1884, the Republican Party in southern California was searching for a strategy to defeat the Democrats, who had long wielded power. A few interested candidates seemed lackluster at best, and Henry was approached as a dark horse possibility. He consented, and then did what he had always done in any endeavor: worked hard. Success followed, and for the next two years, the interests of southern California were looked after in Washington by Congressman Markham.
At re-election time in 1886, he seemed a sure bet to win again. But, just as he had reluctantly surrendered his law practice in Wisconsin, Henry said “Thanks, but no thanks” in declining the opportunity. The east-coast climate had again diminished his health, and he opted for civilian life in Pasadena rather than another term in Washington.
Aware of his leadership capabilities and his interest in the plight of war veterans, Congress elected him as a manager of the National Homes for Disabled Soldiers. The position was unpaid, and Henry frequently used his own money to finance related expenditures. In that regard, the home in Santa Monica greatly benefited from his largesse.
In 1887, Henry commissioned a magnificent three-story home to be built on his property (the cost in 2010 translates to well over $1 million). The huge mansion would easily accommodate his growing family (three young daughters), but Henry wanted more for them. He began building a playhouse, specially constructed to also accommodate Dad, who was 6 feet 2 inches tall. It was a beloved structure that the children shared for years with many friends.
Next week: Markham’s career rises to new heights.
Photos: Top―Henry Harrison Markham, circa 1864. Bottom―The Markham Mansion, once a landmark in Pasadena, California.
The story of Henry Markham is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack & North Country Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Women’s Rights NHP Offers History Trading Cards


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Trading cards have been popular with kids for generations, from images of sports figures to movie stars. Now, Women’s Rights NHP is offering free trading cards featuring cards of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Wesleyan Chapel, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Martha and William Wright.

The cards available at Women’s Rights NHP are part of a series of 550 cards available at participating national parks throughout the United States. To “earn” a trading card, kids may participate in a ranger-led tour or answer a question about their visit to the park.

“The trading cards are vehicles for telling some ‘lesser-known’ stories – including the stories of civilians, women, African-Americans and American Indians,” said Superintendent Tammy Duchesne. The trading cards are a great way to engage kids with our history as a nation, both here at Women’s Rights NHP and throughout the United States. According to Duchesne, the cards also provide an incentive to families with children to visit all parks which offer the cards.

For more information, please visit their website at www.nps.gov/wori or call (315) 568-0024. You can also follow the park’s social media sites for Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their upcoming programs.
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Teaching the Hudson Valley from Civil War to Civil Rights


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Educators are invited to discover new ways to use the region’s special places to teach about controversy and decision making at In Conflict Crises: Teaching the Hudson Valley from Civil War to Civil Rights and Beyond. Registration is now open for THV’s annual institute, July 24-26, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Presidential Library in Hyde Park.

This year’s opening talk, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Controversy and  Connection in the Classroom of Life, will feature Kim and Reggie Harris, musicians, storytellers, educators, and interpreters of history. Accepting THV’s invitation they wrote, “Our nation’s history is filled with conflict, opposition, controversy, and crisis, but is also rich in perseverance, collaboration, determination, and compromise. We look forward to reflecting on ways to use these realities to prepare students to be thinkers and problem solvers.”

During the institute, more than 15 workshops will connect educators with historians, writers, and scientists, as well as their colleagues from schools, parks, and historic sites throughout the Valley. Topics include
Evaluating Scientific Claims (Cary Institute), Using ELA Common Core to Teach Controversy (Lewisboro Elementary School teachers), and Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State and the Civil War, (New York State Museum).

On day 2 of the institute participants will choose one of six in-depth field experiences at Columbia County History Museum (Kinderhook), Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and FDR Presidential Library (Hyde Park), Fishkill Depot, Katherine W. Davis River Walk Center (Sleepy Hollow), Mount Gulian Historic Site (Beacon), or Palisaides Interstate Park.

You can find out more about the program online

Photo: Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, courtesy Bill Urbin, Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, National Park Service.

Book Features Confederates at Elmira Prison Camp


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Michel Fortlouis, a young Confederate soldier, weary of war, was captured by Union troops at Clinton, Louisiana, thirty miles from his home of New Roads. It was August 1864, in the last year of the Civil War. Corporal Fortlouis was shipped north to the Union Prison Camp at Elmira, New York, where he died of pneumonia within ten days of his arrival. More than 12,000 young Southern men passed through the camp. Many suffered the harsh winter. Nearly 3,000 died.

In their Honor – Soldiers of the Confederacy – The Elmira Prison Camp (2009, New York History Review) remembers these men and boys, and tells their stories. Research by author Diane Janowski, who lives in Elmira, brings an  awareness of the soldiers’ relationships – brothers, fathers and sons, cousins and friends. Descendants of the soldiers have contributed harrowing stories of survival or despair. They were captured together. Some made it home.

“This is a different kind of book about the Elmira Prison Camp,” Janowski says. “Many writers and scholars in recent years have done a fine job researching and publishing information about the prison camp’s horrors. I decided to ask the families of some of the prisoners. With 21st century technology I found some families that were willing to talk about this difficult subject.”

The book is not about war strategy, nor conditions inside the camp, the first 40 pages or so offers personal accounts of how the men and boys ended up in Elmira. The rest of In their Honor’s 218 pages  includes photos and diagrams of the camp and a complete revised list of the Confederate dead at Woodlawn National Cemetery.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

North Star Underground RR Museum Opens for Season


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New York’s newest Underground Railroad museum kicked off its second season last week and will present a series of presentations this year entitled “Hot Spots of Anti-Slavery Activity in the North Country,” supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council of the Northern Adirondacks.

This Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, there will be tours of Underground Railroad sites in Peru and Keeseville at 9:30, both led by Don Papson.  There is a $10 fee; call 834-5180 to pre-register. Also, historic re-enactor Barbara Wass will portray Catherine Keese, the committed Peru abolitionist at 10 a.m. on Saturday and 1:30 on Sunday.  Those events are free.


On June 2, during Museum Day festivities, the Museum will present, “The War Before the War,” about the radical abolition movement that responded to the Fugitive Slave Law and other pro-slavery leanings by the federal government leading up to the Civil War.

Jane Williamson, director of the Rokeby Farm museum in Vermont, will illuminate the organizing efforts that mushroomed in Vermont and Northern New York.

The North Star Museum first opened in May 2010, and drew over 4,000 visitors to the restored stone house overlooking Ausable Chasm, just a few miles from Lake Champlain. Education programs are offered for school children, both at the museum and in schools, and the museum shop boasts an extensive collection of books on slavery, abolition, the underground railroad and related topics. For further information, visit: www.northcountryundergroundrailroad.com.

1862 Focus of Peterboro Civil War Weekend


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The Peterboro Civil War Weekend Committee invites the public to step back to 1862 on June 9 and 10 to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The 12th U.S. Infantry hosts the encampment. For two decades the Peterboro encampment has demonstrated aspects of military and civilian life. In recent years exhibits and programs on abolition and the Underground Railroad have been added.

During the event Peterboro relives the period of the mid 1800s when the hamlet held national recognition because of Gerrit Smith’s Underground Railroad station, the visitations of famous abolitionists, and the connection with John Brown that sparked the Civil War. Peterboro sites are on the Heritage NY Underground Railroad Trail and on the National Park Service Network to Freedom Underground Railroad Trail.In 1862 the United States was in the second year of its Civil War. In 1862 Peterboro citizens prepared for service in that war. The 20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend will commemorate the nation’s Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, as well as celebrate the 20th anniversary of the educational and fund-raising event in the historic hamlet of Peterboro, Town of Smithfield in Madison County, NY.

According to the research of Smithfield Town Historian Donna Dorrance Burdick, the Utica Morning Herald & Daily Gazette reported that “Gerrit Smith has donated twenty-five dollars to each volunteer from this town who has enlisted under the last call of the President. The town has raised more than the whole quota of men required by the last two calls of the President.”

Days later a farewell reception was held on the Peterboro village green for the 157th NY Volunteer Infantry, a unit raised with men from Madison and Cortland counties. On horseback Smith addressed the troops and arranged for copies of the New Testament to be placed in the knapsack of each soldier. 150 years later on that same Peterboro green, during the opening day of the weekend, Dick Enders as Gerrit Smith and members of the 157th New York Volunteers (reenacting) will recreate segments of this 1862 scene. On Saturday Major Carmichael aka Don Jeffrey will host an exhibit on the 157th at the Smithfield Community Center.

During the weekend event, information on Smithfield citizens who served in the Civil War will be featured at the Peterboro Area Museum. Donna Dorrance Burdick, Smithfield Town Historian, has assembled town records, pension notices, discharge papers, letters, and other documents on the 157th NY Volunteers, as well as other military units and individuals. Burdick and her sister Beth Dorrance Spokowsky, President of the Peterboro Area Museum, will also be conducting their popular and informative tour of the Hamlet of Peterboro on Saturday and Sunday.

On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln shared his early draft of the (Preliminary) Emancipation Proclamation with his Cabinet. Lincoln released the final Emancipation Proclamation in January of the following year and donated the draft copy to the U.S. Sanitary Commission for a raffle to raise funds for the troops. Gerrit Smith bought most, if not all of the raffle tickets, and thus, became owner of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which he, in turn, donated back to the Sanitary Commission.That priceless document now resides in the New York State Library thanks to NYS legislative action in 1865.

During the 20th Civil War Weekend a facsimile of the proclamation given to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum by the NYS Library will be on display at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro. The U.S. Sanitary Commission and Abraham Lincoln (aka Jack Baylis) will once again be at the weekend event.

1862 is the year that legends and research indicate that the short musical piece of Taps began to be played to indicate the end of the day for soldiers. Cheryl Pula, Secretary of the (Brigadier General) Daniel Butterfield Civil War Round Table (which will be participating in the weekend event), explains “Butterfield wrote Taps at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia. The story is that he was tired of the bugle call used for “lights out,” so he wrote a new call, and gave it to his bugler, Oliver Norton. Norton played it, and the tune caught on, even with the Confederates who overheard it and used it.” The 2012 Peterboro Civil War Weekend will close on Sunday, June 10 with Taps in recognition of its addition to military regimen 150 years ago.

The annual event is an educational and fundraising event sponsored by the Smithfield Community Association, the Town of Smithfield, and private donors. Proceeds from the event support the preservation and promotion of the heritage of the Town of Smithfield. Saturday, June 9 hours are 10 am – 5 pm, and Sunday, June 10 from 10 am – 4 pm. Admission is $8 for adults, $3 for ages 6 – 12, and free for children under 6. Parking is free. For more information contact 315-684-3262 and civilwarweekend.sca-peterboro.org

Wanda Burch on Civil War Letters "The Home Voices Speak Louder than the Drums"


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On August 7, 1862, Henry Graves, physically exhausted from walking, fighting, and from four days detail digging trenches under a Petersburg, Virginia, sun and not “a breath of air stirring,” sat down and wrote to his wife, describing the importance of the imagination to survival.

He saw himself standing – not with spade in hand – but eating from a bowl of peaches in the midst of “homefolk” with his coat off, moving across the piazza, enjoying the cool breeze “that almost always is blowing fresh through there.” He told her that he often went into this place in his imagination to pass time swiftly and shared that “soldier mortals” would not survive if they were not “blessed with the gift of imagination and the pictures of hope.” The second “angel of mercy,” he said, was the night dream, which presented him even more vivid pictures of hope than any daydream. Continue reading

Civil War Legal Issues Conference Planned


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A conference entitled “Civil War on Trial-Legal Issues That Divided A Nation” will feature a three-day program over June 7-9, 2012, include some of the foremost Civil War and Constitutional scholars in the nation on the subjects of the Civil War and the law, and will look at this iconic period in American history in a way unique from virtually all other conferences nationwide. The conference is being chaired by nationally prominent Civil War scholars Paul Finkelman and Harold Holzer.

The conference will be held on the campus of Albany Law School in Albany, New York from June 7-9, 2012. For more information on the conference agenda and registration, go to www.nysarchivestrust.org or call (518) 473-7091.

The New York State Archives Partnership Trust and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, in cooperation with the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York, the New York State Bar Association, and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation are organizing the conference. Principal financial support has been provided by History Channel and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation.

Poughkeepsie’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument


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One of our contentions at the Hudson River Valley Institute has always been that you can go anywhere by starting exactly where you are. The closest I ever came to losing this argument was at a Teaching American History conference with a gentleman from New Mexico. “It’s easy for you – the Hudson Valley has nearly 400 years of colonial history and documented prehistory before that,” he said “all we have are aliens (Roswell) and those German POW scientists from WWII.” (He had just finished a presentation about the latter). But he went on to explain that even in that state’s most isolated towns, there was at least one war memorial with the names of local soldiers who served their country, and when they shipped out, they charted a course around the nation and the world leaving a path for students today to trace through history. Continue reading

Documenting the Birthplace of Mathew Brady


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What follows is a guest essay by Glenn L. Pearsall who recently confirmed the birthplace of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady in Warren County, NY. The essay originally appeared in the Warren County Historical Society newsletter.

On November 10, 2011 the Town of Johnsburg Historical Society commemorated the birthplace of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. They had a cast iron historic marker made and placed at the entrance of the C. Ernest Noxon Community Center in Wevertown, Warren County, NY. Brady was born in Johnsburg Township about 4 miles south of Wevertown in 1822 or 1823. A story of that dedication ceremony was featured in the Glens Falls Post Star and then picked up by the Associated Press. From there the story was distributed nationally and online versions of the story appeared across the country including the Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News and the New York Times.

The research into documenting Brady birthplace in Johnsburg began in 2006 and reads like a detective story or an episode of the PBS show “History Detectives”.

Mathew (only one “t”) Brady was an internationally known figure and much of what we know of the Civil War and famous leaders of the 19th Century comes from his photographs. Mathew Brady’s photographs of the dead at the battle of Antietam, featured in his New York City Gallery on October 1862, brought home to America for the first time the true horror of the Civil War. His corps of photographers documented that war with tens of thousands of photographs. His February 9, 1864 picture of Abraham Lincoln was featured on the U.S. $5 bill since 1928 and when that bill was re-designed in March of 2008 a new picture of Lincoln was used, taken by Brady that same day in 1864. Although most famous for his Civil War work, Brady’s Gallery of Illustrious Americans featured luminaries from Andrew Jackson to Andrew Carnegie. Brady’s work helped record and preserve American history, and yet, until just recently, the birthplace of this famous American remained a mystery.

Mathew Brady’s personal letters indicate that he was born north of Lake George, NY of “poor Irish immigrant parents”. Most Brady biographies are silent as to his exact place of birth. Others list his birthplace as Lake George, or just Warren County, New York. Local folklore here in the southeastern Adirondacks has said for years that he was born in Johnsburg, NY, but there was no documentation to substantiate that claim.

In 2006 I began research for my first book Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, An Adirondack Community (Pyramid Press, 2008, recipient of a “Letter of Commendation” from the 35 county Upstate History Alliance in 2009). In writing that book I took on the challenge to try to actually document the place of Brady’s birth.

The Federal Census in the early 1800s does not include the names of children. I began, therefore, with Mathew Brady’s father. It is commonly acknowledged that Mathew Brady died in New York City January 15, 1896. With his name and date and place of death it was easy to obtain a certified copy of Mathew Brady’s death certificate from the New York City Dept of Health (New York City Death Certificate #1746). That certificate lists his father as Andrew and mother as Julia. The death certificate notes his place of birth only as “U.S.”.

An inspection of the 1830 Federal Census of towns north of Lake George indicated that the only Andrew Brady listed was in the Census for the Town of Johnsburgh (then spelled with a “h”). That census lists Andrew Brady with 5 children; three boys and two girls. Two of those boys are listed in that 1830 census between the ages 5 to 10. Most sources list Mathew Brady as being born in 1822 or 1823 so he would have been 7 or 8 in 1830. The only reference to an exact date of birth is on www.NNDB.com which lists his date of birth as January 15, 1823, but there is no documentation listed for this and the exact date of January 15th may be confused with his date of death on January 15, 1896, 72 years later).

The next challenge was to determine exactly where he might have been born. In the early 1980s I had visited regularly with Lewis Waddell, then Town of Johnsburg Historian (now long since deceased). Lewis had told me about where the old foundation site was, but we never got around to visiting it together so I was not sure of its exact location. In the Johnsburg Historical Society files, however, I found a sketch that Lewis Waddell had made as to the location of the foundation. It was not to scale, however, so it took some exploring. Bushwhacking around the base of Gage Mountain my wife Carol and son Adam and I located the old road that went from the Glen to Wevertown (the road was later straightened and is now NYS RT 28). Referencing the other foundations along that old road that Waddell had sketched in, we located what I believe to be the foundation of the house where Mathew Brady was born in 1822 or 1823.

The actual site of Brady’s birthplace lies 4.1 miles south of Wevertown off of NYS Rt 28. The house foundation lies about 275 yards off the west side of the road (GPS N 63 degrees 36’00.6”x W 73 degrees 52’44.4”) on private property.

It has been written that Brady left the area at age 16 (in 1838 or 1839). Some sources indicate that his first stop was Saratoga Springs, N.Y. where he met famed portrait painter William Page. Brady became Page’s student and in 1839 the two of them travelled to Albany, N.Y. In 1844 they continued south to New York City where Brady’s instructions were supplemented under the tutelage of Samuel F. B. Morse (portrait painter and inventor of the single wire telegraph system). Morse was enthusiastic about the new art of capturing images through daguerreotype having met Louis Jacques Daguerre in Paris in 1839. Soon Brady was also excited about the new process and established his first photographic studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street. In 1849 he established a studio in Washington D.C. so that he could photograph the famous men of his time there.

In 1896, depressed by the death of his wife Juliet (“Julia” Handy) 9 years earlier and suffering from alcoholism and loneliness, Mathew Brady died in the charity ward of the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Penniless at the time of his death, his funeral was paid for by veterans of the famous 7th New York Volunteer Infantry. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Photos: Above, Glenn Pearsall at the re-discovered Mathew Brady foundation in Johnsburg; middle, a hand drawn map by former Town of Johnsburg Historian Lewis Waddell showing the possible location of the Brady homestead (not to scale); below, the newly installed historic marker in nearby Wevertown, NY. (Photos courtesy Glenn Pearsall).

Adirondack Local History: Echoes in these Mountains


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Glenn L. Pearsall’s Echoes in these Mountains, is subtitled “Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community,” but thanks to Pearsall, a tireless advocate for local history, those historic sites and stories are being remembered.

The geography of Johnsburg, the largest township in New York State, is central to Echoes in these Mountains. The book is arranged in chapters highlighting various historic sites, all with handy maps to help locate them on the landscape. That approach – locating historical stories around town on the landscape – is part of what drives Pearsall’s personal exploration of his town’s history, and what led to the answer to an interesting historical question.

In 2006, as Pearsall began writing Echoes in these Mountains he set out to confirm long-held local oral history that Mathew Brady was born in Johnsburg and lived there until heading off to become, after his death, the most famous photographer of Civil War. (Brady’s photograph of Abraham Lincoln appears on the $5 bill – both the old and new designs).

From Brady’s personal letters historians had long known that he was born and spent his youth north of Lake George. Pearsall confirmed through vital records and census schedules that Brady had in fact grown up in Johnsburg, off the old road that went from the Glen to Wevertown (now the straightened Route 28). Bushwacking the old road near Gage Mountain, which now crosses private property, Pearsall found the remains of the homestead.

The story is illustrative of the trove of historical sites in Adirondack small towns, some yet hidden, some in plain sight. Echoes in these Mountains brings those in Johnsburg to life again.

The book is handy as well. GPS locations of each of the book’s 55 historic sites are included in addition to the maps, along with a driving tour. At more than 400 pages, this local history is comprehensive, and well footnoted, though disappointingly lacking an index when would make it all the more important a as reference work. But that’s a minor complaint considering the depth and breadth of Pearsall’s effort. It’s among the most important references to Johnsburg’s local history and an outstanding small study of one Adirondack community.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.