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Historic America Photography

Most Venerable Cemeteries in New York

These majestic rural cemeteries are a who’s-who of New York State’s historic and influential personalities.

It’s not called “The Empire State” for no reason–New York is not only among the largest states in the U.S., it’s also among the most influential. Its citizens have made an outsized contribution to American history and culture, and today you can visit the final resting places of many of these historic and influential personalities.

Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York

Mount Hope Cemetery, at 1133 Mount Hope Avenue, in Rochester, New York, was founded in 1838 as a municipal rural cemetery on the hills overlooking the Genesee River. It sprawls over 196 acres adjacent to the University of Rochester. More than 350,000 former residents are interred there, including abolitionist Frederick Douglass, suffragette Susan B. Anthony, and city founder Nathaniel Rochester.

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Historic America

Buckland Mills Battlefield in Fauquier County, Virginia

Visit the scene of J.E.B. Stuart’s last decisive victory in Virginia before it is erased forever by suburban sprawl.

The Battle of Buckland Mills was fought on October 19, 1863 between Union cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart in Fauquier County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The skirmish, though small, was the last decisive Confederate victory in Virginia, resulting in 230 total casualties and the route of Kilpatrick’s cavalry.

Following the Gettysburg Campaign, both the Union Army of the Potomac and Confederate Army of Northern Virginia were exhausted and needed time to recover, and both Maj. Gen. George G. Meade and Gen. Robert E. Lee sent units to reinforce Tennessee. This resulted in the often overlooked Bristoe Campaign, when Lee decided to go on the offensive against a depleted Union army. After being bruised at the Battle of Bristoe Station on October 14th, Lee tasked his cavalry commander Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart to cover their retreat.

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Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: John Nill

Monument to John (1835-1919), Dora (1833-1905), and Amelia (1864-1941) Nill in Brookside Cemetery, at Watertown Center Loop and Brookside Drive, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. John Nill was a German immigrant from Nehren, Kingdom of Wurtemberg. He was a baker and cigar manufacturer by trade, Freemason, and mayor of Watertown in 1888. The inscription on his monument reads:

Humanity is our creed. To do good is our religion. The world is our home.

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Historic America

Smithsburg Battlefield in Washington County, Maryland

Visit the scene of this little-known Civil War cavalry skirmish that immediately followed the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Skirmish at Smithsburg was fought on July 5, 1863 between Union cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart in Smithsburg, Maryland during the American Civil War. It was a tactical draw, with both sides withdrawing from the area allowing Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army to continue its retreat from Gettysburg. Both sides sustained minor casualties. 

After three bloody days of fighting at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia retreated southwest toward the Potomac River and Virginia. As the main army staggered toward Williamsport, Maryland, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry division was tasked with keeping the Union army at bay and preventing it from cutting off their retreat.

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Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Elam S. P. Clapp

Headstone for Lt. Elam S. P. Clapp (1842-1864) in Oakwood Cemetery, 50 101st Street, Troy, Rensselaer County, New York. Lt. Clapp led Company A, 125th NY Volunteer Infantry, in the 3rd Brigade, First Division, II Corps, Union Army of the Potomac, at the attack on the “Mule Shoe” on March 12, 1864 during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Fighting there was some of the most desperate and bloody of the war. The regiment’s commander, Capt. E. P. Jones, was killed, and Lt. Clapp was mortally wounded. This 300-acre cemetery was established in 1848 and designed in rural style. It offers a beautiful view of the Hudson Valley and contains the remains of over 16,000 people, including Samuel “Uncle Sam” Wilson.

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Historic America

Coffee Hill Battlefield in Fauquier County, Virginia

Visit the site where Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart and his men escaped capture in this little-known Civil War skirmish.

The First and Second Battles of Auburn (aka Coffee Hill) were fought on October 13-14, 1863, between elements of the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by Maj. Gen. William H. French and Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren and elements of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell in Fauquier County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The minor battles were part of the Bristoe Campaign and resulted in approximately 163 total casualties. Both were inconclusive.

Following the Gettysburg Campaign, the opposing forces were exhausted and needed time to recover, and both Maj. Gen. George G. Meade and Gen. Robert E. Lee sent units to reinforce Tennessee. This resulted in the often overlooked Bristoe Campaign, when Lee decided to go on the offensive against a depleted Union army. He sent his cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart north to distract Meade from his movements. Stuart caught up with the Union left flank in Fauquier County on October 13th.

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Historic America

McClellan’s Forgotten Campaign

After Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861, no one was sure what would happen next. When Virginia seceded in May, a young Union general named George B. McClellan invaded northwestern Virginia. Few remember this minor campaign, but it launched him to national fame and notoriety.

When Virginia voters ratified the decision of its secession convention on May 23, 1861, Richmond had already been proclaimed the Confederate capital and militia units were mobilizing. As commander of the Department of the Ohio, Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan invaded northwestern Virginia under the pretext of protecting unionists there. Western counties would later vote to secede from Virginia and form the state of West Virginia.

McClellan sent 3,000 volunteer troops into Virginia under the overall command of Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris. Opposing them were approximately 800 poorly trained and equipped militia commanded by Col. George A. Porterfield gathered at the town of Grafton. Porterfield retreated to Philippi as the Union army advanced. Morris divided his force into two columns, which converged on Philippi and the Confederates camped there.

Skirmish at Philippi

Before dawn on June 3rd, the Confederates were sheltering from the rain in their tents and were almost taken completely by surprise, if not for a local woman firing her pistol at the Union troops. The Confederates broke and ran with Morris’ men in hot pursuit, leading Northern journalists to call the fight the “Races at Philippi”.