Left Unspoken

Left Unspoken
Monument to Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Carr in Oakwood Cemetery, 50 101st Street, Troy, Rensselaer County, New York. During the Civil War, Carr commanded a brigade in the Union Army of the Potomac at the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.

He was wounded near the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg and went on to command a division in the Union Army of the James. He was promoted to major general in March 1865, just before the end of the war. He also served as Secretary of State of New York for five years.

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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Fields of Pestilent Grief

Fields of Pestilent Grief
Headstone for 1LT William H. Pohlman (1842-1863) in Albany Rural Cemetery, on Cemetery Avenue off NY State Route 32, in Menands, Albany County, New York. William served as an adjutant in the 59th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the 3rd Brigade, Second Division, II Corps of the Union Army of the Potomac. He was wounded twice at the Battle of Gettysburg, the second time during Pickett’s Charge, when the 59th NY repelled elements of Kemper’s Brigade from their position south of the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. He died of his wounds on July 21, 1863.

For All I Am

For All I Am
Monument to Major John S. Koster (1841-1921) in Port Leyden Cemetery on River Road and Main Street in Port Leyden, Lewis County, New York. Maj. Koster served in Company H, 21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War. The 21st Massachusetts was part of Ferrero’s Brigade in the Union Army of the Potomac, which captured Burnside’s Bridge during the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. It sustained 35 percent casualties at the Battle of Chantilly, which occurred during Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s pursuit of Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s army after the Second Battle of Bull Run.

The Elusive Light

The Elusive Light
This beautiful, neoclassical bronze statue, called “Meditation” and designed by sculptor Charles Calverley, depicts a woman sitting in contemplation under the maple trees. It is a monument to Jeptha (1820-1887) and Sarah (1818-1907) Boulware in Albany Rural Cemetery, on Cemetery Avenue off NY State Route 32, in Menands, Albany County, New York. The couple had two children, Theodrick (1844-1876) and Hannah (1845-1901). Dr. Jeptha R. Boulware was a surgeon and a major in the 177th Regiment, New York National Guard during the American Civil War.

Esquire Writer’s Embarrassing Historical Ignorance

Political commentators should leave historical observations to historians.

When writing political commentary, it’s always walking on shaky ground to engage in hyperbole, but it’s doubly problematic to employ historical analogies, especially when you don’t know what you’re talking about. Case in point: in a recent political rant in Esquire, Charles P. Pierce wrote:

The Republican Party as it is presently constituted is the greatest threat to the American republic since Appomattox.

Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, Dec. 3, 2018

I’m sure Mr. Pierce thought he was making a clever observation about the American Civil War, but Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865 represented the end of the war, not the beginning. Did he really mean the end of the Civil War and the surrender of the CSA represented a threat to the American republic? I’m pretty sure he thinks the exact opposite of that.

His Civil War analogy is even more awkward because it was President Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party who prosecuted the war to its conclusion and the Southern Democratic Party that tore the country apart with secession. Oops.

But that’s the danger when someone with a cursory knowledge of history tries to make a historic analogy.

In June, President Trump’s pick for our representative at the United Nations, Heather Nauert (then State Department spokeswoman), cited D-Day as part of our long history of close relations with Germany. Of course, we were at war with Germany when Allied soldiers landed on the Normandy beaches during the D-Day invasion.

While Nauert might be forgiven for making a stupid observation while speaking off the cuff, it’s hard to give Esquire’s Charles Pierce any leeway because he had time to sit down and think through his argument while writing it. His column has been up on the website for over a week without any correction.

Pierce’s rabidly partisan column contains so much exaggeration, fear mongering, and wild accusations it’s hard to take seriously anyway, but his tenuous grasp of American history tells this history buff he engaged in zero fact checking before hitting the “submit” button, and you know the editors at Esquire are asleep at the wheel.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego, New York

Fort Ontario has a rather exciting and complicated history. It saw action in three wars: French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812. Held by the British from 1755 to 1796, it passed to the Americans in the Jay Treaty, which resolved disputes stemming from the Revolutionary War. The fort was one of three guarding the mouth of the Oswego River at Lake Ontario. Today, it is a State Historic Site and museum.

In 1755, the British built a wooden stockade at that location called the Fort of the Six Nations. French General Marquis de Montcalm destroyed it and other surrounding forts in August 1756 during the French and Indian War. Three years later, the British rebuilt the fort and named it Fort Ontario. During the Revolutionary War, in July 1778, Colonial soldiers found it abandoned and burned it.

At the Battle of Oswego, May 6, 1814, during the War of 1812, British Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fischer and a force of 550 soldiers and 400 marines attacked Fort Ontario and its garrison of 242 regulars and 200 militia. The British suffered 80-87 casualties to the Americans’ 69-119. They succeeded in destroying the fort after its capture.

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The Legend of Dug Hill Road

For more than a century, a ghost has haunted this lonely stretch of Route 146, formerly known as “Dug Hill Road,” in rustic Union County. Although sightings have become less frequent in recent years, the ghost of Provost Marshal Welch has earned an iconic place in the folklore of Southern Illinois.

Like many of its kind, this ghost story preserves the memory of a real event, an event that took place at a traumatic time in the history of our state and our country. But the details of this event have become murky and distorted. While Provost Marshal Welch was actually killed in 1863, every recent retelling of the tale places his murder in 1865.

At some point during the story’s reprinting, authors changed Route 146 to “Highway 126,” which has created a very confusing state of affairs for anyone wanting to visit the location. There is no Highway 126 anywhere in Union County. Complicating matters further, a quaint country lane off Route 146 is now the only feature in the area named “Dug Hill.”

To picture what this road must have once looked like at the time of the hauntings would take an active imagination, since the banality of its flowering fields, woods, and serine pond seem to evaporate any sense of foreboding.

According to Beth Scott and Michael Norman’s Haunted Heartland (1985), it is “the most notorious ghost in Southern Illinois.” As they described the incident, Union army deserters ambushed and killed a provost marshal named Welch in 1865.

Continue reading “The Legend of Dug Hill Road”