2017-10-04 / In This Place

In This Place

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By Kate Van Benschoten

I have been watching the newest documentary series by Ken Burns detailing the Vietnam War, and have been thinking about many of the conflicts we have fought throughout our nation’s history. In looking through the Catskill Mountain News issues of October 4 from 1902 to 1973, I found this one from 1912 detailing a 50-year reunion of veterans of the Civil War. While I am compiling a number of stories from our Vietnam era history, I wanted to print this one for now as my “this day in history” remembrance…

October 4, 1912: Reunion of the 144th

“Last Friday, September 27, at Walton, occurred the 50th reunion of the 144th N.Y.S.V. It was 50 years ago on that day that they were mustered into the service of the U.S. for three years during the war. One hundred and thirty of the old veterans were registered and thirteen from other organizations. This was known in the service as the Delaware county Regiment. When they left Delhi on the 8th of October, 1862, they mustered 1400 men. In the fall of 1864 they were so depleted in numbers that they were again recruited up to a full regiment. Arriving at Walton in the morning the forenoon was spent in renewing old friendships and talking over old times- and a happy meeting it was, as one may readily surmise … dinner had been prepared in the State Armory under the auspices of the Women’s Relief Corps of Ben Marvin Post to which ample justice was done. In the afternoon there was a speech of welcome and response, good singing and a poem by Lafayette Axtell of Co. A of Deposit, and the election of officers of the association. Supper was served at 5 o’clock, when the old veterans parted, many of them never to meet again.

Of the 2,500 men who were enrolled on the books of this organization and from the best information that can be obtained, it is doubtful if 300 are now alive.

We must not fail to mention that two drum corps furnished martial music much to the delight of the ‘old boys’ and they seemed to enjoy it as much as when weary and footsore it helped them on their long marches when so tired they could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. No time and place was set for the next reunion, this being left to the executive committee.”

My interest attuned to the 144th regiment and wishing to know more, I found numerous wonderful and lengthy articles and letters, including one letter from the Vietnam era written by a descendent of a Civil War veteran, recounting the formation of the 144th one hundred years earlier, in 1862. The connection of these two stories really struck home the truth that war finds its way into every generation. I’ve pulled samples from several different articles to tell a bit of the regiment’s story.

September 13, 1962: County Regiment Formed Century Ago

“By early summer in 1862, the sickening losses and defeats for the Union armies in the Peninsula campaign and at Seven Pines, Fair Oaks, Gaines Station, Savage Station and Malvern Hill, cast a period of gloom over the Northern states. The fearful loss of life before midyear sobered the thoughts of public opinion even to the extent of leading some to advocate the abandonment of the war.

The author went on to describe “a climate of apathy and despair” and “regretted that certain citizens were ready for any compromise to end the war.” Then came President Lincoln’s “call for 300,000 men to serve in the armies for 3 years or the duration of the war.” Further, New York’s Governor E. D. Morgan called citizens to “speedily quell the Southern rebellion.” The state was divided into regimental districts, the 144th originally consisting of the counties of Delaware, Schenectady and Schoharie. A ‘grand rally’ was planned in Delhi on August 6. “The Delaware Republican dubiously editorialized: ‘Let the meetings… infuse spirit into the recruiting that Delaware not be the last, as now seems likely, to fill up her quota.’ However, the response to the call was overwhelming and enthusiastic. The courtroom was found inadequate to accommodate the throngs of citizens who swarmed into the county seat and the meeting was held on the square in front of the courthouse…” I guess we Delaware county folk aim to impress!

“Patriotic enthusiasm swept the county. War meetings were held in the towns to such an extent that detailed reporting was precluded in the newspapers. Enlistments increased so rapidly that it soon became apparent that the county would far exceed its assigned quota.” Such was the enthusiasm, that Delaware county petitioned to be its very own regiment, a request which was granted. “The war-cry went forth, calling the hardy mountaineers to their duty as freedmen and citizens. Even the Republican waxed mildly: ‘Although Delaware county is thus called upon in the midst of haying, she will very soon raise her quota.’”

Companies were assigned by town; “Company A from Tompkins, Company B from Walton, Company C from Delhi, Hamden, Stamford, Meredith, Harpersfield and Kortright; Company D from Franklin; Company E from Andes and Bovina; Company F from Hancock; Company G from the town of Middletown; Company H from Roxbury, Stamford and Harpersfield; Company I from Kortright, Davenport, Sidney and Meredith, and Company K from Colchester.”

The article described in detail their tents and camp system, their meals, music and camaraderie. “Relatives, friends and visitors thronged the camp grounds and the installation took on more of a festive air than one of military decorum and discipline.” “The regiment flag was presented by Mrs. H. D. Gould Jr. and the Hon. Samuel Gordon delivered an eloquent address…” The men marched off from that camp on September 27, 1862, and did not return until July 1865, when the regiment was mustered out of the service at Elmira.

Another article from that month gave a bit more history on where the regiment went during the war.

September 6, 1962: Delaware Regiment Formed Century Ago

“…Meetings were held everywhere throughout the county. Within 20 days from the time of the first movements the regiment was ready to be mustered in. It moved once to Washington in order to aid in the defense of the Capitol and at the same time to be trained and disciplined into a hard body of soldiers.

In April, 1863, they were moved to Suffolk in Virginia, which [Confederate] General Longstreet was then besieging. From there they were moved to West Point, Virginia. In July 1863, they were ordered to the Army of the Potomac; but in August they were sent to South Carolina where they were present at the bombardment of Charleston and Sumter.

In February 1864, they were sent to Florida. Later in the same year they were employed in cooperating with General Sherman in his great march through the center of the Confederacy. They were not engaged in as much or as severe fighting as some of the other bodies of troops from Delaware county. But they were present at a most important period of the war. When it came to an end in the spring of 1865 they were still an active and intrepid body of troops. They were mustered out of service in July 1865.

The flags, which had been given them at Delhi when they left, they brought back with them when they returned. The flags were torn and shot, stained with blood, worn with rain and wind. But they were precious relics and are treasured with mementos of the war. They are at the Capitol in Albany.”

I am so touched by the efforts made by this marine to research and document his family history and grave information while on active duty in the south. With our modern “search technology” this still would have been time consuming, but in the days before electronic records and internet, this accomplishment seems nearly heroic in and of itself.

October 18, 1962: Out of the Mailbag, a letter from Robert E. Drellich, M/Sgt, U.S. Marine Corps

“The above article (referring to that of 9/13/62) was forwarded to me by my aunt, Mrs. Henry V. Slauson (nee) Mary Jane Snyder, originally of Roxbury, as was my mother, Mabel Patricia Snyder.

I am descended on my maternal side from James M. Mead (great-grandfather) of Company H, Henry H. Mead, his brother, and Fletcher Mead, who would have been a cousin many times removed. These names are listed on page 361, Civil War Record of the 144th Regiment, N.Y. Volunteer Infantry.

Also listed in the foregoing book are two other relatives. One in Company “B” a Henry A. Mead (page 323) and the other in Company “G” a George O. Mead. The degree of kinship, I have not yet traced.

I received my copy of the Civil War Record of the 144th from my great aunt, Mrs. Mae Stewart (nee Mead) of Roxbury.

I am currently on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, a student of Civil War history and when transferred to the Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort, S.C., I covered some of the ground that he 144th traveled over during their service in the south. In connection with this, I have become acquainted with Mr. Francis Brooke, the Superintendent of the National Cemetery in Beaufort, S.C., who researched the internment of Fletcher Mead for me and located the original documents of internment from Civil War time. These papers are presently on file in the office of Mr. Brooke. I received from Mr. Brooke the grave site number, date and death and rank, which was not listed in the Civil War Record.

While at the National Cemetery in Beaufort, S.C., my wife and I took pictures of Fletcher Mead’s grave and surrounding graves of Union soldiers from New York.”

For the history buffs interested in reading the full text of any of these articles, go to nyshistoricnewspapers.org, and search the Catskill Mountain News ar- chives of the article’s date. There is also a link to the historic news paper site at www.catskillmountainnews.com. Look in the upper right-hand corner for Archives 1902-1973.

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