The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. In such a momentous year, I was given the opportunity to discuss the lives of our local Civil War soldiers to audiences in schools, churches, historical societies and cemeteries.
The first ever serial, in which I told the tale of A Wicked Affair: The Lives of John Jay White and Edward F. Clum, ran in July and August on Illuminated History. The saga lent itself well to the serial format, and it is something I would like to explore again in the future. Through the other months of this busy year, Illuminated History highlighted the secretive – and controversial – uses of Civil War quilts, spotlighted Civil War soldier James Austen and even heralded a visit to the Perinton Historical Society by President Ulysses S. Grant, as portrayed by historian Steve Trimm of Grant Cottage.
The joy I receive from researching these local heroes is expanded tenfold every time I hear from one of their descendants. In 2011, I was fortunate to be in contact with no less than four descendants of Major Harvey E. Light – Doug, Crystal, Mary & Glenn. Each descendant had different information about the Light family to share with me. On May 21, 2011, I received a wonderful gift. Major Harvey Light’s great-great grandson, Doug, flew from Texas to attend my Pittsford Cemetery tour. This was Doug’s first trip to Pittsford, where he had come to pay tribute to the man so many admired. A visit to Major Light’s grave during our tour always draws a captive audience, since he is the highest-ranking Civil War soldier buried at the cemetery and he lived an extraordinary life. At the gravesite, I gave my usual talk about Major Light and his family. However, I managed to elicit gasps from the crowd after the talk when I said that, for the first time ever, we had a descendant of the Major in our midst. I then introduced Doug to the group. One of the most touching moments of my career as a historian was watching Doug place the flag at his great-great grandfather’s grave.
My hope for 2012 is to find time to post more articles on Illuminated History, to continue to contribute updates to Illuminated History Facebook, to persevere in my quest to locate more information about these Civil War heroes and to share that research with anyone who will listen. Thank you for your continued interest in the lives of the men whose sacrifices may have occurred one hundred and fifty years ago, but whose spirits march on.