Posted tagged ‘21st NY Cavalry’

History Through the Eyes of a Five Year Old

April 4, 2011

“Do you like being a historian?” asked a five-year old at the local elementary school.  “It’s the best job ever!” I replied with a smile. 

After being asked to speak to the Kindergarten class at a local elementary school about my profession, I became nervous.  How does one explain the job of an historian in language that a young child could understand?  I couldn’t tell them about Charles Tillotson being wounded in the head during his first battle, Antietam, or how Charles lingered three days before succumbing to the inevitable conclusion of his life.  I didn’t want to frighten the children by telling them how sharpshooter Nathan Cook and his brother, William, died within weeks of each other, killed by disease.  When I told them I researched soldiers, would they ask difficult questions that I wouldn’t want to answer for fear of overwhelming them?

“Hello, boys and girls.  I’m here to tell you about my job.  I am an historian.  Can you say historian?  When you say historian, do you hear another word in there?  HISTORY-an.”  I told them my job was to research people and places and tell their stories so the history would be kept alive forever, and that I especially loved researching the history where we lived. 

We talked about James Chamberlin, who was a trooper with the 3rd New York Cavalry.  Did they know the cavalry was composed of the soldiers who got to ride horses?  The Chamberlin Rubber Co. was started after the war by James Chamberlin, who saw many soldiers become sick after being in the wet and cold.  What would the Chamberlin Rubber Co. have made to keep the soldiers dry?  Raincoats!

Kingsley Brownell was a trooper with the 21st New York Cavalry.  He rode a horse, too.  Kingsley was so strong he could lift a bucket full of water over his head.  They were quite impressed with Kingsley’s accomplishment.

“Who goes to Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream?  If you look down the street when you are at Ben & Jerry’s, you can see the Wiltsie Building.”  After showing them a postcard of the Wiltsie Building, I produced a photo of George B. Wiltsie and his comrades.

John Buckley Bacon was called Buckley by his family.  He came here after the Civil War and started a family.  His son, Howard, was a soldier in two wars – World War I and World War II!  “Someday I’m going to be a soldier, and I’ll be in World War I,” said a determined little boy.  Another boy, not to be outdone, stated “My Grandpa was in the Civil War!”

“Who puts gasoline in their cars?”  The children were very excited to see the Vacuum Oil Co. truck, and I told them about Matthew Ewing the inventor and how years later his Vacuum Oil Company became Exxon Mobil.  “My mom works at Shell Oil,” volunteered one little person.  “Hey, that truck is a bank!  I have a bank,” another child piped up.  Then I showed them my 1911 Rochester G.A.R. Encampment souvenir medal, and we talked about it being 100 years old.  “My mom was born in 1972 and she’s still alive.”  I couldn’t help but snicker at that, as did the teacher.

At the end, I held up a painting of the Erie Canal done by my friend, talented artist Rusty Likly.  The kids immediately recognized the landscape, and a discussion ensued about the other buildings they knew along the canal.  The questions came fast and furious.  “Do you use your computer a lot to learn about history?”  “Do you work with someone else?” 

Not once did a child ask if anyone got killed, or ask any other difficult questions.  They were simply excited to hear about our local history and hometown heroes.  My favorite question, however, was asked by a young boy who had been relatively quiet during the entire session.  “Do you like being a historian?”  “It’s the best job ever!” I replied with a smile.

Illuminations

January 20, 2010

Thank you to everyone who attended my Illuminated History:  The Civil War Soldiers of Perinton presentation last night at the Fairport Library.  I was overwhelmed by the positive response, and the genuine interest in my Civil War boys and our Civil War nurse, Mary Jewett Telford.

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

It was a pleasure speaking with so many of you before and after the presentation:  Brian Burkhart, who is diligently tracking the men of the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry;  Herb Swingle, who created quite a stir with his connection of John Wilkes Booth to the Rochester area;  Gary Maybee, who shared with me the story of his own Civil War treasures; and Melissa Talma, who took the time to write me an eloquent email expressing her enthusiasm for my project and for learning more about our Civil War heroes.

The heroes illuminated last night included:

George B. Wiltsie, courtesy Jason Puckett

George B. Wiltsie (1837-1865), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Died of typhoid fever contracted as a result of starvation at Salisbury Prison.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Kingsley Brownell (1845-1924), 21st New York Cavalry.  Seriously wounded outside Martinsburg, WV and forced to ride 9 miles as a POW before being paroled 8 months later.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Major Harvey E. Light (1834-1921), 10th Michigan Cavalry.  Major Harvey survived the war and became a prominent citizen in the Pittsford community.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Mary Jewett Telford (1839-1906), Civil War nurse.  Served at Hospital No. 8 in Nashville, TN.  Nurse, author, suffragette, editor and charter member of the Woman’s Relief Corps.  Buried at South Perinton Cemetery.

Other Civil War soldiers mentioned during the presentation were:

William B. Lyke (1839-1904), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Captured, along with George B. Wiltsie, at Reams Station.  Died in 1904, age 65.

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Albert E. Lyke (1841-1933), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Shot through the jaw at Spotsylvania.  Took his first plane ride in 1928, at age 87.  Died at age 92.

Edward H. Lyke (c 1843-1864), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Brother of William B. and Albert E. Lyke.  Mortally wounded at Petersburg.

Henry Root (c 1845-1899), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Drummer boy.  Drowned in 1899 after suffering a seizure and falling into the water while fishing.

Jerome Brownell (1843-1921), 108th New York Volunteer Infantry.  Brother of Kingsley Brownell.  Wounded at Gettysburg.

Jacob Telford (1833-1905), 15th Indiana Infantry.  Husband of Mary Jewett Telford.  Wounded at Murfreesboro, TN.

John H. Thurmon (1843-1919), 2nd Missouri Cavalry.  The only Confederate soldier buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Special thanks to descendants Martha Jewett, Evan Marshall, Clay Feeter, Floris A. Lent, Jason Puckett, Mark A. Lannan and Doug Light for supplying me with photos and information about their heroic ancestors.  I very much appreciate the services of Laurie T. Hall who taped the presentation, Charles Profitt as tech guy, Margaret Pilaroscia of the Fairport Library and Alan Keukelaar of the Perinton Historical Society.

There are many more illuminations to come!  Please check my “Cemetery Tours and Presentations” page for information about upcoming events.

Hero Highlight – LaFayette Congdon, Co. K, 21st NY Cavalry

March 12, 2009
LaFayette Congdon

LaFayette Congdon

Our first Hero Highlight illuminates LaFayette Congdon.  LaFayette was born in Chautauqua County, NY, the only child of Phineas and Julia Congdon.  By the time LaFayette was 15 years old, he had already lived in the New York communities of Ellington, Marion, Springwater and Rochester.  This early travel probably allowed LaFayette to adapt quickly to his constantly changing surroundings during his later life as a minister.

At nearly nineteen years of age, LaFayette joined Co. K of the 21st NY Cavalry.  He served as a company clerk in Elmira, NY.  Although he did not go into battle, his time in the military affected his health.  Suffering from dietary issues in his later years was attributed to the common soldier meals of hard tack and coffee that he had partaken of during the War.  LaFayette was mustered out in 1865 and began his post-war life as a minister.

Between the years of 1864-1902, LaFayette ministered to churches in twenty towns.  It was not uncommon for a minister in those days to be assigned a new church every two to four years.  During that time, LaFayette met and fell in love with Frances Kingsley, a beautiful young woman from a prestigious family in Pittsford, New York.  They married in 1871 and Frances gave birth to eight children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  By all accounts, LaFayette and Frances had a happy family life until he died in 1927 at age 81.  Frances followed in death four years later.

LaFayette will be discussed in more detail during my Civil War Soldiers tour at Pittsford Cemetery on May 16th.

Additional information on LaFayette and Frances is available on the blog of his descendant, Sean Rockwell Ryan.  http://congdonfamilies.blogspot.com/.  My thanks to Sean for the information.  Cheers!


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