Saratoga County

County fair recalls the Civil War

People visiting the Saratoga County Fair can learn a little about how the Civil War affected the cou

People visiting the Saratoga County Fair can learn a little about how the Civil War affected the county.

The death of Mechanicville native Col. Elmer Ellsworth at the very start of the war is well known, but every community lost soldiers in the great war, which started 150 years ago this year.

From letters home about daily life to photographs of aging veterans, almost every community has contributed to an exhibit located in the Saratoga County tent, next to the talent pavilion.

The exhibit has drawn much interest.

“I think because of the anniversary people are more aware of Civil War history. It’s on the radar,” said County Historian Lauren Roberts, who coordinated the exhibit.

The exhibit will be open today and Sunday, the last day of the fair, after which the display panels will be returned to the town and city historians.

Soldiers were recruited locally for the 77th New York Regiment — “The Bemis Heights Regiment” — and other units that fought in some of the great battles of the war, including Antietam and Gettysburg.

“There were people from this county at Cold Harbor and The Wilderness, there were people from this county who died at Andersonville,” Roberts said, referring to the notorious Confederate prisoner of war camp in Andersonville, Ga.

The Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization, held its annual national encampment in Saratoga Springs in 1907, and pictures from 1937 show Saratoga County’s last five Civil War veterans still alive in that year.

Every community’s historian brought a slightly different take to the project, Roberts noted, and many found materials they hadn’t known they had.

In the town of Providence display, a reproduced letter by soldier Norman Fox tells of two deserters who were captured.

Rather than being put to death, their heads were shaved, and they were branded “on their sitting down place.”

The Halfmoon exhibit includes a list of excuses men had for not being able to go to war, including a back injury from lifting a sack of potatoes, cutting a foot with an axe, and having fallen from a hay wagon.

But Halfmoon’s exhibit also highlights William E. Hart, burial place unknown, who won a Medal of Honor for valor with the New York 8th Cavalry during the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1864-1865.

Edinburg, which in 1860 had 1,479 residents — more than it does today — sent about 125 soldiers to battle, and 24 of them died, either from wounds or disease. One, Welland Jones, is listed as “died of starvation” at Andersonville.

Abram Lawrence of Day, a shoemaker when not a soldier, was wounded five times.

Ambrose C. Hickok of Corinth was part of the honor guard for President Lincoln’s funeral train.

Clifton Park’s exhibit tells of George W. Palmer, who survived Chancellorville and Gettysburg only to have his luck run out at Kenisaw Mountain, Georgia.

Ballston’s exhibit quotes from a 1929 Schenectady Gazette article by J.M. Bailey of Burnt Hills, who had fought on the Confederate side. He recalls the “smoke of battle” and “ghastly forms” of death.

Mechanicville is displaying photos from this past May’s re-enactment of the funeral of Ellsworth, who was born in Malta and grew up in the city. Ellsworth, a friend of Lincoln’s, was the first Union officer killed in the war, dying in a dramatic fashion that helped stoke Northern public passions against the South.

Roberts said there’s no definitive list of Saratoga County soldiers who served in or who died in the war, though a volunteer in her office is trying to compile one.

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