Top 5 Must-See Civil War Era Sites
Despite the fact that no battles were fought here, New York State’s contribution to the Civil War effort was vast and included massive, multiple resources. As the most populated state in the North, New York supplied a significant amount of manpower, equipment and supplies, as well as politicians pivotal to the war effort.
Some of New York’s poorest citizenry also mounted the most destructive civic disturbance and race riot in the state’s history during the middle years of the war, when Congress passed a law making all men between the ages of 20 and 45 eligible for military service unless they could buy their way out of it with $300. The Draft Riot in New York City resulted in the deaths of over 100 people and the razing of the Colored Orphan Asylum. No historical markers exist at the site of this horrific, five-day bloodbath on Third Avenue in New York City, but many fascinating and educational Civil War Era Sites are available for public viewing throughout the state.
Abner Doubleday House
Ballston Spa, N.Y.
A war hero who some insist invented the sport of baseball, Abner Doubleday fired the first shot of the Civil War and was a hero at the Battle of Gettysburg. The West Point graduate and Union General was born in this modest, one-room house, located at Washington and Fenwick Streets and built in 1819, the year of his birth.
Killed along with many others on both sides during the bloody Battle of Wilderness led by Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, Union General James S. Wadsworth was best known for his philanthropy as well as his courage. The oldest structure in this lovely upstate hamlet, The Homestead is the place of this war hero’s birth. A private residence, it was built by Wadsworth’s father and is still occupied by his descendants. Wadsworth’s legacy and his family’s generosity can be enjoyed throughout Geneseo at several interesting historical sites along Main Street, including the Village Park, the Log Cabin in the Park and the Wadsworth Fountain. A Veteran’s Memorial for the soldiers of all foreign wars serving from this region was also restored in 2003 and can be visited.
New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Devoted to telling the story of New York State’s soldiers, their contribution and legacy, the Museum owns the largest collection of state Civil War battle flags to be found anywhere in the world. During the war, state regiments typically carried their own distinctive war flags into battle and many would die in an effort to protect these all-important symbols. The flags represented the attachment soldiers had for their own home states and were a source of not only emotional resonance and great pride, but also regimental position, critical to battle strategy. The museum also houses a treasure trove of Civil War artifacts, including the uniform of the Union’s first casualty of war, Elmer Ellworth. Built in 1889, the museum was designed by New York State architect Isaac Perry in the classical, armory style.
American Civil War Memorial
Recognized by a presidential proclamation from Lyndon B. Johnson to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo is the site of the American Civil War Memorial, dedicated to the Civil War’s fallen of the first Memorial Day on May 5, 1866. The Memorial honors the sacrifice of soldiers serving for both North and South and was built in part by residents of the town, who helped bring sculptor Pietro del Fabro’s vision for the Memorial to fruition.
Soldier’s Memorial Tower
Standing in a lonely patch of isolated brush in an abandoned cemetery, the 52-foot high Soldier’s Memorial Tower was built as a monument to the men who died during the Civil War who resided in the nearby town of Sweden. The Tower was designed in the Late Gothic-Revival style by Brooklyn-born architect Clarence Birdsall, best known for his monuments at Gettysburg. Despite being listed as a National Historic Site, this once-majestic tower is in a significant state of disrepair, and is awaiting promised funding from the town to further preserve and maintain its internal and external structure.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.