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Slavery, Captivity and Freedom … the story of Batavia’s ‘Other Henry Clay’




Story submitted by Thomas Pitcher

In early July of 1863, Henry Clay took a bayonet in the arm. 

Clay, a slave, was trying to escape the victorious Federal army at Gettysburg. His Confederate master had either been killed or also taken prisoner by the Union Army. Following the aftermath of this decisive battle, nearly 7,000 rebel prisoners were taken to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. Less discussed is the 64 captured African American slaves, like Clay, brought into the war to cook and clean for the southern army.

Lynne Belluscio, LeRoy’s town historian, first mentioned “the other Henry Clay” in 1998 and then with a more detailed article in the LeRoy Pennysaver in 2014. Through her research, we learned that Clay was born in Washington County, Georgia in 1849.

While the information is scarce, Clay’s place in American history is nothing short of remarkable.  

Six months before the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves “within the rebellious states.”  Despite the 4 million enslaved African Americans, the order’s immediate impact was only felt by the roughly 50,000 slaves in Confederate regions occupied by the Union Army. Gettysburg’s aftermath served as an important litmus test for Lincoln’s proclamation, specifically the treatment of Confederate slaves captured in battle.  

Five weeks after Gettysburg, the commissary general of prisoners in the U.S Army, Colonel William Hoffman, declared that “captured [African Americans] are ranked as camp followers and therefore prisoners of war.”  This meant that slaves like Clay would be returned to their masters as dictated through the prisoner exchange system.  
Colonel Peter A. Porter didn’t buy it.  He believed that captured slaves “be employed in the service of the Government as paid laborers – thus rendering service to the Government and avoiding the return to slavery .” Raising the stakes, Porter suggested that the decision was beyond Hoffman’s jurisdiction and that “it be forwarded to the Secretary of War.”  

The Union Army sided with Porter. Of the 64 slaves captured at Gettysburg, half of them chose freedom and remained in the north. Sixteen joined as cooks in the regiments stationed in Baltimore.  Henry Clay, only 14 years old at the time, joined Porter’s regiment as a cook in Company I, a group of men exclusively organized in Genesee County. 

I’ve been researching the 8th N.Y.H.A for fourteen years and up until Belluscio’s discovery hadn’t come across a documented former slave within the regiment’s ranks.

From that moment onward, Clay’s life would only get more interesting. He was modest about his role in the regiment.

“It wasn’t much to be a cook in the army. I could carry water and peel potatoes and do things like that.” 

But it appears he may have done much more. While not on official muster roles, Clay was counted amongst the soldiers in several reunions held for the regiment after the war. He’s also listed as the first African American Civil War veteran in Genesee County.

By the end of 1863, Clay had already been present at several battles leading up to Gettysburg while a servant in the Confederate Army.  Colonel Porter’s regiment left Baltimore for the field that following spring. Clay would now be dressed in blue for Ulysses S. Grant’s invasion of Virginia; battles such as Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, and the Siege of Petersburg.  

One battle stands out. On June 3, 1864, Porter’s regiment, along with several others, were ordered to charge confederate breastworks at Cold Harbor, Virginia. History has looked unkindly on Grant’s decision to send so many men to their death on that blistering hot Friday morning. Colonel Porter’s last words were “follow me boys” before he was riddled with bullets. The story concerning the recovery of his body by several members of the regiment, under heavy fire, was re-told countless times at every reunion.  According to different sources, there was either five or six men involved in that mission. As a result, one of them was awarded the Medal of Honor. Why the others were not held with similar praise is as large of a mystery now as it was when the medal was issued 34 years after the battle in 1898.

It’s not known if Henry Clay ever discussed what his role was at Cold Harbor while he was alive. However, one 1925 obituary needs attention.

“Mr. Clay was born a slave and was with Colonel’s Porter regiment when that gallant soldier laid down his life at Cold Harbor. He was a member of the detachment which retrieved Colonel Porter’s body.” 

There is a certain type of karma here that can’t be lost – one individual campaigns for the others' freedom while the latter, risks his life rescuing his dead body.   

After the war, Clay moved to Batavia, married and took jobs as a farmer, janitor, and bank teller. Through the individuals mentioned in his will, we learn that Henry Clay was born to Henry “Hugh” Mayweather and Caroline Williams, two slaves from Sparta, Georgia. They may have been sold to William Monroe Clay of Washington County sometime in the 1840s or 1850s.  He was a wealthy plantation owner who had three sons and a son-in-law who fought with the 49th Georgia, a confederate regiment at both Fredericksburg and Gettysburg where Clay was present.

In 1889, Clay returned to Georgia to visit family. Upon arriving there, he learned that his old slave master was dead. He didn’t provide a lot of details on the trip other than the fact that his “friends tried to persuade Henry to remain in Georgia, but his heart was in Batavia.”

GCC's Derek Maxfield celebrates first book with Batavia reception and C-SPAN talk this Saturday

By Press Release

Submitted photo and press release:

Genesee Community College Associate Professor of History, Derek D. Maxfield (inset photo, left) will be on C-SPAN at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, sharing what his research has uncovered about the excruciating conditions at a POW camp in Elmira.

Maxfield became an expert on the subject while writing his first book, "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" which explores this notorious time period in the history of Elmira.

Elmira is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County. "The Queen City" was incorporated in 1864. By the late 19th century, it was a major transportation hub, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City.

In "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" Maxfield contextualizes the rise of prison camps during the Civil War, explores the failed exchange of prisoners, and tells the tale of the creation and evolution of the prison camp in Elmira.

Long called by some the "Andersonville of the North," the prisoner of war camp in Elmira is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year -- from the summer of 1864 to July 1865. But in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man's inhumanity to man. Confederate prisoners called it "Hellmira."

In the end, Maxfield suggests that it is time to move on from the blame game and see prisoner of war camps -- North and South -- as a great humanitarian failure.

"HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" is available through AmazonSavas Beatie -- and was released in July as an audio book as well.

Always interested in collaboration, Maxfield partnered with GCC's Associate Professor of English Michael Gosselin who wrote an essay on Mark Twain as an appendix to the book.

The essay, called "A Foretaste of Heaven: How Elmira Gave the World Mark Twain" is about Samuel Clemen's summer home at Quarry Farm in Elmira, where he wrote many of his most famous works.

Maxfield's "Hellmira" also features a variety of photos and images contributed by GCC's Professor of English, Tracy Ford.

Since joining Genesee Community College in 2009, Maxfield has been actively involved in GCC's campus community and dedicated to providing students with an exceptional learning experience. Described by many as a gifted storyteller, Maxfield has a way of reaching students in the classroom that is memorable.

He incorporates applied learning, which gets his students beyond the classroom and experiencing the preservation of history on the ground, has created unique and engaging assignments, created new courses, and coordinates the GCC History Club's Historical Horizons Lecture Series which brings history to life for students and the College community.

Maxfield was awarded a "SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching" in 2019, holds an M.A. in History from Villanova University and a B.A. in History from SUNY Cortland.

He currently resides in Churchville.

A book publication reception is being held at Roman's restaurant in Downtown Batavia from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. Roman's is located at 59 Main St.

All are welcome to come and meet Maxfield, purchase a copy of "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp - Elmira, NY" ($14) and even have it signed! Masks are required and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

The publication of this book marks the second time Maxfield has appeared in GCC's Recognition Matters series. Officials at GCC have embraced this series as a way to acknowledge not only the achievement, but also the high quality of the College's recognized faculty, staff and students.

Video: Fully restored Civil War-era cannons returned to Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Video Sponsor
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Ten months ago, the Civil War-era cannons that have sat as sentinels outside the Holland Land Office Museum since at least 1905, were sent to Altoona, Pa., for restoration by Seed Artillery and today, they returned to Batavia looking almost certainly much like they did when they were shipped to Batavia in the 1860s.

Virtual HLOM Guest Speaker Series - Jay Black

By Holland Land Office

We welcome Jay Black to the Holland Land Office Museum ton September 17th at 7 pm to talk about and show some weapons of the Civil War from his own collection. The presentation will be made available virtually. Please visit the museum's Facebook page and website,, for more details.

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Pair of GCC professors take their Civil War act to Ohio and North Carolina

By Billie Owens

Submitted photo and press release:

From their tiny offices on the second floor of humanities suite at Genesee Community College's Batavia Campus, Associate Professor of History Derek Maxfield (top photo, left) and Professor of English Tracy Ford became colleagues, then friends, and eventually formed their own theater group, Rudely Stamp'd, where they became generals from a bygone era.

Maxfield's passion for history and Ford's obsession with the written and spoken word is no longer confined to their separate classrooms, or even GCC. The dynamic duo has begun performing their unique program around the country.

The Fairfield County Heritage Association in Lancaster, Ohio, will celebrate General William T. Sherman's 200th birthday in a grand gala on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Mill Event Center located at 431 S. Columbus St., in Lancaster -- Sherman's hometown. The Association has invited Rudely Stamp'd, starring Maxfield, who plays the role of General Ulysses S. Grant and Ford as General William T. Sherman to be featured as part of the celebration!

Performed by Rudely Stamp'd nearly two dozen times in venues across the country, "Now We Stand by Each Other Always" features conversations between Grant and Sherman at critical times during the Civil War. Act I takes place at Vicksburg, Miss., as the men plan for the fall of the city to Union forces in July 1863. Act II portrays a meeting between the generals in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the men plan for the Atlanta and Overland campaigns in 1864.

Finally, Act III takes place at City Point, Va., as Sherman briefs his chief about his wildly successful exploits in Georgia, during the March to the Sea, and his campaign through the Carolinas. The generals also plot an end to the remaining Confederate armies. Acts II and III will be performed at Sherman's Birthday Celebration in Lancaster on Feb. 8.

The Rudely Stamp'd program illustrates the collaboration, dedication and expertise of GCC professors. Maxfield and Ford combined their talents and their craft as teaching professionals to create a program that not only benefits local communities, but often provides GCC students, specifically the History Club, with unique opportunities to appreciate the importance of history and its continued significance on contemporary times.

Many of the performances have also engaged students in event planning, sound and light technology, public speaking and understanding the value of community collaborations, which is a key value under the College's declared mission.

While many of the local performances have been free and open to the public, tickets to the Lancaster performance are $40 each. Available online at, or by calling the office at 740- 654-9923.

The ticket cost includes hors d'oeuvres, the Rudely Stamp'd performance, a General Sherman look-alike contest, Civil War costumes and trivia contests, and much more!

"This will be our third out-of-state performance, and Tracy and I continue to be impressed with how audiences engage with the characters, and are truly absorbed by their story," Maxfield said. "Being asked to perform in Sherman's hometown and on his 200th birthday is a profound honor for us."

For more information about the "Now We Stand by Each Other Always," contact Derek Mayfield at or go to Rudely Stamp'd is also scheduled to perform in Brunswick, N.C., on March 3.

World-renowned tintype photography artist to visit Pembroke tomorrow and you're invited

By Billie Owens

A world-renowned photographer who specializes in tintype artistry and who is a Civil War historian will be the special guest at Pembroke Jr./Sr. High School tomorrow (Dec. 3).

Rob J. Gibson will give a presentation to teacher Eric Johnson's Photography classes in the school's Visual Arts Department as well as to Johnson's Social Studies classes.

In the evening from 6:30 to 9 in the school library, Gibson will speak and give a demonstration at a special, free community event entitled "Recreating the Past: The Vintage Photography of Rob Gibson."

Gibson describes himself as an Ansel Adams meets Easy Rider kind of guy -- a Renaissance man who is on a crusade to save at least some of forgotten America.

This passion for historical investigation fuels him to seek out vintage roadside attractions, abandoned buildings, industrial sites and significant historic locales. He travels wherever necessary to create art that tells the story of the nation's past, one photographic plate at a time.

He rides U.S. backroads on his 1950 panhead Harley-Davidson motorcycle replete with a working 1938 package truck sidecar that has been converted to a darkroom -- in fact, "The World's Fastest Darkroom."

His cameras capture forgotten icons as well as those who keep these relics alive, forming a mosaic of Americana that is distinctive and ingenuous.

The result is awe-inspiring tintype images captured with his primitive cameras and developed into photographs on site, as was done in the demanding 19th century process of tintype photography.

Hollywood movies have made use of his skills and he has made contributions to "Gettysburg," "Cold Mountain," "National Treasure," and the just-released "Harriet."

Gibson's artwork has also been featured on television, in magazines, Internet blogs and articles and it hangs on the walls of clients worldwide. Thousands of people, including the White House Press Corps and visitors to the Smithsonian Institution, have seen his demonstrations.

While on the road, Gibson gets sidetracked, beckoned by unexpected sights. It is during these extraneous excursions that his McGiver-like resourcefulness becomes particularly useful to keep his bike running and his equipment functioning.

Long ago Gibson, who grew up in Lockport, says he learned that the journey is just as important as the destination.

He's come a long way from the machinist job he left at General Motors to open an 1860s-style photography studio in Gettysburg, Pa.

How did he cross paths with a teacher in Pembroke?

"I met Rob at the Newfane Bike Night this past August, a charity event that raises money for a local not-for-profit organization," Johnson wrote The Batavian in an email. "I saw his Harley sidecar darkroom, and as a photography teacher and artist myself, I struck up a conversation with Rob."

The "art teacher/biker" says the encounter was quite unexpected, a quirky coincidence.

Fortunately for people in Genesee County, it has turned into what promises to be an interesting opportunity to learn about a unique talent tomorrow evening.

Pembroke Jr./Sr. High School is located at 58 Alleghany Road (routes 5 and 77) in Corfu.

Gibson is available for commissioned custom work and can be reached at:

Top photo of Rob Gibson and his 1950 panhead Harley-Davidson with the sidecar that's "The World's Fastest Darkroom," courtesy of Eric Johnson.

Bottom photos made by Rob Gibson on the movie set of "Harriet," courtesy of Eric Johnson, showing actress Cynthia Erivo as the iconic slave-turned-abolishionist Harriet Tubman.

Video: The first Batavian to receive the Medal of Honor

By Howard B. Owens
Video Sponsor
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David Bellavia will not become on June 25 the first Batavia resident to receive the Medal of Honor. That distinction goes to Charles Franklin Rand, who is also considered the first volunteer to sign up to fight in the Civil War.

In this video, Ryan Duffy, director of the Holland Land Office Museum, tells us about Rand.

History Trivia Night

By Holland Land Office

Every second Thursday of each month, put your knowledge of seemingly trivial facts to the test & learn some new ones with our
History Trivia Family & Team Challenge!! This event begins at 7pm and is $3 per person and $2 for museum members.

This month's theme is the Civil War!

Keep an eye on our twitter and website page for more details and make sure to share with your friends!

Event Date and Time

Generals Grant and Sherman discuss the Civil War in Dec. 5 play at GCC

By Billie Owens

Photo of GCC faculty Derek Maxfield and Tracy Ford, who will perform as generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.

Submittted photo and press release:

The History Club at Genesee Community College continues its Historical Horizons Series with a special homegrown performance! On Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. in a unique presentation, Derek Maxfield, associate professor of History, and Tracy Ford, professor of English, will present "Now We Stand By Each Other Always."

It's the portrayal of an engaging conversation between generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. The two-man play is based on historic resources and references.

Together, they recount the important meeting and conversation held at City Point, Va., in March 1865 when the two Union generals discuss the campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas and consider how to close out the Civil War.

All lectures in this series begin at 7 p.m. in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building. All lectures are free and open to the public.

GCC History Club launches fall lecture series Sept. 5 with talk on 'America's bloodiest single day' -- Antietam

By Billie Owens

Genesee Community College's History Club will begin its fall lecture series on Wednesday, Sept. 5, when Kevin R. Pawlak speaks on "The Jewels of War: Robert E. Lee, George B. McClellan and the Battle of Antietam."

The free lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in Room T102 in the Conable Technology Building at GCC's Batavia Campus, located at One College Road. All are invited.

The History Club will host a lecture on the first Wednesday evening of every month this fall as part of its Historical Horizons Lecture Series. 

Pawlak is the author of "Shepardstown in the Civil War."

The Battle of Antietam is America's bloodiest single day. In totality, 12 hours of fighting on Sept. 17, 1862 left approximately 23,000 casualties. During this lecture, Pawlak will assess the dramatic events of the Civil War battle from the unique perspective of the commanders on the field.

(Photo of author Kevin R. Pawlak, courtesy of GCC.)

An Evening with Dr. David Fitzpatrick, author of new book on Emory Upton, at the Holland Land Office Museum

By Holland Land Office

The Holland Land Office is proud to present "An Evening with Dr. David Fitzpatrick." Fitzpatrick is the author of a newly published book on Batavia's own Emory Upton. He is also a professor of history at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich. and he is the leading authority on Emory Upton's Career. The book, entitiled "Emory Upton: Misunderstood Reformer," seeks to revise the current view of General Upton and his importance in American military history. A meet and greet with Dr.

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RESCHEDULED: An Evening with David Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., author of new book on Emory Upton

By Holland Land Office

NOTE this event has been rescheduled: Fitzpatrick's presentation at the Holland Land Office Museum is rescheduled to 7 p.m., February 16th.  He will also participate in a panel discussion the following day at GCC. More details on the discussion will be announced later.


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Author of new Emory Upton book to speak at HLOM and also GCC

By Billie Owens

The Holland Land Office Museum will host a presentation and book signing by David Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., author of "Emory Upton Misunderstood Reformer," at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12. The museum is located at 131 W. Main St., Batavia.

Admission is $5 per person, which helps support the HLOM Speaker Series. RSVP by Jan. 10th due to limited seating.

Fitzpatrick is facility resident and professor of History at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he was also a history instructor.

He has authored several military journal articles and published essays. His current work is one of the definitive texts on the life of Upton and his post-war contributions to reforming the Army.

In addition, a panel discussion with Fitzpatrick and local historians, will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13th, at the new Student Success Center, Room G200, Genesee Community College, 1 College Road, Batavia.

Discussion will focus on the various aspects of General Upton’s character and life. Free to the public. Hosted by the Holland Land Office Museum and GGC History Club.

For more information about the programs or purchasing his book contact:

Holland Land Office Museum at 585-343-4727 or

GCC History Club presents 'Four Days After Appomattox' to help fund trip next spring

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The History Club at Genesee Community College is planning an educational spring break trip to Richmond, Virginia and the surrounding area in March. In an effort to support the experiential learning opportunity and raise the necessary funds, the club is hosting a special event at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building at the GCC Batavia campus.

"Four Days After Appomattox" with General Robert E. Lee will take the audience back in time to the end of the Civil War just days after Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. General Lee recounts the war and imagines a future for himself and his countrymen.

"Tom Schobert's impression of Robert E. Lee is the very best historical impression I have ever witnessed," said Derek Maxfield, GCC associate professor of History and History Club advisor. "I have seen the 'Four Days' presentation several times and am always profoundly moved by it. He really captures Lee's character and manner and gives a spellbinding presentation."

The very moving program features Thomas Schobert, a Robert E. Lee impressionist of many years' experience. Schobert began his impression on the eve of the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011. Prior to donning the famous gray uniform, Schobert had been a longtime Union re-enactor doing a medical impression. Schobert brought to his impression many years of military experience in the Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

"It seems so appropriate to host the Lee presentation when the History Club has determined to go to the Richmond, Virginia area on spring break," Maxfield added. "I am excited by the prospect of taking the Club to Richmond and Washington, D.C. There are so many great historical sites we could visit! The problem will be the selection process given the limited amount of time, and raising the necessary funds."

Tickets for the event are $15 each or two for $25 and will be available at the door; cash and checks only. To reserve tickets, contact Derek Maxfield at or by calling (585) 343-0055, ext. 6288. Ticket-holders will have an opportunity to have their picture taken with General Lee at no additional charge after the presentation.

GCC announces new history club, free lecture series

By Billie Owens

Press release:

GCC has founded a new history club, which is proudly sponsoring a new lecture series called Historical Horizons. Starting this September, and continuing on each first Wednesday of the month, a different dynamic speaker will be offering new topics about historical events, people, places and topics that continue to impact the world today. 

The club is a follow up to the college's successful Civil War Initiative, established in 2011, which has included numerous lectures, encampments, parades, Victorian balls and the Heritage Heroes recognition ceremony in Orleans County.

"The success of the Civil War Initiative continues with the GCC's new History Club and our Historical Horizons Lecture series," said Derek Maxfield, GCC's associate professor of History. "As the end of the Civil War Initiative approached, many people asked me, 'So what's next? Does that mean no more lectures? No more living history events?' Thankfully with the support of our new History Club, we can continue the lecture series, and open it up to any historical topic. It is my hope that we can build on that in the future and support living history events and heritage festivals."

The Fall 2015 semester lineup for the Historical Horizons speakers includes:

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 / Batavia Campus / T102

Tom Schobert, president of Buffalo Civil War Roundtable and Robert E. Lee impressionist, will kick off the series with "The Alamo – The Myth, the Reality...and John Wayne!" Like other high-profile events in American history, the story of the Alamo is shrouded in legends and myths. This lecture will cover the known facts as well as the legends and lore, and also how John Wayne got involved.

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7 / Batavia Campus / T102

Kristopher D. White will present, "Hell's Half-Acre: The Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania." White, co-author of "A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House," is an adjunct professor of History at Allegany Community College, and also co-founder of Emerging Civil War online journal. He will explore the reasons for this bloody battle, the innovative tactics used to break the Confederate lines, and tell the horrific tales from the men who were trapped in a no-man's-land between two armies.

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4 / Batavia Campus / T102

Jim Simon, GCC associate dean of Orleans County Campus Centers, will explore how the philosophy of history impacts politics and culture in a talk entitled, "The Philosophy of History: What does it Matter?" From the recent Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage to the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol, Simon will discuss how history informs students, teachers, citizens and policy makers in the 21st Century.

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2 / Batavia Campus / T102

In "Recalling Reconstruction: The Ugly Story of a Splendid Failure," Derek Maxfield, GCC associate professor of History, will discuss the end of the Civil War and how President Lincoln counseled his generals not to gloat in victory and to avoid bitterness and animosity. "Let 'em up easy," he said. Lincoln did not live to oversee the Reconstruction, which wound up taking a dark turn.

All lectures are free and open to the public. Maxfield also encourages attendees to stay tuned for other dates at Genesee Community College campus centers.

The spirit of Conrad Litt, who died in battle July 18, 1863, has a final resting place in Indian Falls

By Howard B. Owens


On a cloud-shrouded Memorial Day afternoon in Indian Falls, the folds in the fabric of history were visible in a short service that honored one of Pembroke's own fallen Civil War soldiers.

A headstone for Conrad Litt, a German immigrant who probably joined the Army so his family could have 100 acres of land after the war, was dedicated in a service conducted by members of Colonel John B. Weber Camp No. 44 and the Weber Guard, Sons of Veterans Reserve.

The spot chosen for the marker is next to those of his parents and other family members in the Old Indian Falls Cemetery. The location is at the rise of the hill in the southwest corner of the graveyard. There's an opening in the tree line that overlooks a lush valley. 

Clifford Anderson, one of the Litt Family ancestors, who now lives in West Seneca, purchased the headstone from the Veteran's Administration. He likes the idea that Conrad Litt's grave overlooks that idyllic valley that will become a national veterans cemetery.

"His spirit will look out over his fellow soldiers here, on this hill," Anderson said.

Conrad Litt enlisted in the 100th New York Volunteer Infantry, 2nd Brigade, Company C., on October 24, 1861 as a private. The 2nd Brigade was known as the “Eagle Brigade,” which was sponsored by the Buffalo Board of Trade.

Litt participated in the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, where more than half of his regiment was killed or wounded.

The Pembroke resident died in action July 18, 1863 during the Union’s night assault on Fort Wagner, Morris Island, S.C., when he was struck in the breast and died instantly.

The Second Battle for Fort Wagner was dramatized in the movie "Glory," which is about the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first military regiment in the Army comprised entirely of African-Americans, mostly freed slaves. The 54th led the nighttime charge on Fort Wagner, suffering heavy casualties, and though Fort Wagner never fell, the manner in which the men acquitted themselves led to more freed slaves being allowed to enlist. These black regiments were a significant factor, President Lincoln felt, in the Union winning the war.

Buffalo native John B. Weber enlisted in the Army Aug. 1, 1861 as a private and quickly rose through the ranks, attaining colonel before his 21st birthday. His first command, granted September 19, 1863, two months after the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, was the 89th Regiment, designated "18th Infantry, Corps d'Afrique." It was a regiment of freed slaves. Weber turned down a command of 44th Regiment to lead the 89th. He resigned later after his men were reassigned to another outfit and promised replacements, more freed slaves, were not available. He returned to Buffalo and eventually was elected to Congress.

Litt's remains were never recovered for a proper burial, as the fighting at Fort Wagner continued for another month by laying siege to take control of the rebel-held fort and battery, which was the key to entering Charleston Harbor and the Union reclaiming of Ft. Sumter, where the first shot of the War Between the States opened formal hostilities in 1861. 

Anderson learned of Litt and the cemetery where his family was buried while researching his family tree. In the process, he came across a book containing 25 of Litt's letters home. The book, which also contains the Civil War letters of Litt's childhood friend, also of Pembroke and fellow soldier, Sidney Lake, "I Take My Pen in My Hand."

"I came across these letters he wrote and I wept reading them," Anderson said. "I'm a vet myself and I would like to do him an honor, at least put a marker here for him. His body is not here, but I feel like his spirit has come home now."

The dedication ceremony comes 150 years after what some historians consider the first Memorial Day, organized in Charleston, S.C., May 1, 1865, by a group of freed slaves to honor the Union soldiers who helped secure their emancipation. The first nationally recognized Decoration Day was May 30, 1868. The date was supposedly chosen because it would be a time when flowers in all parts of the nation would be in bloom and the graves of fallen soldiers were to be decorated with flowers.

Flowers decorated Litt's marker yesterday.

For Michael Erb, who belongs to three Civil War reenactment groups, including the Weber group, and is himself a military veteran, taking part in services that honor the Civil War dead is important because the Civil War is a critical turning point in the nation's history.

"The Civil War was America's biggest war," Erb said. "It changed our country forever, you know. We were kind of a disunified country, different states going different ways, and all the sudden after the war, we were all one nation. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it was a terrible war, many people and soldiers died in that war, but look at what we got from it. We're a better country afterward. We're a unified country. Today, we're the only Superpower. It's a time in history that our whole country should remember."









Dedication of headstone for Civil War veteran planned in Old Section of Indian Falls Cemetery on Memorial Day

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The dedication of the Private Conrad Litt memorial headstone will take place at 5 p.m. this Memorial Day, May 25, in the Old Section of Indian Falls Cemetery.

The Civil War veteran was killed at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, S.C.

Members of Col. John B. Weber Camp No. 44 (NY Dept., Sons of Union Veternas of the Civil War) and the Weber Guard will honor and mark the memorial headstone at the cemetery located at Indian Falls Road, a quarter mile east of Route 77, Pembroke.

This service is part of the Memorial Day Ceremony to be held at the Litt gravesite. This cemetery is adjacent to the newly acquired VA National Veterans Cemetery.

Conrad Litt enlisted in the 100th New York Volunteer Infantry, 2nd Brigade, Company C., on Oct. 24, 1861 as a Private. 2nd Brigade was known as the “Eagle Brigade,” which was sponsored by the Buffalo Board of Trade.

He experienced conflict in Virginia at the Battle of Fair Oaks, where more than half of his Regiment were killed or wounded. Conrad was killed in action on July 18, 1863 during the Union’s night assault on Fort Wagner, Morris Island, S.C., when he was struck in the breast and died instantly.

Conrad’s bodily remains were never recovered for a proper burial, as the fighting continued for another month by laying siege to take control of the Rebel held fort and battery, which was the key to entering Charleston Harbor and the Federal reclaiming of Ft. Sumter, where the first shot of “The War Between The States” had commenced in 1861, announcing the formal Secession of the State of South Carolina from the Union.

The Brothers of Weber Camp No. 44 are honoring him for his actions during the Civil War.
This memorial service in honor of Conrad Litt is adapted from a 1917 Service used by the Grand Army of the Republic to re-dedicate a member’s headstone. The G.A.R. service is scheduled to coincide with the 150 Sesquicentennial celebration of sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Memorial Day was established to honor the veterans on the fourth Monday in the month of May. It was originally known as "Decoration Day," in the terrible aftermath of our American Civil War, with the decorations of wreaths, flags and flowers, laid upon the graves of those fallen soldiers by their loved ones.

A Night of Southern Music

By Holland Land Office

The 2015 Concert Series at the Holland Land Office Museum continues Friday, April 10th, with "A Night of Southern Music". Returning again are Dave Armitage and Dona LaValle, along with newcomer Al Capurso. Tickets are just $8.00 per person and can be purchased in advance or at the door.


Event Date and Time

Photos: Civil War Ball

By Howard B. Owens

The Daughters of the American Civil War sponsored a Civil War Ball on Friday evening at the Clarion Hotel.

The event commemorated:

  • 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812
  • 200th Anniversary of the Holland Land Purchase
  • 150th Anniversary of the End of the Civil War
  • 100th Anniversary of the City of Batavia

Trailer for Bill Kauffman's 'Copperhead' released, film opens June 28

By Howard B. Owens

A screenplay by local author Bill Kauffman has been turned into a major motion picture and today the official trailer was released by the studio.

"Copperhead," set in Civil War-era Upstate New York, deals with the wars effects on people far removed from the battlefields.

The film opens nationally in theaters June 28.

The subject matter of the film -- a seldom portrayed aspect of Civil War America -- may be well-timed following the box office and critical success of the movie "Lincoln."

Copperhead stars Billy Campbell, Peter Fonda, Augustus Prew and Angus Macfadyen and is directed by Ronald F. Maxwell. The screenplay is an adaptation of a novel by Harold Frederic. Frederic, of Utica, wrote "The Copperhead" in 1893.

Kauffman, born in Batavia and a resident of Elba, is the author of "Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette" and eight other books.

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