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Column for 5.18.11
As was pointed out in last week’s column, the timing couldn’t have been better for the publication of “With Courage and Honor,” a new 278-page book about Oneida County’s participation in the Civil War. This, of course, is the 150th anniversary of the war’s start.
Here from the book, edited and partially written by James Pula and his sister Cheryl, is more about Boonville and the North Country’s involvement in the Civil War.
In a chapter about the Third Oneida County Regiment, also known as the 97th New York State Volunteer Infantry, is this: “By the beginning of September (1861), the ranks included 700 men. Company A was comprised mostly of Boonville boys, under the command of Captain Samuel Ferguson, a canal man. Company B from Lewis County was led by Captain A. Dayan Parsons. Company C from Boonville was commanded by Captain Stephan Manchester and Lieutenant Louis H. Rowan, both from Boonville...Company E from Prospect was under the leadership of Richard Jones, a local carriage maker. This particular company became known as the Welsh Company, since many of its members were Welsh immigrants or men of Welsh descent from Remsen, Trenton, Prospect and the Town of Russia...Company H from Utica was also a truly ethnic organization, made up of German speaking immigrants. Most of those men hailed from Lowville, Boonville, Croghan, White Lake, Utica and Hawkinsville...”
Officially, the regiment came into existence one month later on Oct. 16th. “Its colors were provided to the 97th by the ladies of Boonville. A few days before Christmas, December 19, 1861, they held a four day Ladies Fair which raised over $230 to procure the flags. The regiment formally received its colors in a ceremony held at the Hulbert Hotel in Boonville on December 23. As part of the flag ceremony, many dignitaries were present, including Col. Wheelock and the Honorable Richard Hulbert who graciously accepted the generous gift from the women of Boonville...”
Two points: One, at least one of the regiment’s battle flags are in the archives of the Oneida County Historical Society. Two, Col. Charles Wheelock, who had been a Boonville produce dealer before taking command of the 97th, was a big reason for the regiment’s success.
The federal government had been slow in equipping the North Country soldiers. They did their training in Boonville without rifles and weren’t being paid. “Col. Wheelock had graciously loaned the new regiment thousands of dollars of his own money to keep the families of his men from want and some of his officers had helped as well.”
As for the rifles, when the regiment left Boonville for Washington, D.C., they passed through Utica, Little Falls and Albany, stopping in New York City. “Once in New York, they were sent to Park Barracks where they received their weapons, .577 caliber Enfield rifles.”
But even before leaving Boonville, the regiment suffered hardship. “Since the soldiers were packed into tight quarters, an epidemic of measles killed three men and caused sixty others to become sick. Other diseases, such as typhoid, diphtheria and scarlet fever also flew through the ranks. The good people of Forestport, Boonville, Alder Creek and the surrounding area went to the aid of the troops, caring for the ill soldiers and supplying medicine...A nineteen-year-old private from Company E (which was included men from Prospect), John Stowe, became the first casualty of the disease. On January 11, the regiment marched solemnly though the streets of Boonville to the depot with the colors draped in mourning and the fife and drums muffled as Stowe was taken to his final resting place in North Gage.”
All in all, the regiment’s time in Boonville was routine, but things did get out of hand just before the troops left for the war. “The 97th departed for Albany amid cheering crowds, in spite of the fact that prior to their leaving, they had gone on a final tear and broken into a local liquor store, bowling alley and billiard parlor, inflicting over $1,500 worth of damage.”
Cheryl Pula is a reference librarian at the Dunham Public Library in Whitesboro. “With Courage and Honor” is for sale there for $29.95, which includes tax, and at the Oneida County Historical Society in Utica.