Civil War Monument

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The following article was printed in 2008 in the Town of Rensselaerville newsletter; copyright by the Town of Rensselarville, reprinted here courtesy of Janet Haseley

Photo by Janet Haseley, 2008

Monument to Rensselaerville's Fallen Soldiers

By Janet Haseley, Research Chair, Town of Rensselaerville Historical Society


On July 4, 1867, a 17-foot marble monument was dedicated to the 29 soldiers from the Town of Rensselaerville who died in the Civil War.

Hon. Lyman Tremain of Albany delivered a 25-page dedicatory oration to a large crowd. The introduction to the ceremony and to his oration is printed below, together with a list of the 29 “fallen heroes” of the town with their ranks, ages, and the regiments to which each belonged. A Soldiers’ Monument Association of the town of Rensselaerville had been organized to raise funds to erect the monument and they authorized the printing of the oration and the listing of the soldiers, printed by Van Benthuysen & Sons’ Printing House in Albany in 1867. One copy of this printed version is in the State Library and for many years the Rensselaerville Historical Society did not have a copy but John Eldridge donated one to the Society which he found among many papers which his father, Harry Eldridge, had saved. According to the printed version, Clifford A. Conklin was president of the Soldiers’ Monument Association, George L. Bouton was secretary, Frank C. Huyck was treasurer, and directors were Franklin Frisbee, Henry Waterbury, Naaman Watson and William H. Fetter. (Ed. Note: I believe that Fetter should be Felter.)

INTRODUCTION.

Soon after the close of the war which for years had deluged the country with blood, the young men and women of Rensselaerville, animated by the same spirit of patriotism which had been so nobly developed during the war, inaugurated the necessary steps toward erecting a suitable memorial to the memory of the representatives of that town who had given their lives to their country’s service.

On the roll of martyrs to the great cause, twenty-nine were found, whom Rensselaerville felt proud to honor as her own noble sons. Many had fallen upon the field of battle, some had died of starvation and neglect in southern prisons, others, torn and shattered by wounds, or wrecked by disease, had been more fortunately permitted to die amid their friends at home.

The necessary funds having been secured by the untiring energy and perseverance of the young people of the town, a fine Monument was purchased of the Messrs. BROWNS, of Schoharie, N.Y., and erected during the month of June, 1867. It is a noble shaft, cut from gray Massachusetts marble, and is a model of symmetry, of proportion, artistic design, and workmanship. The spire is surmounted by a cap, and over the die is cut, with faithful correctness, a stack of arms, while at the foot of the stack are two caps; the whole significant of the service rendered by the sleeping heroes. On the front of the die is engraved in gothic letters, the following inscription:

THEY DIED IN THE

DEFENCE OF

THEIR COUNTRY.

ERECTED BY CITIZENS

OF RENSSELAERVILLE.

1867.

On the remaining three sides of the die are cut the names of the twenty-nine soldiers of the Town of Rensselaerville, who died in the war of the rebellion, the regiments to which they belonged, and their respective rank and ages. The total height of the Monument is a little over seventeen feet.

The following names are inscribed thereon:

On the 4th day of July, 1867, the Monument was dedicated by appropriate ceremonies. The Hon. LYMAN TREMAIN, of Albany, delivered the dedicatory oration. A large crowd was in attendance, called together by the great popularity of the orator, and the nature of the occasion. The exercises were under the auspices of the Soldiers’ Monument Association.

The Monument stands upon a beautiful knoll in the village cemetery, and is noticeable from all points of approach.

It is a fitting tribute of gratitude and respect for our noble dead, and by it the citizens of Rensselaerville express the love they cherish for the memory, and the reverence they bear for the deeds of the fallen patriots.

The 25-page Oration follows, three pages of which give many details about the 7th N. Y. Heavy Artillery. Twelve of Rensselaerville's 29 fallen heroes belonged to this regiment. It left Albany as the 113th Infantry but on its arrival in Washington was soon converted into the 7th N. Y. Heavy Artillery. According to a book about this regiment, Carnival of Blood, The Civil War Ordeal of the Seventh N. Y. Heavy Artillery (by Robert Keating, published 1998 by Butternut & Blue of Baltimore), the 7th N. Y. Heavy Artillery lost so many men during the war, and nearly all its officers, that it was combined with other regiments. Since so many Rensselaerville men belonged to this regiment, a history of the 7th N. Y. Heavy Artillery regiment would be an appropriate article for a future newsletter.

Tremain speaks eloquently of the heroic achievements and devoted bravery of the soldiers and the patriotism of Americans both in active service and in supporting roles at home. At one point he says Citizens of Rensselaerville! The erection of this beautiful monument reflects honor both upon the living and the dead. It furnishes an example worthy of general imitation throughout the loyal States of the Union. By this act of patriotic affection you have earned the gratitude, not merely of relatives and friends of the fallen, but also of the surviving members of the regiments with which they were connected.

There are several discrepancies between the printed introduction and the words and numbers carved on the monument, the most glaring of which is the name Lewis Davis. The printed introduction lists Lewis Davis as one of the 29 who died but the actual monument has left Davis’ name off and the monument only has 28 names. But the introduction and the oration both mention 29, not 28, several times.

The spelling of four names is different in the printed introduction and on the monument itself. We have printed above the names as spelled on the monument, not as they appear in the printed version of the introduction. The monument says C. Swaime Evans and the printed introduction says C. Swainee Evens. The monument says Jonathan Russell and the printed introduction leaves off the last l in his name. The monument says Lester U. Fish and the printed introduction gives his middle initial as M. The monument says George Schamehorn and the printed introduction spells his surname as Schermerhorn. Schermerhorn is the more common spelling and additional research may reveal which spelling is the correct one.

The monument says that William C. Conkling was in the 34th N.Y. Vols. and the printed introduction says he was in the 30th. The monument gives David Bouton’s age as 32 but the printed introduction says he was 23.

Many names on the monument have no rank listed but those names were all privates according to the printed introduction. The only exception is Philip Miller who is listed on the monument without a rank (therefore presumably a private) but in the printed introduction he is listed as a sergeant.

Those wishing to visit the Soldiers’ Monument will find it in the middle of the Rensselaerville Cemetery on Methodist Hill Road. The photo accompanying this article was taken around 15 years ago; the carved names are nearly illegible today, as are many others on gravestones and monuments in all the area cemeteries. Gravestone inscriptions were perfectly legible for 200 years but acid rain in recent years has destroyed the inscriptions. We are grateful to the 25 or so Historical Society genealogy volunteers who wrote down names and dates from all the Rensselaerville cemeteries in the 1960s and 1970s. These records are an invaluable resource today since the original inscriptions are so hard to decipher now.