From April 12, 2011 until May 26, 2015 is the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. In an effort to open the four-year observance, the Genesee County Federation of Historical Agencies asked every local government, school and church in Genesee County to participate in a two minute county-wide bell ringing event on Tuesday, April 12th at 10:00 am.
On that day 150 years ago Fort Sumter located in the Charleston Harbor, South Carolina was attacked and was continuously shelled for forty hours before it fell to the South. On April 14, 1861 the Southern Commander gave permission for all the Union troops to leave safely and the Southern Confederate troops took over the fort. On April 15th, President Lincoln called for Army Volunteers.
From the Genesee County Atlas, dated 1875 was quoted the following: Scare had the booming of Sumter’s guns ceased to reverberate the patriotic citizens of Genesee rallied for the coming contest and on April 30th, seventeen days after the surrender Major Anderson and his gallant band, the first company organized in Genesee County left Batavia for the front. This company was commanded by Captain Root. The Republican Advocate reported their departure: “The cars (train) on their arrival were decorated with flags, and soon the volunteers were aboard, and amidst the firing of cannon and cheering of the immense multitude present, the train slowly moved from the depot, carrying from among us as brave a company of young men as ever enlisted under any banner.”
This Sesquicentennial is a Commemoration for those who made the supreme sacrifice for our country. The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War will provide Americans with the opportunity to reflect on the importance of this fundamental period in our nation’s history. New York State provided more manpower, materials and money than any other state. As stated by Kenneth T. Jackson, a historian at Columbia University who edited the Encyclopedia of New York City “The Union does not win the war without New York.”New York State also suffered more deaths during that horrific struggle than any other state. During the Civil War more than 620,000 or two percent of the population died which includes an estimated 48,000 of New York soldiers and the 274 men from Genesee County. By comparison the number of men from Genesee County killed during World War I was 43, World War II was 169, Korea was 18 and Vietnam was 22, for a total of 252.
New York State’s budget deficit has resulted in the elimination of state funding for Civil War Sesquicentennial events. Each county therefore is on it’s own to commemorate the sacrifices endured by our local communities. In Genesee County the Federation of Historical Agencies, a new organization which was formed last year, has a Civil War Commemoration Committee. The committee has asked every museum in Genesee County to create an exhibit, Historical Societies to sponsor events and the Municipal Historians to write articles regarding the local connection to the Civil War.
The Historians have been raising funds for an AmeriCorps Member to work with the History Department staff to create a Civil War database which will improve access to the wealth of information housed within the History Department. With the database the staff will be able to generate reports on who fought in various battles, who was wounded and who died. One of the concerns of the Federation was who do we include within our various list of Civil War soldiers. During the war you have men drafted or volunteering, men who died and were buried on the battlefields, men who were missing after a battle and never accounted for, and men who were taken prisoner and died in the P.O.W. camps. After the war Civil War veterans relocated to various community, established lives and are buried within local cemeteries. These men were not originally from Genesee County, but became citizens. At the Federation’s fall meeting last year it was voted anonymously to include them all.
People have stated that nothing is being done to commemorate the Civil War. True a grand parade was not planned nor a fireworks display for April 12th. However, GCC has already conducted a four-part lecture series; the Genesee County History Department created a Civil War display board which includes a resource binder that contains additional information on our local Civil War soldiers; local museums have been working on their displays and bells will ring at 10:00 am. If you are able and want to commemorate the Civil War, please join the Genesee County Federation of Historical Agencies and ring a bell too, on April 12th.
Susan Conklin, Genesee County Historian and Federation President