Middletown in the Civil War exhibit to open
Margaretville — A new exhibit detailing the impact of the Civil War on the life of residents of the Town of Middletown will open with a flag raising ceremony by area Scouts Thursday, July 4 at the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, 778 Cemetery Road.
The ceremony will be held at 9:45 a.m. outside the hall, where the exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day. From July 6, through September 1, the hall will be open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as during special programs to be held throughout the summer on Civil War themes.
The first program will be Saturday, July 13, when Ken Nichols, representing a regimental surgeon with the 125th NYS Volunteer Infantry, will provide a talk and demonstration on battlefield medicine at 12:30 p.m. At 2 p.m. that afternoon, Christian Heidorf, LTC (Ret), and his Morgan horse
Rebel, will explain the roll and experience of the horse in combat.
In “Middletown in the Civil War,” photos and artifacts will shed new light on the impact of this tumultuous time on our area, and on hundreds of local families whose lives were upended by the war. Careful research has revealed that 282 men from Middletown and the immediate vicinity enlisted or were drafted to serve the Union. Thirty-three of them did not return; many more were wounded, or suffered debilitating illness that plagued them for the rest of their lives.
In this small town, nearly everyone had a relative or neighbor in the service. Thirty-six sets of brothers wore the Union blue; two families sent four siblings off to war. In four households, both the father and a son left the rest of the family behind to join the army. All four fathers perished, leaving wives and younger children to manage homes and farms.
The experience of individual soldiers will be told in their own words, taken from letters and diaries. Visitors will learn where they fought, how they lived in the field, and how they felt about the war. Several local men spent time in prisoner of war camps, which will be graphically described.
The exhibit will also document the anti-war fervor of the local “Copperheads,” the hidden history of slavery in this area, and the efforts by many local businessmen and community leaders to avoid going to war by hiring substitutes.
The post-war lives of veterans will be examined as well. A surprising number left their hometown to settle in the west, others spent time in newly established National Homes for Disabled Veterans. Many became active in the GAR – the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans fraternal organization. Middletown’s local GAR chapter was formed in Arena and was named for James Elliott of New Kingston, who was killed in action in South Carolina. His brother Thomas also died of wounds.
In recognition of the sesquicentennial of the war, HSM volunteers have been working to compile individual information sheets on every Civil War soldier who was born in Middletown, or lived here for much of their lives. This important new historical resource will be available for browsing by exhibit visitors.
Sponsors of the Civil War exhibit and related programming this summer include the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce, Phil O’Beirne, the Elliott Family, Miller’s Drug Store, MTC, Riverside Pizza, Sluiter Insurance, the Cheese Barrel, the Flour Patch, Community Bank, NBT, and the Catskill Mountain News.
For details on programs and activities of the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, and to contribute toward the preservation of local history, please visit: mtownhistory.org.