Citizens Lead New York’s 150th Efforts
By Paul Post
(April 2011 Civil War News)
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s $10 billion budget deficit has virtually eliminated all hope of state funding for Civil War sesquicentennial events.
However, a 100-member citizens committee has taken up the cause to make sure the Empire State’s fallen heroes aren’t forgotten.
More than 48,000 New York soldiers died during the war, the most of any Northern state, and New York gave the most in terms of money, materials and supplies.
“We’d dishonor these people’s sacrifice by failing to recognize what they did,” said Lance Ingmire, the New York Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee chairman who had more than a dozen ancestors in the war. “We’re leading the charge to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The all-volunteer statewide committee is comprised of historians, educators, authors, reenactors and descendants of Union soldiers. The group’s first goal is to obtain a formal state endorsement.
“The biggest thing we’d like right now is to have the state recognize us as the official New York State committee,” Ingmire said. “That gives us legitimacy. That would propel us into the forefront, create awareness and open doors financially.”
Several Senate and Assembly lawmakers from Long Island to Niagara Falls have agreed to co-sponsor such legislation. Previously, former Gov. David Paterson refused to back a bill creating a commission if state funding wasn’t available.
At the very least, with formal recognition the sesquicentennial group could try to secure financial backing from a variety of private sources.
They already have several specific commemorative goals in mind.
The signature project would be a four-year rotating exhibit at the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs. Each year, a different major event of the Civil War would be depicted, showing New York’s role and relevance. The exhibits would include panels that could travel around the state.
The highlight would come in 2013, the 150th anniversary of both the Battle of Gettysburg and Saratoga’s first-ever thoroughbred racing meet. A Friends of the New York State Military Museum group hopes to partner with New York Racing Association and the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga to promote these anniversaries cooperatively.
In addition, the sesquicentennial committee hopes to stage events such as encampments and sanitary fairs throughout the state to show what New Yorkers did during the war.
One of the first planned activities is a May 15 graveside memorial service in Mechanicville, N.Y., paying tribute to Col. Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer killed during the war.
Plans also call for promoting Civil War-themed events with the official I Love New York Web site and travel brochures.
“We face a daunting challenge,” Ingmire said.
In April the military museum opens a new permanent exhibit that traces the evolution of the New York Militia and National Guard from 1792, when the Uniform Militia Act was passed, to the National Defense Act of 1916. It will cover every major conflict from the War of 1812 to the Spanish-American War.
For information or to donate to the sesquicentennial committee contact Ingmire at email@example.com or go to www.nycivilwar150.org.