11.15.17 - 11/15/2017


There is no room in the bookcase. Books need to go. With the ruthlessness that it takes to discard books, I started sorting through them. Just barely into the culling job, a book - “With Courage and Honor” - fell to the floor. This was a sign from above that I should take a few seconds and sit there on the floor in front of the bookcase and leaf through this dropped book, which is subtitled “Oneida County’s Role in the Civil War” and which I first read years ago. Many passages of the book were highlighted in yellow back then by me, which is the way I read non-fiction books. In a chapter about the Underground Railroad in Oneida County, written by Jan DeAmicis, an Underground Railroad expert, this was highlighted: “Evidence suggests that fugitives were sheltered in Boonville, Bridgewater, Clayville, Sauquoit, and Clinton.” In a chapter written by Cheryl Pula and Dennis Kininger about the 97th New York State Volunteer Infantry, two paragraphs were highlighted. This one: “In July, 1861, shortly after the Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers for the Union cause, asking that New York respond with its fair share. New York’s quota was 25,000 men, each to serve three years or for the duration of the war. A prominent 49-year-old, two-hundred-pound produce dealer from Boonville named Charles Wheelock was tapped on September 23,1861 by Governor Edwin D. Morgan to raise a regiment from the Mohawk Valley.” And this one: “At the time, Boonville was the gateway to the Adirondack Mountains, the most populous village between Utica and Watertown. It was also the terminus of the Black River and Utica Railroad. The Black River Canal meandered through the town, used to transport lumber from the North Country and dairy products from Lewis County to places like Rome. With the call for more volunteers for the war effort, Boonville became the recruiting and training center for a regiment composed primarily of men from the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.” This was also highlighted: “(Col.) Wheelock chose a converted canal warehouse belonging to Peter Post as a site for a camp where the new regiment would organize. The location, called Camp Rathbone, was located in Boonville. While it did not yet have a designated number, the new regiment did acquire two nicknames. One was the ‘Boonville Regiment,’ in honor of where it was raised. The other nickname was the ‘Conkling Rifles,’ after Roscoe Conkling, a prominent Republican Congressman and lawyer from the Utica area. It had also been suggested that it be called the ‘Black River Riflemen,’ but it was the Conkling Rifles that stuck.” This was also highlighted by me: “Though the regiment trained in Boonville, the men complained about a lack of some of the essentials and necessities of army life. They were especially upset by the lack of suitable uniforms. Clothing wasn’t the only thing they lacked. They also needed blankets. Their rescue came through the ladies of the region, who provided them with quilts, towels, pillows, socks, bandages and other items they required. Probably what they appreciated most arrived on Thanksgiving, when they received turkey and all the attendant fixings, such as cheese and apple pie.” There are many pictures in the book, including one of Capt. Charles Muller of Boonville. In a chapter written by Cheryl Pula about the 14th New York State Volunteers, which came into existence as the First Oneida County Regiment just three days after the start of the war, I highlighted this: “Company F commanded by Capt. Charles Muller, a store clerk, hailed from Boonville.“ Obviously, there is no way I could have tossed out “With Courage and Honor.” I didn’t toss out any other books, either. I was too busy reading.