A 34-star flag made by the women of Huntington that flew over the Sammis General Store at the corner of Main and Green streets when they got word of a Union victory gets prominent display at the Huntington Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit.
That flag, along with other Civil War-era flags, guns, bayonets, period clothing and photos and paintings of the village as it looked in that time period, are on display in the exhibit “A Soldier’s Return: Huntington During the Civil War” at the , 228 Main St.
The exhibit will be on display through the end of the year and may be updated as new objects are added or new information comes to light, said Robert “Toby” Kissam, executive director, who curated the exhibit. He’s hoping especially that people may find and loan the society period photographs or drawings of family who served in the Civil War. It is the society’s contribution as the country recognizes the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, which began April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter, S.C.
The main display is a large drawing of J.C. Walters, the first Huntington resident who was known to have been killed in the war. Jacob C. Walters died in the Battle of Cedar Mountain on Aug. 9, 1862, just months after his Company C, part of the 102nd New York Regiment, left New York City in March 1862.
Walters was the son of Philip Walters and Deborah Concklin Walters. He married Eliza Jane Kellum Cheshire, a widow with a daughter, Emma, and then had two daughters with her, Ida Walters and Carrie Walters. The charcoal drawing of him was donated late in 2010 by Joan Ferguson, who was the second wife of Walters’ great-grandson, John Ferguson.
Among the papers on display is the enlistment roll for local soldiers, with their names and ages, on loan from the Huntington Town Archives, as well as a commemorative Soldier’s Record that shows their regiment and company and also left room for them to add their photo or a small drawing.
The records were made by Currier & Ives after the war, and the one on display shows the photo and records of Pvt. John Schumaker, a German immigrant who enlisted in 1862, survived the war and came home to be a builder. There also are two letters on display that Schumaker wrote to his wife, oddly formal in light of today’s relaxed correspondence, signed “I remain as ever your husband, John Schumaker,” and “From your husband, John Schumaker.”
Both letters mention not being paid, and in one he urges his wife (the letters start “Dear Wife”) to get “money or anything els (sic) you must get it at Mr. Woodhulls and will pay it as soon as possible.” Woodhull’s was a general store that used to sit at the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street, where the shuttered gas station now sits.
When soldiers signed up, they received a $100 signing bonus, which the town was responsible for paying, Kissam said. Wealthier residents gave money, and there were subscription drives, he said, and at times records show the town borrowed money. “It’s still a little unclear how they were paid,” Kissam said.
A quick look through a booklet that lists the names of Huntington residents who went off to fight in the Civil War shows distressingly few returned, and little information on others. Kissam hopes more information comes to light as people visit the exhibit.
The booklet sits on the mantle under a marble plaque which contains the names of the men who died, including J.C. Walters. The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building was completed in 1892 as a memorial to the 40 residents who died in the war.
The 102nd Regiment, according to the New York State Military Museum records, with “eight companies, left the state on March 10, 1862, followed by Cos. I and K on April 7. Assigned to the 2nd brigade, 2nd division, 2nd corps, Army of Virginia, it fought its first severe engagement at Cedar Mountain, where its loss was 115 killed, wounded and missing.”
“It was a brutal war,” Kissam said. “The tactics were from an older time and men died unnecessarily.”