Press-Republican

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July 9, 2013

Museum brings Civil War soldiers to life

ELIZABETHTOWN — North Country soldiers fought at Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Drewy’s Bluff.

“O that I was home,” Civil War soldier James Penfield of Crown Point wrote in a letter that is part of a new exhibit at the Adirondack History Center Museum.

“The Human Face of the Adirondacks in the Civil War,” with images, love letters and intimate diaries, is displayed at the Elizabethtown museum until Oct. 7.

“On these walls are our guys, people from the area,” said museum/Essex County Historical Society Director Margaret Gibbs. 

“We were able to get pictures and excerpts that make you feel like you know them.”  

EXTENSIVE COLLECTION

A major component of “Human Face” is part of an extensive collection belonging to Stuart Burnett of Tupper Lake, who started amassing Civil War artifacts during boyhood.

He loaned the items to the museum for the exhibit. 

Burnett, a Vietnam Veteran, continues to collect memorabilia with his wife, Rose. He wishes the objects could talk, and he never stops thinking, “I wonder who had that.”

The museum had not yet had an exhibit on the Civil War, said museum Board of Directors President Carol Blakeslee-Collin, who curated “Human Faces.” 

“I had a background in history and journalism and became passionate about (the project),” she said. “That’s all I read about the past six months. 

“So it came together as a collaboration of people’s interest, and with people like Greg Furness of the Penfield Homestead Museum (in Crown Point), we had a lot of help.”

MANNED TRENCHES

The exhibit focuses, in part, on the 118th Infantry Regiment, (Adirondack Regiment), which recruited 1,040 men from Clinton, Essex and Warren counties in 1862. 

Sent to Fort Ethan Allen, located about 6 miles from Washington, D.C., the regiment was employed at the Siege of Suffolk in Virginia, performed reconnaissance and fought in skirmishes around Portsmouth, Va., then battled in Dix’s Peninsula Campaign and South Anna Bridge. 

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