Press-Republican

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June 20, 2011

Civil War group to gather information

PLATTSBURGH — Many people think the Civil War was a conflict that happened somewhere south of New York.

We read about names like Vicksburg, Antietam, Fort Sumter and Gettysburg in history books, but they seem far from our daily lives in the Champlain Valley. A closer look, however, proves these thoughts are wrong.

About two dozen history buffs and academic minds met recently at Clinton Community College to discuss the best way to chronicle the sacrifices, large and small, that affected the Champlain Valley, and the North Country, during and after the Civil War.

'That really struck me'

The conference, entitled "New York's Role in the American Civil War," was led by Jim Brangan, assistant director of the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership in Grand Isle, Vt., with an introduction by CVNHP Director Bill Howland.

"I was a Boy Scout in the sixth grade in Hartland, Vt., when I marched in a parade," said Howland. "I remember looking at the oldest people along the route and thinking they could remember family who had served in the Civil War. That really struck me."

Howland noted that the Civil War was about many things including the economy, secession and the Federal Supremacy Act, which have all brought about a different America. He said there have been many interpretations of the Civil War and its impact, where thousands of men died in a single day, yet many people have forgotten their service.

Important roles

Brangan pointed out that after the War of 1812 ended in the Champlain Valley, many factors, such as canal transportation, social revolutions, religious awakenings, women's rights, abolition of slavery (1827 in New York) and the Underground Railroad, drew northern New York into the Civil War.

"There are so many connections to the North Country that people don't realize unless it's pointed out and that's what we hope to accomplish," said Brangan, during a Power Point presentation. "For instance, Chaplain Francis B. Hall lived in the Kent-Delord House (in Plattsburgh). He was a good man who refused pay for his service. He went onto the battlefield and rescued the wounded even though he was only a chaplain."

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