1862 Focus of Peterboro Civil War Weekend

The Peterboro Civil War Weekend Committee invites the public to step back to 1862 on June 9 and 10 to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The 12th U.S. Infantry hosts the encampment. For two decades the Peterboro encampment has demonstrated aspects of military and civilian life. In recent years exhibits and programs on abolition and the Underground Railroad have been added.

During the event Peterboro relives the period of the mid 1800s when the hamlet held national recognition because of Gerrit Smith’s Underground Railroad station, the visitations of famous abolitionists, and the connection with John Brown that sparked the Civil War. Peterboro sites are on the Heritage NY Underground Railroad Trail and on the National Park Service Network to Freedom Underground Railroad Trail.In 1862 the United States was in the second year of its Civil War. In 1862 Peterboro citizens prepared for service in that war. The 20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend will commemorate the nation’s Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, as well as celebrate the 20th anniversary of the educational and fund-raising event in the historic hamlet of Peterboro, Town of Smithfield in Madison County, NY.

According to the research of Smithfield Town Historian Donna Dorrance Burdick, the Utica Morning Herald & Daily Gazette reported that “Gerrit Smith has donated twenty-five dollars to each volunteer from this town who has enlisted under the last call of the President. The town has raised more than the whole quota of men required by the last two calls of the President.”Days later a farewell reception was held on the Peterboro village green for the 157th NY Volunteer Infantry, a unit raised with men from Madison and Cortland counties. On horseback Smith addressed the troops and arranged for copies of the New Testament to be placed in the knapsack of each soldier. 150 years later on that same Peterboro green, during the opening day of the weekend, Dick Enders as Gerrit Smith and members of the 157th New York Volunteers (reenacting) will recreate segments of this 1862 scene. On Saturday Major Carmichael aka Don Jeffrey will host an exhibit on the 157th at the Smithfield Community Center.

During the weekend event, information on Smithfield citizens who served in the Civil War will be featured at the Peterboro Area Museum. Donna Dorrance Burdick, Smithfield Town Historian, has assembled town records, pension notices, discharge papers, letters, and other documents on the 157th NY Volunteers, as well as other military units and individuals. Burdick and her sister Beth Dorrance Spokowsky, President of the Peterboro Area Museum, will also be conducting their popular and informative tour of the Hamlet of Peterboro on Saturday and Sunday.

On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln shared his early draft of the (Preliminary) Emancipation Proclamation with his Cabinet. Lincoln released the final Emancipation Proclamation in January of the following year and donated the draft copy to the U.S. Sanitary Commission for a raffle to raise funds for the troops. Gerrit Smith bought most, if not all of the raffle tickets, and thus, became owner of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which he, in turn, donated back to the Sanitary Commission.That priceless document now resides in the New York State Library thanks to NYS legislative action in 1865.

During the 20th Civil War Weekend a facsimile of the proclamation given to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum by the NYS Library will be on display at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro. The U.S. Sanitary Commission and Abraham Lincoln (aka Jack Baylis) will once again be at the weekend event.

1862 is the year that legends and research indicate that the short musical piece of Taps began to be played to indicate the end of the day for soldiers. Cheryl Pula, Secretary of the (Brigadier General) Daniel Butterfield Civil War Round Table (which will be participating in the weekend event), explains “Butterfield wrote Taps at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia. The story is that he was tired of the bugle call used for “lights out,” so he wrote a new call, and gave it to his bugler, Oliver Norton. Norton played it, and the tune caught on, even with the Confederates who overheard it and used it.” The 2012 Peterboro Civil War Weekend will close on Sunday, June 10 with Taps in recognition of its addition to military regimen 150 years ago.

The annual event is an educational and fundraising event sponsored by the Smithfield Community Association, the Town of Smithfield, and private donors. Proceeds from the event support the preservation and promotion of the heritage of the Town of Smithfield. Saturday, June 9 hours are 10 am – 5 pm, and Sunday, June 10 from 10 am – 4 pm. Admission is $8 for adults, $3 for ages 6 – 12, and free for children under 6. Parking is free. For more information contact 315-684-3262 and civilwarweekend.sca-peterboro.org

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