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The Civil War in the Finger Lakes

Plaque at the American Civil War Memorial in Waterloo, New York, commemorating the death of Pvt. Thomas Condon of the 22nd New York Cavalry, who died at the age of 30 on 18 July 1864 in Andersonville, Georgia (USA). Andersonville was a prison that held 45,000 Union soldiers, of which 13,000 died due to disease and malnutrition.

Although the State of New York didn't play as much a part in the Civil War as it did in the Revolutionary War, there is still a keen interest in its events. Civil War encampments, re-enactments, and living history demonstrations take place throughout the state, including the Finger Lakes Region. For a complete list of all events, see the Civil War Heritage Foundation.


Two companies that were connected with the Finger Lakes were the Reynolds Battery L. 1st New York Light Artillery from Elmira and the 148th New York Volunteers Regiment of Infantry from Geneva. The Memorial Day Museum in Waterloo traditionally hosts an encampment during its Memorial Day celebration, featuring these two companies. You may want to read They Marched on Richmond by George Shadman, Jr., a history of the 148th.


During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners of war were housed in Elmira in Chemung County. Conditions were harsh at "Hellmira," especially during the winter, and many prisoners died. Escaped slave John W. Jones was paid by the federal government to keep record of and bury the dead in what is now Woodlawn cemetery. Jones's meticulous records and his care in burying the dead played a significant role in the reason why Congress made Woodlawn a national cemetery.


For a first-hand account of the Civil War by one Finger Lakes soldier, read Diary of a Soldier.


The American Civil War Memorial is located at Waterloo's Lock Park along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, part of the Erie Canal System. There is also a granite monument of a Civil War soldier in the West Lodi Cemetery on County Road 136 (Lodi Station Road) in the Town of Lodi. Both are located in Seneca County.


Updated 27 December 2009








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