Collecting Civil War memorabilia has been a way William Howard has kept his favorite subject alive. However, continuing the words of a soldier who experienced the war firsthand has done more than keep the subject alive it has given it new life.
Howard, 48, of Delmar, is a Civil War historian who stumbled upon a rare find after purchasing a personal war collection 20 years ago in a used book store.
With the help of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs in the form of original photographs of soldiers in the 134th New York Infantry, Howard teamed up with The Northshire Press in Manchester Center, Vt., to publish The Civil War Memoir of William T. Levey."
Levey served as a corporal with the 134th, and an account of his experience was published in a very limited quantity in 1904. A paperback copy of that account was in that Civil War collection Howard purchased 20 years ago.
"I've been collecting Civil War memorabilia since I was 9 years old," said Howard, a 1979 graduate of Bethlehem High School. "It was a part of someone's small Civil War collection. I knew this book was rare when I found it. I couldn't find it in the New York State historical archives."
Howard said after reading over the manuscript one rainy afternoon, he decided to start editing and retyping it.
The end product was Howard's newest book, which he provides an introduction and research notes to. The book also features a forward written by the noted Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer.
"I decided to donate my original copy to the state archive after I was finished with the book," he said. "What I like about it is it really recreates the experience of talking with a Civil War veteran, and just like a person remembering their own past experiences, there's a little bit of myth as part of the account."