Veterans Day 2011 provides us an opportunity to celebrate the millions of great Americans who defended our country. During 2011 we should give special thanks to the 3.8 million Americans who fought in the Civil War. Many estimates claim that over 600,000 soldiers died in the Civil War from battles, disease, and death in prisons and other causes. Clearly, more Americans died in the Civil War than in any other American conflict.
The Capital District was one of the first parts of the country to send soldiers to the Civil War in April 1861. Soldiers from local counties such as Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington and other counties continued to fight until the conflict ended in 1865. Imagine four straight years of awful battles, death from disease and other causes. Soldiers from this area staffed approximately 31 infantry units, 5 cavalry units and 7 artillery units. Soldiers from our region show up at the first significant land battle of the Civil War which was held at Fortress Monroe, Virginia on June 11, 1861. The New York Times reported on June 14, 1861 that Colonel Frederick Townsend of the Albany regiment participated in the battle. Records also show that citizens from the Capital District communities participated in almost every famous battle of the eastern portion of the Civil War. Union victories such as the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Gettysburg in 1863, and the victories in Virginia by General Grant in 1864 and 1865 were supported by soldiers from our area.
Citizens from Albany can be found in some of the deadliest battles in the Civil War. For instance, local citizens who formed Company E of the 44th New York Volunteer Infantry which was organized at the Normal School of Albany (now known as the University at Albany) can be found charging up the hill against the Confederate artillery and Robert E. Lee’s mass infantry at Fredericksburg, Virginia on December, 13 1862. Members of the same unit can be found defending Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on June 2, 1863 thus leading to the defeat of the Confederate army advance being led by Confederate Generals Lee, Longstreet, and Hood.