The importance of Memorial Day can be lost in the shuffle of a long holiday weekend, traffic jams, and parades. Though we may all don our red crepe poppy to honor family and veterans lost in service to our country, a Texas-based organization realized that all our nation’s heroes needed to be honored and one way to help was to Carry The Load.
Carry the Load co-founders Clint Bruce and Stephen Holley war veterans, came home feeling that their friends who had fallen in the line of duty had been forgotten amidst the fireworks and BBQs. To honor those friends and many others that had fallen, Bruce loaded one pound of weight in a backpack to symbolize each friend that he had lost and he conducted a standard military march. The mission spread and now a coast-to-coast relay, marches, and rallies take place across the United States. » Continue Reading.
A number of experts will assemble Wednesday, April 12, at Paul Smith’s College to discuss loans, benefits, resources and investment opportunities available to U.S. veterans living in the North Country.
This free workshop, which is geared toward veterans with an interest in starting a business, will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Joan Weill Adirondack Library’s Adirondack Room.
The event will kick off with an introduction by Nicholas Hunt-Bull, provost of Paul Smith’s College, followed by a presentation from Richard Hannis, upstate New York director emeritus of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, who will discuss the free resources available to veterans interested in starting their own businesses. » Continue Reading.
According to DEC Region 5 Spokesperson David Winchell, Prospect Mountain is one of two summits in the Adirondacks that are open to public motor vehicle traffic, the other being Whiteface Memorial Highway. Last year’s open weekend saw over 900 cars pass through the Prospect Mountain gate. With amble parking for 450 cars as well as two accessible spaces, the free weekend was a success for all. » Continue Reading.
Tom Smith shouldn’t be alive. In Vietnam, he was a 1st Cavalry Division helicopter scout pilot. Helicopter pilots, especially scout pilots, flew through the heaviest enemy fire of the war. Cavalry Division scout pilots were hit hardest. Their attrition rates were twenty times that of U.S. Air Force pilots, their survival rate, forty to fifty percent, their life expectancy, three weeks. Tom’s job was to fly at speeds under 30 miles an hour at treetop level locating enemy, usually by drawing their fire.
It took Smith a long time to realize he lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition brought on, he shares with me, not so much by horrific combat experience –being shot down multiple times, trees snapping his coptor’s rotors off as it plunged earthward, looking down at gunmen whose bullets ripped through his fuselage — but rather, by living with the daily grind of fear. » Continue Reading.
Sadly, Veterans Day doesn’t seem to get the press that Halloween does. Yes, I realize it doesn’t come with candy or ring the doorbell dressed up like a ninja. Instead it quietly rolls around each November 11th.
Celebrated first as Armistice Day to commemorate the November 11, 1918 truce ending World War I, the name was changed in 1954 after World War II and the Korean War to honor all American veterans of wars. So besides the individual town celebrations to remember those veterans that made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives as well as those that continue to serve, here are three ideas to say thank you. » Continue Reading.
Much of the time spent honoring past members of the military is focused on heroes, or those who died in battle. It’s certainly appropriate, but often lost in the shuffle are individuals who survived unscathed after serving with great distinction. An excellent North Country example is Robert Haggart, who made a career out of military service, was known nationally, commanded tens of thousands of men, and was responsible for training vast numbers of naval recruits.
Robert Stevenson Haggart was born in April 1891 to Benjamin and Annie (Russell) Haggart of Salem, New York, in Washington County. After finishing school at the age of 17, he received an appointment to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. » Continue Reading.
I guarantee you’re going to enjoy this. Continuing in the vein of last week’s piece related to the Civil War (a Plattsburgh woman who served as a man), here’s another unique North Country link to that conflict. Though a true story, it’s perhaps best characterized as one of those Ripley’s Believe It or Not! items, and begs the question: What the heck are the odds of that happening?
I can’t answer that, but I do recall that in my former employment, it was notable when three men all having the same first name worked in the same department. So what can you say about a group of three war veterans called “The One-Legged Jims”?
Among the many Union outfits filled by soldiers from upstate was Company A, 77th Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Enlistment sites, always plentiful, included Chatham, about twenty-five miles south of Albany, and Westport, on the shore of Lake Champlain.
The interest here focuses on three enlistees: James G. Allen, 39; James E. Barnes, 35; and James A. Lawrence, 19. Barnes and Lawrence mustered in at Westport on October 1, 1861, while Allen mustered in at Chatham on February 4, 1864.
All three served in Company A, 77th Regiment. Even though there’s more than a two-year span between their muster dates, they all ended up serving at the same time in 1864. Three Jims, same regiment, same company―no big deal.
In June of that year, the men of the 77th were joined in battle at Petersburg, Virginia. During a lull, the troops relaxed behind the breastworks (barriers to protect from ground attack). Many of them laid down to rest, talking and joking amongst themselves to ease the tensions of war. Within their midst, by mere coincidence lying side by side, were the three aforementioned Jims.
Hell erupted in an instant, courtesy of a Rebel shell that landed virtually in their laps. In describing the scene firsthand, Dr. George Stevens said, “Its explosion threw them in every direction. One went high in the air and fell twenty feet from the spot where he was lying when the shell exploded. Strange to tell, not a man was killed, yet three had each a leg crushed to jelly, and two others were seriously wounded.”
But for the quick work and dedication of medical personnel, the three Jims with mangled legs might have died on the spot. The surgeon gave each a glass of brandy, administered chloroform, and went to work.
Within thirty minutes, three limbs were amputated, the remaining stumps were treated and bandaged, and the men were in ambulances. Their destination was City Point, eleven miles away, where they arrived within three hours of being wounded. The speedy effort saved their lives. Later, all three were transferred to Stanton General Hospital in Washington.
One shell, three legs lost … three left legs … and three one-legged survivors, all named Jim. What are the chances? The coincidence wasn’t lost on anyone, and it earned the men plenty of extra attention during their recovery. In the years to come, they became known informally as The One-Legged Jims. Their story developed into a sort of military urban legend: men would tell it as an incredible army tale from their own outfit, perhaps not aware that it was, in fact, a true story taken from New York’s 77th.
After the war, Jim Lawrence eventually moved west, but Barnes remained in his hometown of Westport. At veterans’ GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) reunions across the state, he became known as the best of storytellers. The highlight, of course, was the retelling of how The One-Legged Jims, a very exclusive club, came into being. Many of the listeners had been present when the shell exploded.
“Well, boys, it was down in a rifle pit before Petersburg on the 21st of June, 1864 – lots of you remember the day – myself, Jim Lawrence, and Jim Allen, all of Company A … had finished our coffee and were lying down, smoking our pipes. My head was supported by my arm, which rested on my knapsack, and my right leg was curled up under me, my left one being stretched out. The other two Jims were lying near me in about the same position. That Rebel shell came, it did, and three Jims lost their left legs.”
He was always careful to describe the treatment and efficiency of the surgeon and others who worked so hard to keep them alive every step of the way.
Barnes made his mark outside the military as well. A pension (equal to $800 a month today) for the loss of his leg helped financially, but he also worked. Those who follow the history of Lake Champlain might recognize James Barnes as the first keeper of Barber’s Point Lighthouse when it opened in 1873.
For the remainder of his life, Barnes attended GAR gatherings. The best one of all, from his perspective, came in 1884, when the annual reunion of the 77th Regiment was held at Westport. Jim’s stories were a highlight of the affair. Over the years, from Saratoga to Plattsburgh, he entertained folks in like manner and made many friends at veterans’ events.
The 1890 reunion was remembered by many as both sweet and bittersweet. Jim Lawrence, the only other surviving member of The One-Legged Jims, came all the way from Nebraska, reconnecting with his friend and sharing stories from the past. It was fortunate that he did.
After the Gloversville reunion, Barnes headed for Westport, but stopped to visit a friend at Fort Ann in Washington County. While there, he was struck down by a stroke and never made it home alive.
As fate would have it, the reunion for 1891 was held in Westport. The unfortunate absence of Barnes was noted in a published summary of the event:
“The ‘boys in blue’ … adjourned to the lower rooms, where refreshments were served and old army stories (which no doubt grow tougher as they grow older) were told. James Barnes, the champion storyteller, was missed from the ranks, he having been summoned by the last roll since their last reunion.”
Photo: The crimson silk flank marker of New York’s 77th Regiment.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
Judson Kilpatrick, a Union general during the Civil War, has been described as flamboyant, rash, and tempestuous. There’s no doubt that he was often a rogue officer, sometimes to disastrous effect. The South developed a deep hatred of him for the extreme methods he employed, but he was certainly part of the team effort that led to the North’s victory.
As every leader knew during the war, many levels of support were necessary in order to win. Despite being brash and confident in his abilities, Kilpatrick famously cited a North Country man, Captain John Viall, as critical to the general’s own success, and the Union’s as well.
John Greeley Viall, son of William and Mary Viall, was born November 1829 in Westport, New York, on the western shore of Lake Champlain. In January 1852, when he was 22 years old, John left New York and settled in Texas. Nine months later, he purchased the San Antonio Tin, Copper, and Sheet Iron Ware Manufactory, which sold and/or fabricated stoves, cookware, water pipes, and just about anything made of metal. » Continue Reading.
Tomorrow, November 11, Historic Saranac Lake will open its exhibit on World War I in Saranac Lake to the public 2 – 4 p.m. to commemorate Veterans Day. The community is invited to a free viewing in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory at 89 Church Street. Light refreshments will be served. Following is a press release from Historic Saranac Lake describing the origins of Veterans Day:
Veterans Day marks the date of the armistice between the Allied nations and Germany. On this date in 1918, WWI, the “War to end all wars” finally came to end. It was a war that took the lives of over 9 million military men, and left an indelible mark on the Village of Saranac Lake. Almost 300 residents of Saranac Lake served in some capacity in World War I.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words (quoted from the website of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs).
“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
“Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
“Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday:
“Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
Photo: WWI officer John Baxter Black, provided to Historic Saranac Lake by his family.
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