It's funny how life works, because when you are busy traveling hundreds of miles to learn about Civil War history, you can sometimes find it in your own home state of New York.
It's even more fascinating when the history involves a New Yorker who served the Confederacy. This isn't the only time New York and the Confederacy have been linked - there is the fascinating story of the hamlet of Town Line New York that appears to have seceded from the Union and did not rejoin the Union officially until 1946.
There are a number of fascinating articles online about whether this secession actually happened. (All I can say is that, despite statements that their fire department logo still includes a Confederate flag - their current patch has an American Flag and Flag of the State of New York.)
And then there was Jedediah Hotchkiss.
I had not heard of Hotchkiss when, in March of 2012, I was browsing the wonderful Civil War bookstore located in the National Park at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. I found a book "Civil War Battles The Maps of Jedediah Hotchkiss". by Chester G. Hearn and Mike Marino. I quickly found that the book was not a biography of Jedediah Hotchkiss, a schoolteacher and geologist before the Civil War, who ended up becoming the mapmaker for Stonewall Jackson. (We are coming up on the 150th anniversary of this famous Confederate general's death, and I will be blogging more about him next Sunday.)
Still, I found value in a book that contained some of Hotchkiss' maps, and Civil War era photographs, and I bought it.
Later last year, my spouse found that one of his co-workers is interested in the Civil War, and this person told him "You've got to go to the Old Stone House Museum in Windsor!" I work with a couple of people who live in Windsor, (which is a rural village a few miles from here) and it turns out one of them knows the person who runs that museum - she offered to set up a visit for us and her sister, who also loves the study of the Civil War - but we were never able to make the connection.
So, a second time, I ran into Jedediah Hotchkiss. He was born, and grew up in, Windsor, on property where this museum is now located. He later moved to Virginia, which is how he ended up on the side of the Confederacy, making maps for Confederate generals.
So, object lesson here - don't ignore treasures in your backyard. Tomorrow, I'll be contacting my co-worker. Time to visit.
And now, it will also be time to hunt for other New York Confederates. None of us should be surprised - few of us today realize just how this war split our nation (and still does, to some extent) and how fighting it made the United States the country it is today.
Do you have a nice regional museum that mainly locals know about?