Sunday, June 9, 2013

Civil War Sunday - A Bridge Not Far

Since 1886, this bridge, the South Washington Street Bridge, has spanned the Susquehanna River from downtown Binghamton to the South Side of Binghamton.  It is no longer safe for vehicular traffic, but I have crossed it many times on foot - perhaps, the way a New York soldier training for his active service in the Civil War in the summer of 1862 might have.  Although the bridge was not yet built, there was a training camp, Camp Susquehanna, on the south side of where the bridge is now. Many people living in Binghamton are totally unaware of that history when they eat at the nearby Park Diner.

(South Washington Street Bridge, courtesy of AM)

A statue of a Spanish American war soldier stands guard on the downtown side of the bridge.

A local regiment, the 137th New York Infantry, was mustered into service September 25, 1862, right after the battle of Antietam. Their commanding officer was Colonel David Ireland and this regiment saw service in many important actions, including Chancellorsville, Lookout Mountain, Atlanta,  Bentonville, and, perhaps most important of all - Gettysburg, where their action at Culp's Hill helped to win the battle, and ultimately the war, for the Union.)
(Civil War Monument, downtown Binghamton, NY, honoring the 137th NY).

David Ireland never made it to the end of the war, dying in Atlanta, Georgia in 1864.  To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing named for Colonel Ireland in Binghamton, although it is possible his actions may have helped to win the Battle of Gettysburg.  That is about to change.

In time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3), the South Washington Street Bridge will be renamed the Colonel David Ireland/ 137th New York Voluntary Infantry Memorial Bridge.

Finally, some honor comes to David Ireland, a man almost unknown to many who live in Binghamton. His actions at Culp Hill, and those of our local regiment the night of July 2, 1863, may have won Gettysburg.

After Gettysburg, Ireland (who was born in Scotland) married a local Binghamton woman, Sara Phelps, but had to immediately go back to war.  They never had children.  But we in Binghamton consider him one of our own, and he is buried in a local cemetery with at least one other Civil War officer.


  1. ...fascinating insight into local history....thank you.

  2. Ah I'm always very interested in historical things!

  3. Love this. I have a friend who does Civil War reenactments and I love to hear the stories and see them act them out.

  4. Your Sunday forays into the Civil War are becoming compelling reading for me, Alana. And how stirring to read that this hero was born in my part of the world, though I'm guessing he probably left when he was quite young.

  5. Thanks for the history lesson:)

  6. Alana,
    When our kiddos were little, we took a "Civil War Junket" (our term) and we travelled all over the East coast, taking in a number of the Civil War sites: Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Appomattox Court House, etc. We camped in state parks. It was so wonderful. We are tempted to do it again, and when I read historical posts like this one of yours, I am more tempted than ever!

  7. Looks like a wonderful spot to visit. Would love to cross that bridge (on foot).


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