On Thursday, Nov. 17, the Bay Shore Historical Society hosted special guest Harrison Hunt, who gave a presentation about Long Island and the Civil War. Hunt, a retired history museum curator, taught …
On Thursday, Nov. 17, the Bay Shore Historical Society hosted special guest Harrison Hunt, who gave a presentation about Long Island and the Civil War. Hunt, a retired history museum curator, taught attendees much about local regiments and soldiers that fought in the war. Hunt is the co-author of “Long Island and the Civil War,” along with Bill Bleyer.
The society noted that they chose November as the month for this talk as an homage to veterans. Hunt joked that this was his first time presenting the program post-COVID, so he may be a bit rusty. If he was, it was completely unnoticeable, as Hunt explained that Long Island was a perfect microcosm of the North as a smaller well-defined area. There were descendants of Dutch and English colonists, newer immigrants from Germany and Ireland, African Americans, most of who were descended from slaves, Native Americans and rural areas, large towns and proximity to one of the largest cities in the country, Brooklyn. In terms of the war, Long Island contained pro-Union sentiment and some anti-union sentiment. However, Hunt did say that when war broke out, there was a “very swift outpouring of support for the Union.” There were rallies, speeches by politicians, and support given by local churches. Small pockets of Southern sympathizers were found, particularly out on the North Fork.
Hunt noted that while there were no battles fought on Long Island during the Civil War, the war did come to the island mostly in the form of training camps, many of which were out in Queens. Many of the units at the camps were from New England. They were sent to basic training at the camps before continuing South. The training camp that was the farthest east was in Mineola.
Hunt also went over some of the different manufacturers on the island that contributed to the war effort. For example, there was a lab in Astoria that made pharmaceuticals for the Army Medical Department. There was a drum factory in Flushing that made regimental drums and a drumhead factory in Woodbury.
Ladies also did their part in the war effort. Once fighting broke out, many of them organized sewing circles and they made rolled bandages and things for the soldiers. Some ladies volunteered at orphan homes and Army hospitals, and other volunteers worked as nurses on the front. One of the most famous nurses on the front was writer Walt Whitman. Hunt said that Whitman’s prose works from that time period are worth looking into, as they are incredibly insightful.
Coming up, the society will be hosting their annual Snowflake Sale and Winter Open House on Saturday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 22 Maple Avenue in Bay Shore. Starting at 11 a.m., Victorian Santa will be visiting the house for free family photo opportunities. The annual calendar fundraiser will be on sale at the event. Next year’s 2023 calendars are $15 and in honor of BSHS charter member Ray DiMaria, who died earlier this year.