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Veterans and Veterans Day

John Conway
Posted 11/11/22

It was in 1926 that the U.S. Congress passed a resolution recognizing November 11 as Armistice Day, commemorating the signing of the cease fire with Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the …

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Veterans and Veterans Day


It was in 1926 that the U.S. Congress passed a resolution recognizing November 11 as Armistice Day, commemorating the signing of the cease fire with Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Armistice Day became a national holiday twelve years later, and was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 in order to recognize the service of the soldiers in all U.S. wars. But since Veterans Day is essentially a 20th century holiday, it is sometimes easy to forget that our Veterans considerably predate the holiday. 

For example, during the Civil War, Sullivan County men fought gallantly in defense of the Union, serving in dozens of different regiments, ranging from the 28th, for which Monticello’s Major John Waller raised Company H in the early months of the war, to the vaunted 56th, of which ten full companies hailed from the county. Other men from Sullivan County fought with the 144th, the 15th Engineers, the 127th, the 30th, the 1st Engineers, the 129th, the 93rd, the 18th, and the 33rd.

Company G of the 2nd Regiment Mounted Rifles included men from the towns of Bethel, Callicoon, Liberty and Thompson. The town of Rockland sent men off to fight with the 8th Independent Battery Artillery. Men from Neversink fought with the 25th Regiment Cavalry and with the 1st Mounted Rifles, which also included men from Fallsburgh and Monticello. African Americans from the county fought with the 20th, the 26th and the 37th U.S. Colored Troops. 

And, of course, there was the 143rd Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry, usually considered Sullivan County’s own. 

On October 9, 1862 what was described as “an immense crowd of patriotic citizens of Sullivan County” gathered on the shores of Pleasant Pond (present day Kiamesha Lake) outside Monticello to present an American flag to the members of the 143rd, who were about to march off to war.

The Honorable Osmer B. Wheeler, supervisor from the town of Forestburgh and one of the most respected men in the county in his day, gave the eloquent presentation speech that afternoon. 

“And now brave Regiment, in presenting to you this splendid stand of colors, allow me to say that I am not delegated by the committee to present them in consideration of their intrinsic value; not because they contain a certain number of yards of the very finest bunting; but I am delegated by the committee to present them to you in consideration of their extrinsic value; because they are nothing less than the emblem of the greatness and power of this mighty nation, under the Constitution! And as such, are the incentive to deeds of valor on the battlefield, and in your hands will prove a precursor of victory after victory, over armed rebels, and the restoration of the Union, the supremacy of the Constitution and the enforcement of laws.”

Later that day, 1,007 men embarked by foot to the Erie Railroad station at Middletown, and the next day left the area by rail. They would pass through New York and Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia. Before long they would see action in defense of the Capitol at Washington, at Chickamauga, Georgia and at Missionary Ridge. They would take part in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign and his march to the sea; 187 of them would not return.

On the occasion of the presentation of the colors to the regiment a century and a half ago, O.B. Wheeler exhorted the throng to support the war effort in every way possible, reminding those in attendance that the cause was not just the Army’s. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, your life-long devotion to, and your earnest, your intense, your undying love for, the best interests of your beloved country, and your munificent contributions for the support of the Union army, including this splendid stand of colors, and your immense rally on this occasion, may well be taken as a proof positive by this gallant regiment that you will continue to render to our beloved country…all other material aid in your power to put down the unholy rebellion, and preserve, and maintain, and perpetuate that precious, that sacred legacy, our glorious Union, which we, under God, have inherited from our sainted sires.”

So let us pause this Veterans Day to honor those who have served and those who continue to serve in an effort to “maintain and perpetuate that precious, that sacred legacy, our glorious Union.”

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  

Contributed Photo

On October 9, 1862, at Camp Holley, near Monticello, the 143rd New York Volunteer Infantry received a stand of colors, including the national color seen here, from the patriotic citizens of Sullivan County. Made by Tiffany & Co. of New York City, it was carried on campaign until December 1863.


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