Embracing the Empire State

The cannons are silent, the reenactors have turned in their weapons and the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War has drawn to a close — and so has this chapter of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s story.

May 2015: Seneca Knitting Mills, Seneca Falls, N.Y. The Empire State  has a long history of anti-slavery activism and sent more Union troops than any other state. Many upstate New York woolen mills, like this one on the  Cayuga-Seneca Canal dating to 1844, were established as an alternative to processing slave-grown cotton. Photo by Molly Charboneau
May 2015: Seneca Knitting Mills, Seneca Falls, N.Y. The Empire State has a long history of anti-slavery activism and sent more Union troops than any other state. Many upstate New York woolen mills, like this one on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal dating to 1844, were established as an alternative to processing slave-grown cotton. Photo by Molly Charboneau

With his return as a Union Army veteran to Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y., my focus now shifts from the battlefields of Virginia to the towns and countryside of upstate New York, where most of my family history is centered.

As Arthur surely did, I embrace the Empire State and welcome the change of pace.

For more than a year, in weekly blog posts, I have tracked Arthur’s service from Jan. 1864 to Aug. 1865 with the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — and his time away due to war-related illness.

There were new battles to write about nearly every week and fresh research required to place my ancestor in the action — with only brief breaks here and there to tell some of Arthur’s back story, or write single posts about other ancestors.

But now time has once again slowed, as it probably did for Arthur when he resumed civilian life and the familiar routines of work, family and a comfortable bed at night — welcome respites after his Civil War experience.

Born and growing up near the Catskills, Arthur lived most of his life in the Empire State — on its Southern Tier along the Pennsylvania border, in the North Country near the Adirondacks and in western New York’s Cattaragus County.

He returned from the war to a state with a long history of anti-slavery activism, where an extensive Underground Railroad network had moved escaped slaves to freedom — a state that provided more Union Army troops than any other and which, at war’s end, was poised for a new wave of social and economic development.

And I have returned with him — to explore aspects of Arthur’s history before and after the war, to write about the lives of other ancestors, to trace my forebears’ various paths to and within New York State, and to chronicle their diverse contributions to its social, political, economic and cultural development over the generations.

I invite you to continue with me on this journey so we can discover together where it leads — beginning with the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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