I traveled home from Fredericksburg to Erie Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving this year. It was my first trip back since arriving here in late June. As I have an serious allergy to the commercialism of Black Friday, I decided to make it History Friday.
After a brief visit to the Fort LeBoeuf Museum in Waterford, a story more suited for our friends at Emerging Revolutionary War, I headed for downtown and the Erie Historical Society and the Watson-Curtze Mansion, a place that I haven’t been to in over 20 years.
I was on the hunt for a couple of books that I was hoping that they would have in their gift shop, and a full serving of Strong Vincent and Erie’s Civil War history. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the permanent exhibit on the second floor of the mansion is. The giant exhibit case outside the Civil War Gallery included the flag staffs of all three Erie Regiments, the 83rd, 111th, and 145th, the full flag behind is a reproduction for display purposes, as well as other artifacts.
The gallery room is full of artifacts, including full uniforms, and also tells the stories of men from the Erie area who joined other units, including various artillery and cavalry units, as well as enough African-American men who ended up being a part of the 26th USCT. The prized piece in the room as Strong Vincent’s Field Sword.
Along the Erie Bayfront Highway, in front of the Raymond M. Blasco, MD Memorial Library, the formal name for the Erie Country Public Library System’s Main Branch there sits a statute of Vincent. The Library also has some historic items of interest in their Heritage Room, but unfortunately they were not open that day.
My final stop for the day was the Erie Cemetery where both Strong Vincent, and the first commander of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. John W. McLane are both buried. McLane is an oft-forgotten figure, even in Erie history, as he was killed in action on June 27, 1862 in the Battle of Gaines’ Mill when he was shot in the chest when Gen. Cadmus Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade attacked. Besides being the first Col. of the 83rd, he was the man who formed the original regiment out of Erie, the 90 day, Erie Regiment in 1861, which never saw battle. The Erie Regiment went on to populate many other Union units during the war. Strong Vincent was a member of the Regiment, as was Hiram Brown, who went on to be the Col. of the 145th, and is also buried in the Erie Cemetery.
McLane and Vincent’s graves are maybe 100 yards apart from each other, and in between them is the grave of Daniel Dobbins, who built the fleet that defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, which is also a story for another day and place.
There is plenty of additional Civil War history in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, including a monument to the civil war dead in my hometown of Girard, PA. that was erected by the circus clown and showman Dan Rice, who made his home there for 25 years, in 1865.
History is all around us, sometimes right in front of your nose. Explore Civil War history, and the stories it tells, wherever you are.