No region of the young United States would be left untouched by the hand of war as it swept across the nation from 1861 to 1865. Communities like Waterville, Clinton, Marshall and Sangerfield, although small, would not be exempt from their duty to preserve the Union. Men and boys, some no older than 16, would soon find themselves a part of close-knit units, locally recruited, and on an unforgettable adventure.
The conflict that would eventually become known as the American Civil War would cause a two percent population drop across the country. It is estimated that of the thousands who would serve in the war from Oneida County, more than 700 perished.
The majority of recruits from Waterville, Sangerfield and Marshall would be in two main regiments: the 117th and the 146th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiments. Companies D and K of the 117th were formed mainly of men from Sangerfield.
Companies E, H, and K of the 146th NY would be formed from men mainly from Marshall, Sangerfield and Clinton. Together, these two regiments would distinguish themselves on the battlefield.
Both of these regiments would train at Camp Huntington, in Rome prior to their departure for the war.
Today, those 22 acres of
the once military camp now make up portions of the modern 600 block and surrounding areas of West Liberty to the north and West Dominick Streets to the south. By the end of 1862, these two regiments would be in their respective theaters as the war department assigned them. The 117th would be assigned to coastal operations in Charleston, SC, and the 146th would be assigned to the Army of the Potomac’s famed Fifth Corps.
Both regiments would take part in some of the most historically significant and strategic battles of the war. Men of the 146th would see action at Gettysburg, where they would help to secure the left flank of the Army on July 2, 1863 on Little Round Top. At the same time, the 117th would hear of that victory as they prepared to provide support for the famous assault on Battery Wagner in South Carolina just days later and states away in late July of 1863. Oneida County was making history 155 years ago.
Pvt. David Edwards would go on to win the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865. He is buried in Waterville Cemetery. The men of the 117th NY would have their actions at Fort Fisher — in Wilmington, NC, — gallantly sketched and published in the famous Harper’s Weekly for the entire country to see. The 117th would take Fort Fisher on Jan. 15, 1865. This was the last remaining Confederate seaport that had to fall. This blow decisively helped end the war in April in the following months.
Today, a monument stands in Waterville dedicated to the thousands of men from this community and its surrounding regions who served in the Civil War. It serves as an important reminder to the sacrifices these men made and the greatness they achieved. The legacy of these men is that of bravery and honor to country and community.