• Welcome to the New York State Military Museum

    Welcome to the New York State Military Museum

    The mission of the museum and research center is to preserve, interpret and disseminate the story, history and records of New York State’s military forces and veterans.

    View Details...

  • Sherman Tank Returns!

    Sherman Tank Returns!

    Our Sherman Tank returns to the NYS Military Museum from Fort Drum after a year long restoration, to it's permanent exhibit spot.

    View Details...

  • CIVIL WAR PAINTINGS | Now on Display

    CIVIL WAR PAINTINGS | Now on Display

    This exhibit will highlight some of the finest Civil War artwork from the collection of the Military Museum on a rotating basis. Click for more details...

    View Details...

  • A CALL NOT UNHEEDED

    A CALL NOT UNHEEDED

    The exhibit features a dazzling array of militia and National Guard distinctive unit dress uniforms, ballot boxes and decorative bronze trophies that interpret the social organization of the National Guard, original artifacts from the USS Maine, and a carronade captured during the 1857 Dead Rabbits Riot in New York City.

    View Details...

  • Battleground for Freedom

    Battleground for Freedom

    No less than 120 military engagements occurred on New York soil, more than in any other state, ranging in scale and significance from the decisive Battle of Saratoga to numerous bitter skirmishes and ruthless raids that raged throughout the frontier settlements...

    View Details...

  • Some Great Past Exhibits

    Some Great Past Exhibits

New York's Horse Soldiers, 1840-1940

“New York's Horse Soldiers, 1840-1940”, a new exhibition opening at the New York State Military Museum on July 5, traces the history and evolution of New York State's cavalry units from the militia era in the decades before the Civil War through the beginning of World War II when mechanized vehicles replaced horses.  The exhibition features a variety of uniforms and cavalry equipment including a Squadron A Enlisted Man's Full Dress Coat with Baldric, 1910; a Model 1904 McClellan Saddle, 1918; and a Remington Rolling Block Carbine, New York State Contract, 1873. 

Although New York State’s organized militia included numerous cavalry companies and regiments since at least the 1810's, the cavalry arm lacked sufficient supplies, effective leadership, and professionalism until the late 1880s. When Troop A, Cavalry joined the New York National Guard in 1889, New York’s horse soldiers started to achieve the respect and recognition afforded the traditional foot soldier. Subsequent growth established a new era for the New York horse soldier that would propel New York’s National Guard well into the 20th century. 

In the first half of the 19th century, New York State’s volunteer militia steadily grew as numerous companies and regiments, including cavalry units, formed across the state. Deceivingly, these regiments were largely skeletal units or loosely organized “paper” regiments. Beginning in the mid-1850s infantry regiments were permitted to add two flank companies of cavalry. At the cusp of the Civil War, the New York State Militia included nearly 1600 cavalrymen in over 35 cavalry flank companies plus two New York City-based cavalry regiments. 

During the Civil War, New York State Militia cavalrymen and over two dozen new volunteer cavalry regiments contributed approximately 50,000 horse soldiers to the Union cause. State militia cavalrymen from the 1st Cavalry and 3rd Cavalry served briefly in 1861 and again during the deadly 1863 Draft Riot in New York City. 

Beginning in 1868, New York State’s Adjutant General initiated a systematic restructuring. In 1885 a small group of New York City gentlemen formed a private cavalry organization called the “First New York Hussars” and later the “New York Dragoons.” The group’s popularity and seriousness quickly grew. On April 2, 1889, the organization officially mustered in the New York State National Guard as Troop A, Cavalry.   Fresh from its highly commendable service during the Brooklyn Trolley Strike in 1895, Troop A continued to grow and received a new designation, Squadron A, in February 1895. Squadron A’s popularity and success spurred interested horsemen in neighboring Brooklyn to form a mounted troop, Troop C, Cavalry (officially organized in December 1895.)   

 New York’s cavalry volunteers during the Spanish American War included one troop, designated as Troop A, Cavalry, New York Volunteers, with 105 volunteers and three officers from Squadron A. The second troop, designated as Troop C, Cavalry, New York Volunteers, included volunteers from the Brooklyn-based Troop C, Cavalry. During the brief war, the horse soldiers in Troops A and C, Cavalry, New York Volunteers served in Puerto Rico where Troop C engaged in several skirmishes with Spanish troops. 

After the Spanish American War, in Albany, Troop B, Cavalry organized and mustered into service in January 1902. In Syracuse, Troop D, Cavalry mustered into service in April 1904. In Brooklyn, Troop C, Cavalry expanded into a squadron, Squadron C, to include two troops in December 1904 and another two troops added in 1908. Even Squadron A grew in size with another troop added in May 1907. 

Growth led to consolidation as the 1st Cavalry organized in late December 1911 to merge New York’s Squadron A and Brooklyn’s Squadron C with a new squadron, organized September 11, 1911, known as the Third Squadron. Headquartered in Albany, the Third Squadron included only two troops, Albany’s Troop B and Syracuse’s Troop D.  Additionally, in 1912 six new cavalry troops organized. Four troops joined the 1st Cavalry: Troop L, based in New York City (immediately re-designated as Troop C); Troop M, based in Brooklyn; Troop H, from Rochester; and Troop I, from Buffalo. The remaining two new troops, Troop F, from Staten Island, and Troop G, from Utica, joined a newly created cavalry regiment, the 2nd Cavalry, organized in March 1912, with five troops pulled from the 1st Cavalry.  Ultimately by mid-1914 the New York National Guard included one full cavalry regiment, the 1st Cavalry, plus one squadron, Squadron A, and one Machine Gun Cavalry troop, a company of machine gunners attached to division headquarters in New York City.

 In June 1916, New York National Guard cavalrymen responded to President Woodrow Wilson’s call to arms along the Mexican Border. New York supplied a full division known as the New York Division or, more officially, the 6th Division. The division included over 1200 cavalry troops from the 1st Cavalry (959 officers and men), Squadron A (219), and the Machine Gun Troop, Cavalry (65).  

 When the United States joined World War I in July 1917, the deadly European war had already raged for nearly three years. The tactics and technology witnessed during the war’s first three years, specifically trench warfare and the use of new advanced weaponry like machine guns, heavy artillery, and tanks, rendered traditional horse soldiers obsolete. Consequently, when the New York National Guard’s old New York Division, or 6th Division, mustered into federal service as the 27th Division, the division’s cavalry units dismounted and served in the 104th, 105th, or 106th Machine Gun Battalions or the 102nd Trench Mortar Battery.

 Shortly after World War I, the 27th Division returned home to New York and the former horsemen from the old 1st Cavalry reorganized and reequipped for cavalry duty and consolidated with upstate units to form the 101st Cavalry in December 1920. Squadron A, New York National Guard reformed as the 51st Machine Gun Squadron in December 1921. The machine gunners eventually reorganized as the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry in 1928.  Growth necessitated another cavalry regiment to complement the existing 101st Cavalry and to consolidate the additional cavalry troops then located in Albany, Utica, Syracuse, and Geneseo. The new regiment, designated as the 121st Cavalry in 1928 with Headquarters in Rochester, included these smaller cavalry troops plus personnel from the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry.   

 

In 1940-41, as the United States kept a watchful eye on the raging war in Europe and the Far East, the War Department evaluated the National Guard’s and Army’s preparedness for modern warfare and concluded that traditional horse cavalry was not essential. Consequently, New York’s 101st and 121st Cavalry regiments received new designations and assignments as Mechanized Cavalry, Reconnaissance Squadrons, Antitank Battalions, and as a Coast Artillery regiment. These conversions effectively ended New York State’s short-lived yet important era as home to the nation’s premiere horse soldiers. 

rjk-7/3/17

Horsemen from Troop A, New York National Guard, Brooklyn Trolley Strike, 1895.

Troop A - Cavalry, New York Volunteers, Camp Alger, Virginia, May-July, 1898.

 

  • Winter/Spring 2017 Newsletter

  • Military Museum Announces major fundraising boost

    The Friends of the New York State Military Museum's fundraising efforts received a big boost recently with significant grants from local foundations' and a prominent area business to support the NYS Military Museum's development of a major new exhibition on the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

    Stewart's Shops, which donates $7.5 million annually to local charities, and the Saratoga Foundation each awarded the Friends $10,000 while the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust presented the Friends a check for $20,000.00.  The Friends will use these funds to help pay for installation expenses such as exhibit cases and graphics as well as to support the development of associated educational programming and interactive video kiosks featuring oral histories from New York State veterans.

    "We are grateful for these generous awards, so we can support the Military Museum's exhibit on Korea and Vietnam and help to honor the service and sacrifice of all of our nation's brave men and women who participated in these conflicts," said David Wallingford, President of the Friends and a Vietnam War veteran.

    Entitled "Hot Spots in the Cold War:  Korean and Vietnam," the exhibition is scheduled to open in the late spring or summer of 2017.

    December 17, 2016

     

     

     

  • Ellsworth Civil War Flag

    Just how did a piece of an early Confederate flag get to the Inland Empire in California?

     
    Capt. Elmer Ellsworth (Courtesy photo)
    Capt. Elmer Ellsworth (Courtesy photo) 
     
    This is a 14-foot-by-24-foot Confederate flag, which has been heavily cut by souvenir hunters, that flew over the Marshall House in Alexandria in 1861.   (Image courtesy of the New York State Military Museum, New York State Division of Military and Naval
Affairs.)This is a 14-foot-by-24-foot Confederate flag, which has been heavily cut by souvenir hunters, that flew over the Marshall House in Alexandria in 1861. (Image courtesy of the New York State Military Museum, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.) 

     

    An odd relic of one of America’s most horrific periods will see the light of day Tuesday for the first time in many years.

    The 5-inch-square piece of blue and white cloth will seem rather ordinary to visitors who see it beginning Tuesday at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands. It was cut from an historic flag whose tapestry tells the unhappy story of some of the first deaths of the Civil War.

    The museum opens a two-month-long exhibition, “Over Here, Over There: In Times of War, showing items in its collections from veterans — mostly local men and women — from their times served in the military.

     

     

    The cloth on display at the museum is related to a few tense moments in May 1861 that claimed the lives of two men in a fight over a Confederate flag. Their deaths left each man a martyr to their respective causes early in the Civil War.

    The fabric was believed cut from what is known as the Marshall House flag, a huge Confederate banner that was raised above the Marshall House hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, by its owner James Jackson. It was a time when the Union was disintegrating as Southern states began seceding after Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

     

     

    The 14-foot-by-24-foot flag — with three horizontal stripes and a circle of seven stars — was the first flag designed for the Confederacy, though it was later replaced by the “Dixie” flag, the more familiar symbol of the Southern cause.

    It was a center of attention when Union soldiers were sent across the Potomac from Washington D.C. to occupy Alexandria on May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia voted to leave the union, according to the New York Military Museum.

    The soldiers were led by Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, who among other things had been a law clerk for Lincoln in Illinois before entering the Army. Angered because the flag could be seen across the river at the White House, Ellsworth decided to climb onto the hotel roof and haul it down.

     

     

    Angered by his action, Jackson grabbed a shotgun and killed Ellsworth. Moments later, Jackson was shot and killed by Ellsworth’s soldiers.

    The body of Ellsworth, the first Union officer to die in the war, would later lie in state at the White House. It was then taken with the blood-stained flag to his home in Mechanicsville, New York, for burial. News of his death served as a rallying point for recruiting Union soldiers in the early days of the war.

    That much is known about the flag and its bloody history, but there’s mostly a mystery about how the museum’s 155-year-old piece found its way 3,000 miles west to the Inland Empire.

    According to the museum records, there are no specific details as to who donated it or when. It was unearthed among the hundreds of items donated to the museum over the years when preparations began for the veterans exhibit.

    There was some information attached to the cloth in the form of a tag with the heading, “Piece of the First Rebel Flag Captured.”

    Christopher S. Morton, assistant curator of the New York Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, said the tag suggests it was Ephraim Daniel Ellsworth, the slain soldier’s father, who cut off at least some of the pieces of the flag for friends and family. The elder Ellsworth later was commissioned a captain by Lincoln and served throughout the war.

     

    “For E.D. to have a piece of the famous Marshall House flag does not seem far-fetched,” Morton said via email. “The flag had been heavily ‘souvenired’ at the time.”

    rtisement

     

     

     

    “I do know that fragments are held by the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian), Fort Ward Museum (in Alexandria) and the Lincoln Presidential Library,” he said.

     

     

    The huge flag itself has been in the possession of military museum since the end of the Civil War. It was briefly on public exhibit in New York in 2011-12, for the 150th anniversary of the incident in Alexandria, but it is not presently on display, Morton said.

    The 1861 killings in the hotel in Alexandria over the flag has been largely forgotten. At the time, though, word of Ellsworth’s death was treated in Northern cities as a national tragedy.

    “His murder was fearfully and speedily revenged,” wrote the New York Times, the day after the incident in Alexandria. “His memory will be revered, his name respected and long after the rebellion shall have become a matter of history, his death will be regarded as a martyrdom, and his name will be enrolled upon the list of our country’s patriots.”

     

     

    The San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays at 2024 Orange Tree Lane, just off the 10 Freeway at California Street. Information: 909-798-8608.

  • Summer 2016 Newsletter

  • Spring 2016 Newsletter

Museum Hours

Tuesday - Saturday | 10:00 am - 4:00 pm (Closed Sunday & Monday)

Research Center Hours

Appointments are required.
Tuesday – Friday | 11:00 am to 4:00 pm

The museum is closed on
all New York State & Federal Holidays.

61 Lake Avenue
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 581-5100

Museum Store
(518) 226-0490

Due to staffing concerns the museum
can no longer accept telephone inquiries.

 


LIKE the Military Museum Facebook Page.

The museum floor is completely accessible for people using wheelchairs.

There is no admission charge to visit the museum or any of the exhibits.

Newsletter Signup


Receive our monthly "Friends" Newsletter and keep in touch with all the events and announcements from the NYS Military Museum.
Please wait