Keuka Rifles Send-off to Civil War re-enacted

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
In May 1861 a crowd of 4,000 gathered on the Yates County Courtyard to send off the 70 volunteers of the Keuka Rifles, who, under the leadership of Captian James M. Letts, a daguerreotype artist from Dundee, headed to the Elmira area to join the Union Army in the Civil War. On May 14, 2011 — 150 years later — a much smaller crowd gathered on the same spot to re-live the moments when community leaders gave them flags, sewing kits, bibles and encouragement before they marched along Main Street toward the train station.

On May 18, 1861 a crowd of 4,000 gathered at the railroad depot to send off the 70 some volunteers of the Keuka Rifles, who, under the leadership of Captain James M. Letts, a daguerreotype artist from Dundee, set forth for the rendezvous in Elmira to join the Union Army in the Civil War.

On May 14, 2011 — 150 years later — a much smaller crowd gathered in the Yates County Courtyard to re-live the moments when community leaders gave them flags, sewing kits, bibles and encouragement before they boarded the train for Elmira.

Organized by the Sesquicentennial Committee of the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society, the Keuka Rifles Send-off re-enactment began under cloudy skies similar to those of 150 years ago.

The speeches of the day were delivered anew.

“It is a noble and holy cause; a struggle worthy of good, true and brave men; and among the soldiers of the Republic, we are proud to think that there will be  none braver, better or truer than the Keuka Rifles of Yates County,” said Darius Ogden, portrayed by Jim Crevelling, before he presented Capt. Letts with a sword. With the presentation, he advised Letts, “Draw it valiantly in defense of our beloved country, of constitutional liberty, of self-government in man, and sheath it not until rebellion against the best government on earth shall be overcome and put down.”

Letts responded, “We think the cause we battle for a just one, and we shall go from you with the earnest conviction that we discharge our duty. Your approval cheers us, your sympathy encourages us, and thus inspired, we part from you, giving the assurance that we hope to be found faithful in the discharge of our duty and at all times, whether in camp or on the field, to so conduct ourselves as to continue to merit your good opinion and approval.”

Judge William Briggs, portrayed by Patrick Galvin, swore in the volunteers, with many in the audience also taking the oath.

Following the courtyard ceremony, a parade along Main Street was led by veterans from the War of 1812. The day’s activities also included demonstrations and events at the Firemen’s Field and a free concert of Civil War era music in the evening.