In concert with the National Park Service's call to ring “Bells across the Land: A Nation Remembers Appomattox,” the College Chapel bell will ring for four minutes at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, to mark the four years of war that ended 150 years ago at Appomattox. One hour later, at 4:15 p.m., the bell will ring again, as it did on the Hill in 1865 when the news of General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Clinton. A short memorial program will follow to commemorate the role of Hamilton students and alumni in the Civil War, as well as their role in the abolitionist movement that preceded the war. This program is free and open to the public.
Maurice Isserman, the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History, will offer remarks about the college’s engagement in the war and the abolitionist movement, and Chaplain Jeffrey McArn will preside over the program. Norman K. Dann, author of several books on abolition and a steward of Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, and Dot Willsey, Chair of the National Abolition Hall of Fame, will also make some brief remarks.
Attending the program will be several uniformed Civil War reenactors along with Clinton historian Richard Williams. Clinton Historical Society president Robert Tegart will also be in the uniformed contingent.
Twenty-five Hamilton students and alumni died in the Civil War out of 237 who served. The Hamilton College Burke Library maintains an extensive Civil War digital collection of soldiers’ diaries and letters, enlistment forms and reunion programs and ribbons. Letters, maps and illustrations of battles can also be found at this Hamilton archive.
Following the program, attendees may walk to the college cemetery. A wreath will be placed on the grave of the Reverend Samuel Kirkland, founder of the Hamilton-Oneida Academy, in memory of his grand-nephew William Kirkland Bacon, Class of 1863, as well as the other 24 Hamilton alumni who died in the service of their country between 1861 and 1865. Bacon was fatally wounded leading his men in battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 13, 1862. Associate Professor of Music Heather Buchman will play taps.