Correcting History: Hudson Valley Student Discovers 130-Year Old Mistake
You know stories like this don't come around very often but when they do they're usually pretty cool. Recently a Hudson Valley high school student stumbled upon a mistake in her high school history textbook. She discovered the mistake while studying a battle that occurred during the Civil War, the Battle at Fort Wagner in South Carolina.
History of the Battle at Fort Wagner
For starters, if you thought the 'Battle at Fort Wagner' sounded familiar, you would be right. The Battle at Fort Wagner or Morris Island is one of the numerous famous battles that took place during the Civil War and was also one of many battles that took place in South Carolina. This battle's main claim to fame though is the fact that it was the inspiration for the movie 'Glory' which featured Hollywood heavyweights Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.
The battle took place on January 18, 1863, and was considered an 'unsuccessful assault' which was led by the 54th Massachusetts regiment. The 54th Massachusetts was an African American-led regiment with nine other regiments behind them as they attempted to force their way into Fort Wagner.
The regiment suffered heavy losses and lost the day, but after months of continued assault by land and sea, the Confederate forces eventually were forced to abandon the fort. Read more details regarding the Battle of Fort Wagner here.
Private Myers: Civil War Hero
This brief history lesson brings us to the present day where local Brewster High School, Ellen Cassidy discovered an overlooked mistake printed in her history textbook. The mistake was in regard to one Francis Oliver Myers.
Myers story starts after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and was on the heels of Frederick Douglass' speaking in the Hudson Valley regarding the importance of and why African American men should enlist for the war. Myers quickly found himself in Readville, Massachusetts and was assigned to the 54th regiment. At the time, the 54th was to be the first regiment of Northern African American men to enlist in the war.
Over the next few months, Myers and the rest of the regiment would undergo training in preparation for battle. Not long after their training was completed, the 54th regiment would be sent down to South Carolina and soon after that were sent into battle at Fort Wagner. Private Myers in the battle would be severely wounded, including the inability to use his left arm as well as suffering injuries to his back and neck. Myers would eventually pass on two years later.
Correcting the History Books
So we now know a little about the battle itself and the man whose history is corrected but what was the actual piece of history that needed correcting? Well, Ellen Cassidy discovered that the correction for Private Myers's was in his origin.
In the history textbook, as well as in the military record, it was stated that Private Myers was originally from Paterson, New Jersey. Private Myers was from Patterson, they just had the wrong Paterson listed, as Private Myers was from Patterson, New York. Cassidy discovered this and confirmed it after utilizing multiple sources including reading Myers's obituary (you may read the obituary in the link above).
Cassidy would take this discovery and post it in the New York Almanac as the method to correct this history. In addition, the discovery of this mistake has also led to the Massachusetts Historical Society correcting its own records.
Ellen Cassidy has received a great amount of praise from many because of her discovery and contribution to correcting history, especially from the veteran community here in the Hudson Valley. In the article from News12 Hudson Valley, Cassidy summed up the entire discovery by saying it was most likely a 'silly mistake' but that regardless of how it was a 'historically significant' mistake.
However, the mistake that happened isn't necessarily as important as the fact that it was actually discovered. History has been corrected correctly and that's a good thing.
11 Popular Military History Sites to Visit in Upstate New York
9 Dutchess County School Districts Ranked Best to Worst
Take This Fascinating History Crawl Through Hyde Park, NY