New movie ‘Lincoln’ conjures up many connections to St. Lawrence County for North Country history buff
Sunday, December 9, 2012 - 4:57 pm

Editor’s Note: The new movie "Lincoln" staring Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and Hal Holbrook, conjured up many connections to St. Lawrence County history for Connie Molnar Sterner, a North Country history buff.


In the movie “Lincoln,” the character who plays Abe mentions Wilmington, NC and the Battle of Ft. Fisher, which played an important role in ending the Civil War.

Ft. Fisher is now a National Park site and four St. Lawrence County men received Medals of Honor for their service there.

General Newton Martin Curtis, born in De Peyster, was a son of Jonathan Curtis, a War of 1812 soldier. He was educated at the Wesleyan Seminary in Gouverneur and later lived in Ogdensburg.

During the Civil War, Newton Martin led the 16th and then the 142nd NY. His citation read: " The first man to pass through the stockade, he personally led each assault on the traverses and was 4 times wounded."

From his last wound, he lost his left eye after being hit by a shell fragment.

The Confederate commander at Ft. Fisher was Colonel William Lamb. During the battle he was wounded by a shot that fractured his hip.

Historian Ray Flowers wrote a book about the battle called "My Friend the Enemy" which is how Colonel Lamb referred to Newton Martin Curtis after the war, as they grew to be very good friends over the next 44 years. Curtis visited Ft. Fisher again and Colonel Lamb came to Ogdensburg.

To quote a few sentences from Flower's book: "Among the wounded taken to the Hampton Hospital was General N.M. Curtis, the Federal officer who led the assault that had successfully conquered Fort Fisher. General Curtis was so badly wounded that he could not walk or stand alone; however, when he learned that Colonel Lamb was in the same hospital, he had two hospital attendants take him to Colonel Lamb's room where he congratulated him warmly on his skillful defense and on his unsurpassed courage and fortitude.

He said, "I am proud of you as an American." Colonel Lamb replied, "I'm not an American -- I'm a Confederate.” General Curtis then said, "We will not discuss that subject. Your side or mine will control this country, it will not be divided. You and I will be in it and I offer you my hand in friendship. Let it begin now, not years later." They then joined hands. A photo of the men can be seen at the Potsdam Public Museum website at

N.M. Curtis's brother, Gates Curtis, wrote "The History of St. Lawrence County." N.M. Curtis was the author of "From Bull Run to Chancellorsville."

In the New York Tribune's obituary of Curtis, it was said "His height, six feet six inches, served as an introduction to Abraham Lincoln in 1856, when young Curtis, then a school teacher in Illinois, entered a railroad station where Lincoln was waiting. The latter, then a lawyer, proposed to measure his height with Mr. Curtis after introducing himself. Mr. Curtis proved taller, whereupon Lincoln exclaimed: "He's ten feet taller than a rod, straight as an arrow, thin as a shingle and without a knot hole." The two were firm friends thereafter."

I can't confirm that N.M. Curtis was a teacher in Illinois beyond this newspaper quote... but it is a good story to pass on to readers! (Ogdensburg Journal Jan. 10, 1910)

Aleric B. Chapin Private, Company G, 142d New York Infantry was born in Pamela, and enlisted in Ogdensburg at the age of 16. He "voluntarily advanced with the head of the column and cut down the palisading." Later in life he moved to McGregor, MN.

William Henry Walling served as a Brevet Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army. He was awarded the Medal of Honor as a Captain in Company C, 142nd New York Infantry for action on December 25, 1864 at Fort Fisher, North Carolina.

His citation reads "During the bombardment of the fort by the fleet, captured and brought the flag of the fort, the flagstaff having been shot down.....(he)crawled through a hole in the Stockade and climbed to the parapet of the fort and captured Rebel flag."

An article about him is in the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s Quarterly Magazine - Summer 1992 issue along with a picture of him and a photograph of his Medal of Honor. He grew up in Gouverneur, and like Curtis, went to Wesleyan Academy.

He is buried at Bayside Cemetery in Potsdam. The old Walling home was at 28 Elm Street in Potsdam. A photo is available at the Potsdam Public Museum website at

Henry S. Webster was Landsman, U.S. Navy, born in 1845 in Stockholm, N.Y. His citation reads: "On board the U.S.S. Susquehanna during the assault on Fort Fisher, 15 January 1865. When enemy fire halted the attempt by his landing party to enter the fort and more than two thirds of the men fell back along the open beach, Webster voluntarily remained with one of his wounded officers, under fire, until aid could be obtained to bring him to the rear." Link:

William H. Tisdale was in the 11th NY Cavalry - Scotts 900- and was from Canton. He served as one of Lincoln's orderlies during the Civil War and later served with General Custer as a bugler in the 7th Cavalry in the west (before the Battle of Little Big Horn).

A St. Lawrence County Band, organized by John P. Slough (Colorado) and Roland Gale (60th NY Infantry) played at Lincoln's funeral (St. Lawrence Republican):"...their leader was W. H Easton of Madrid. ... the Original members of the band were W. H. Easton, P. S. Pasha, D.C. Packard, Augustine Hamel, Cemard Drean, John F. Crowley, John Horsford, John P. Crowley, Dr. J.A. Bowman, Ben Jackson, James N. Bonner, Valentine Richmond, George W. Coburn, Edward Lockwood, N.J. White and Hiram R. Leet."

When the 13th Amendment finally passed the House of Representative vote on February 1, 1865 by the 38th Congress, Calvin Tilden Hulburd was St. Lawrence County's representative. Calvin, born in Stockholm, NY in 1809, was the son of Ebenezer and Lucy Tilden Hulburd. (

He was a graduate of Middlebury College and Yale Law School. After serving in the New York Assembly (1842-45 - best known for originating legislation that gave NYS it's Normal Schools) he was then elected to the US House of Representatives. He was elected as a Republican to the Thirty-eighth, Thirty-ninth, and Fortieth Congresses (March 4, 1863-March 3, 1869). Here is Calvin T. Hulburd's Speech given to the House on Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, March 12, 1864:

Here is a drawing of the passing of the 13th Amendment from the New York Public Library:

Calvin died in Brasher Falls in 1897 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery


July 25, 1929 - Massena Observer - Benjamin H. Church from Lisbon, a veteran of 106th NY Infantry and US Navy said he was at Ford's Theatre in Washington and witnessed the Lincoln assassination by John Wilkes Booth.