Civil War Letters Found in Time for Busti Bicentennial

It is to the benefit of society in general and history conscious people in particular when people or institutions celebrate major anniversaries. We hope it might stir a few people to be curious about what happened in all those past years. The Town of Busti is celebrating its bicentennial this year. The town government encouraged the formation of a committee to plan and produce a nearly year long series of events to mark the occasion. Simultaneously and conveniently, the Busti Federated Church celebrated its centennial, one hundred years since the merger of the previous Baptist and Methodist churches, themselves over 100 years old.

I made a chart listing for comparison the events of the Busti Centennial in 1923, the sesqui-centennial in 1973, and the bicentennial this year. The 1973 event, which I remember well, had an especially strong public involvement because history was “in” at the time during the run up to the massive 1976 National Bicentennial. Probably because of the general enthusiasm for history at the time, a book was published in 1976 by the Busti Historical Society. It is a transcription of the Civil War letters of a Busti resident, Hiram Stoddard. Stoddard served in the 72nd and 120th New York regiments (from which he wrote letters) and spent the last days of the war in Libby prison (from which there were no letters). The letters were carefully transcribed and presented in a script font that was popular on typewriters of that day. The transcriptions were done by grand nieces of the veteran: Elizabeth Crandall and Abbie Stoddard. Their introduction reads as follows:

These letters were found among the papers of Mrs. Anna Jaderstrom. Her step grandfather was Ansel Stoddard, a brother of Hiram’s. This brother is mentioned several times in these letters. Our grandfather was O.J. Stoddard and we lived near “Uncle Hi”. He came to our house for dinner on Sundays as he lived alone and we always enjoyed him…He died in 1915 at the age of 78 and is buried in the Busti Cemetery.

Ansel Stoddard, the brother, owned my farm and probably lived there at the time. He kept a diary and I was able to copy a few entries from it many years ago so to a very limited extent we can get a glimmer of the intimate connection of families on the battlefield and at home during that momentous war.
I have tried to locate both the diary and the original letters but lost track of them in Florida long ago. I had given up on both. But last week the letters came in totally unexpectedly in a donation by way of Rochester. I still have no hope for the diary.

I urge everyone to keep a diary, the more detailed the better. It is so much easier to make and to preserve now when it is done on a computer. But make sure to print out hard copies and get them into the hands of an historical society before you die. It is your last and best chance to have your side of every story told and accepted. Take every historical commemoration as an opportunity and motivator to locate and preserve records and photos of your family, of your home, of your business, of your organizations and community. If your life is worth living, it is worth remembering.

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