“Tell them my voice is still for war”
— Capt. William E. Mapes, Company B, 124th New York State Volunteers
William E. Mapes, a native of Florida, New York, volunteered in the summer of 1862 to save the Union. In this he was no different from any one of the 300,000 men who signed up to fight in a war they had all expected to be long over by that time. President Lincoln and the loyal governors of the North called upon the eligible male population to enlist before conscription began. If they did so, they could serve with friends and neighbors in a regiment commanded by men they had known most of their lives.
Mapes was chosen as 2nd Lieutenant, the third ranking officer, of Company B, known thereafter as the “Goshen Company.” He quickly rose to command the company after the 1st. Lieutenant resigned and the company commander, Capt. Henry S. Murray, was wounded and captured. He led Company B at Gettysburg and through the succeeding battles up until the late summer of 1864, where, at Deep Bottom, he received a wound that ended his military career.
Through it all, he never lost faith that his country would be reunited under one flag and one government. He had no sympathy for the southerners or for their Secessionist philosophy and even less for those in the North who opposed Lincoln and the war effort.
On August 10, 1863, Lt. William E. Mapes wrote home to his brother. The letter bore the heading, “Camp Near Sulphur Springs, Virginia,” where the Army of the Potomac was encamped following the Battle of Gettysburg. He had something to ask his brother and admonished him, “Don’t fail to answer this question.”
“I want your opinion whether my acts and services to my country will be appreciated enough should I get killed for Florida to erect some lasting monument or tablet for ‘Copperheads’ to look at in all ages to come, that is until they are extinct, & as they looked at it could feel the burnings of reproach, & regret that they were ever traitors & my opposers. It would ever put them in mind of it, but I hope I will live to be their scourge.”
Mapes did survive, but lost an eye and a leg in the service of his country. His was a record of great bravery, leadership, and determination.
In his presentation, Charles LaRocca, the founder of the 124th New York State Volunteers reenactment group and the author of the newest regimental history of the “Orange Blossoms,” will talk about the history of the regiment in general and about Mapes’ military career in particular. Using letters from a collection generously loaned for his use, LaRocca will talk about the inner workings of Company B, Mapes’ opinions on a variety of topics, and his determination to do his part to put down the rebellion. From this, the speaker hopes, he will convince the public that William E. Mapes certainly does deserve the plaque to honor him which will be dedicated on May 30th on the Seward/Mapes Homestead site.
Reserve your tickets now and pay at the door.
The event will be held in the S. S. Seward Institute (High School), 53 North Main Street, Florida, NY on May 27, 7:00pm. Light refreshments will be served. Ample parking is available in the school parking lot.
Prices: $15 for adults. $25 for couples. $5 for students.
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