A Cannon from the Civil War ship USS R.R. Cuyler in Oyster Bay

Cannon from RR Culyer

Photo Credit – ldoysterbay.com

At Derby-Hall Bandstand in Townsend Park in Oyster Bay, there are three cannons. One of them situated at the foot of the stairs of Derby-Hall Bandstand is a circa 1861 Civil War trophy gun from the ship USS R.R. Cuyler.

On June 26, 1903, in front of the Town Clerk’s office on Audrey Avenue, President Theodore Roosevelt unveiled a Civil War parrot gun from the cruiser USS R.R. Culyer. It is a 30-pound Parrott rifle and weighs 3,510 lb.

The gun was originally given by the Navy to the Oyster Bay High School to be placed in front of the school. The school was then on the corner of Weeks Avenue and Anstice Street, but the Board of Education felt that the gun would be more appropriate in front of the Town Clerk’s office. The Town Board and the Navy both agreed with the change. The gun is still in Oyster Bay but now faces to the north in Townsend Park, a few yards away from the Town Clerk’s office.

Roosevelt’s participation in the ceremonies had been very hastily arranged at the last minute to coincide with his planned arrival in Oyster Bay, and the President was reported to have made only the briefest of remarks before he left with Mrs. Roosevelt for Sagamore Hill.

The Cuyler was a 1202-ton screw sail cruiser and had been launched in 1861 in anticipation of the upcoming hostilities. She carried several guns of the type represented here in Oyster Bay, and she was among the fastest ships in the navy.

At the outbreak of the war, the Confederate Army was planning the capture of the Naval Academy at Annapolis and one of the treasured relics of the Navy, the USS Constitution. Admiral Robley Evans, who was the commander of the Atlantic Fleet at the time Roosevelt dedicated the gun, was then a young cadet at the Naval Academy in 1861. Evans recalled in later years how federal troops from the 1st Rhode Island, the 8th Massachusetts and the 7th New York were brought in to defend the Academy from the attacks by the Confederate from Baltimore. The Commandant of Midshipmen, Christopher Raymond Rodgers suggested to the War Department that the academy be moved along with the treasured “Old Ironsides”. Robley Evans and several other midshipmen climbed into small boats and made their way to the Constitution to begin the journey. The Constitution was towed all the way from Annapolis to Newport, Rhode Island by the Cuyler. The Constitution and the Naval Academy remained at Newport for the duration of the conflict.

Source: Oyster Bay Remembered by John E. Hammond

Camp Upton at Yaphank, NY

 

camp upton

During the hectic months after America’s entry into World War I in the spring of 1917, the government started construction of an Army installation in Suffolk country near Yaphank on a tract now housing the Brookhaven National Laboratory. There, on more than 10,000 acres of flat, swampy, mosquito-laden land, as many as 15,000 skilled workers and laborers struggled through the hot, wet summer to build barracks for 37,000 soldiers, mostly draftees.

Camp Upton was named after a Civil War Union general named Emory Upton. It was a marvel of logistics and supervision since almost all the workmen had to be fed and housed on the isolated site. Special railroad sidings were laid to facilitate the shipment of lumber and other materials, and a large number of private detectives had to be hired to cope with the influx of crooks who swarmed over the camp. Criminality was so rampant that a U.S. District Court was established at the base while it was being built and it tried more than 1,000 cases in about two months.

Troops began arriving little more than two months after construction started, and by the end of the following month, 30,000 men were being trained at Camp Upton. Among them were members of the 77th Infantry Division, which, composed largely of Long Islanders and New Yorkers who were soon to fight valiantly in the crucial Argonne Forest Battle in France. My father-in-law, Lt. Robert W. Morgan, was one of them who was sent to Meuse Argonne. During part of the war, the 82nd Division was also quartered there.

One of Upton’s more famous trainees was songwriter Irving Berlin, who put together a musical revue called Yip! Yip! Yaphank!  that entertained not only his buddies but Broadway audiences. Berlin’s experience at the camp led him to compose “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” which survived the war to become a popular song. The musical was turned into a 1943 movie “This Is The Army” starring Ronald Reagan.

Because of its isolation, providing social activities for the soldiers became a major problem. One solution was to let them out, and a shuttle train was run from the camp to the Long Island Rail Road’s main line so the men could spend their weekends in New York. It also enabled thousands of relatives and friends to ride in from the city and other parts of the Island for Saturday and Sunday visits.

After the war, Camp Upton was used as a demobilization center and then thousands of overseas veterans were processed there before returning to their homes. Some of the units demobilized at the camp were: the 327th Infantry Regiment, the 325th Infantry Regiment, the 27th Infantry Division’s 53rd Brigade (105th, 106th Infantry Regiments and the 105th Machine Gun Battalion), and the 101st Signal Battalion. Processed there, too, were thousands of mules that the Army had decided to dispose at auction. After being sold, they were lassoed, had their government brands removed, were herded into railroad cars, and dispatched to their new owners.

In May 1919, Camp Upton became the site of the Recruit Educational Center, an Army program that enrolled foreign-born, non-English speaking, and illiterate soldiers. Most of the Recruit Educational Center’s inductees were immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. In practice, the program aimed to “Americanize” these immigrants through instruction in the English language, military protocol, U.S. history, geography, citizenship, and political economy. Soldiers who graduated from the Recruit Educational Center at Camp Upton were eligible for a three-year term of military service, after which they could be naturalized as American citizens.

In 1921, everything at Camp Upton was auctioned off: barracks, stables, hospitals, warehouses, garages, engines, heating and refrigerating plants, electric substations, telegraph poles, wiring, even lavatories. Structures were moved or torn down and dismembered for parts and lumber. Many of the structures were transported to form the first large scale settlement at Cherry Grove on Fire Island. Hundreds of carloads of material were shipped around the country. Successful bidders had sixty days to remove their purchases. And then all was gone except the land which the federal government kept, designating it Upton National Forest. The place became almost as it had been. An era not only had ended, it had disappeared. But the Twenties had arrived. And Long Island was ready to roar.

 

Sources: Long Island, a Newsday Book, Wikipedia

 

The American Legion Honoring the Fallen

The Memorial Monument by Victoria Siegel

The Memorial Monument – Photo Credit: Victoria Siegel

The U.S. army never leaves its men behind. They do everything possible to bring the men and women killed in battle home even if it takes decades. They never forget.

In that spirit, Jack Mckie legion member of Post 1285 of the American Legion in Bayville suggested that the Robert Spittel Post begin to honor the men of the community who were killed in action. The first to receive such honor was 2nd Lt. William L. Davis killed on August 7, 1945.

PFC Robert H. Spittel was honored Dec. 8th at 9:00 AM at the War Memorial on Bayville Ave., Bayville. Robert H. Spittel was born April 29, 1923 and killed in action Dec. 8, 1944 on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. The Post bears his name and his father Herman Spittel was its first Commander.

The other brave soldiers to be so honored will be:

Sgt. James A. Harrington – March 28, 1968

Cpl. Frederick E. Scheidt – April 1, 1945

Capt. John R. Minutoli – April 6, 1967

Specialist 4 William R. Sanzoverino – May 7, 1968

Capt. Thomas J. Jozefowski – June 25, 1972

Warrant Officer Donald L. Deliplane – June 28, 1971.

 

“O God, teach us to honor them by ever cherishing the ideals for which they fought. Keep us steadfast in the cause of human rights and liberties, of law and order and true Americanism.” – Part of the prayer offered at each of these ceremonies by Chaplain Richard Kita.

Source: Locust Valley Leader, Dec. 12, 2018 by Victoria Siegel.