When in Syracuse, New York, I enjoy visiting the neighborhood I grew up in – Sedgwick Farm. Sedgwick Farm is the city’s first historic district. It is special to me to visit the homes and walk the sidewalks where I was raised, as were my mother, her brothers, their father, grandfather, and great grandfather. From my maternal grandfather I not only learned about Osgood Tracy’s Civil War letters but that the 85 acres of land comprising ‘Sedgwick Farm’ was originally owned by his great grandfather, Charles Baldwin Sedgwick, and his second wife, Deborah ‘Dora’ Gannett of Boston.
Sedgwick was a staunch abolitionist; founding member of Syracuse’s Vigilance Committee; helped plan a jail breakout in 1850 of an escaped enslaved man named William “Jerry” Henry (“The Jerry Rescue”) who had been arrested under enforcement of The Fugitive Slave Act; and represented in trial the white men who freed Jerry from irons, sending him to Canada through The Underground Railroad.
A two term N.Y. State representative before and during the Civil War, Sedgwick was the first person to give a speech on the House floor denouncing slavery (1860). Sedgwick’s motto on the slavery issue was to accept “No compromises, no concessions.” Sedgwick, in fact, refused to leave Washington until “every slave in every state is free.”
Even when tragedy struck the Sedgwick homestead, on April 16, 1862 when Charles and Dora’s 12 year old son Frankie and his best friend Tommy Barnes, only son of George and Rebecca Barnes (Sedgwick’s friends, neighbors, and fellow freedom fighters) drown in a pond behind the Sedgwick homestead, Charles Sedgwick returned to Washington to carry on the fight to end slavery. Dora, an abolitionist herself, regularly received letters her husband wrote from Washington home to her on “The Farm,” where she tried managing her grief, running the farm, and caring for their three remaining children, and her two step children, Nellie and Charlie.
My great-great grandfather, Civil War veteran Osgood Tracy, married Charles Sedgwick’s daughter Nellie in 1867. Charles and Dora had homes built for Osgood, Nellie, and then their sons in the first block of what today is Sedgwick Drive and one on Brattle Road, named for Dora’s father. The rest of the land was later subdivided and sold in 1907 for the Sedgwick and Tracy families by their son, my great grandfather, James Grant Tracy, who was named president of the Sedgwick Farm Land Company.
Sedgwick Farm Neighborhood Association was honored this past May by the Onondaga Historical Association. I think Charles Sedgwick would be pleased, as well as his family. I was and know my maternal grandfather would be. And I was so pleased to speak at the celebration with over 200 in attendance.
June Nineteenth, formally ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Freedom’ Day, honors the release of ALL enslaved people of this country, including those last to learn 158 years ago today, liberated by Union soldiers. Though slavery was abolished months before, the enslaved ‘owners’ in Texas and elsewhere in the deep South hid news of freedom, using coercion and violence to confine those who had learned so they could produce more crops, and for other wrong, despicable reasons.
Some representatives in Congress worked diligently to end slavery. One who refused to accept compromises or concessions on the matter was staunch abolitionist Charles Baldwin Sedgwick, the first person to give a speech on the House floor denouncing slavery (1860). Sedgwick refused to leave Congress ‘until every slave in every state is free.’ I have no doubt today’s celebration would please my ggg grandfather!
Below is a letter Sedgwick wrote the day slavery was abolished, a couple during his two terms, and one his friend William Lloyd Garrison wrote him.
This has been a most glorious day. The Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery passed the House at 4 o’clock this afternoon by a vote of 119 to 56. A majority of 7. All this you have doubtless learned long before this (8 p.m.) by the telegraph, and we expect to hear by tomorrow evening that several states have already ratified it. I hope New York or Missouri may be first and Massachusetts next but fear she may get the start of the others.
It was a most exciting scene in the House. The galleries were crammed early in the day. Nell [daughter Ellen Sedgwick] got a place early in the Diplomatic Gallery and sat out the session with distinguished gentleman many of whom were filled with anxiety as to the result. I noticed among others Mr. Jno Jay and Chief Justice Chase. It was very doubtful from the preliminary votes how the main question was to be decided although I have felt great confidence for several days that it was to carry. Finally as the vote was taken it was impossible to suppress applause upon the floor and in the galleries as one after another doubtful voice pronounced in favor of the measure and it began to be apparent that Justice and Liberty were to be established as the fundamental laws of this great nation.
When the result was declared from the Chair it was — (can not transcribe word) impossible to restrain the enthusiasm – It burst forth in shouts or cheers and waving of handkerchiefs, tossing of hats in the air – everybody rose to their feet and hardier cheers never were given – There was no use in trying to suppress it and in the midst the House adjourned. I saw Wm. H. Channing rushing around like a madman – some one proposed to sing John Brown & if one had begun it all would have joined in the swelling chorus. It has been what the Romans would call the whitest of white days. I tried to write while the House was in progress but although I exhibited no excitement I could not write – it was just impossible. No man or woman who has had the least influence in producing this most auspicious result has lived in vain. I never hoped to see this day, during the many long and unpromising years of the past, until the madness of this Rebellion proved that the hour of destruction of the infernal system was appointed of God and since then I have never doubted – I cannot write more – the children (Nell and Mrs. Eliot) are going to the P.M. Generals reception, and in the morning Nell goes North.
Your loving husband, C.B. Sedgwick
JUNE 10, 1864 Washington
The course of Congress on the Negro pay bill is wholly unexplicable – There is not a decently fair man in Congress who does not admit that they should be paid the same as white soldiers – It is just honest & politic – it is absolutely essential to the further vigorous prosecution of the war and yet collectively – in these corporate capacity Congress acts like the devil about this- But the time is coming! I don’t know but all this neglect and delay and quarreling is wholesome – In the end I am sure it will bring about this great negro equality – equal rights for Jonathan – vote with him – go to school with him – preach to him and go to Congress. He can get votes enough – Half a dozen such men as Fred Douglass in Congress (if you could find half a dozen such more white or black; would greatly improve the body and show that we believe what we have been preaching so long – I go now for the largest liberty.
I have your letter to father Abraham – Keep hammering – it is the only way – in the end it will be efficient – a half loyal Marylander told me yesterday that he didn’t consider any body a Yankee but a Massachusetts man! You have you… the port of honor and it becomes you to work. I am doing what I can to make myself as thoroughly hated as a genuine Yankee-
Love to all the babies from Nell down. Your affectionate husband, Charles
Boston, May 20, 1862
Dear Mr. Sedgwick:
To-day a wet blanket is thrown upon the flame of popular enthusiasm by President Lincoln’s veto. What giving and taking, what blowing hot and blowing cold, we have upon this slavery question!
Depend upon it this veto will serve to increase the disgust and uneasiness felt in Europe at our shilly-shallying course, to abate the enthusiasm of the army and the friends of freedom universally, and to inspire the rebels with fresh courage and determination. It seems to me that infatuation pervades the President and his Cabinet.
Yours, for no compromise,
Wm. Lloyd Garrison
June 10, 1864
Dear Dora – There is not a decently fair man in Congress who does not admit that Negroes should be paid the same as white soldiers – It is just, honest, and politic. Congress acts like the devil about this – But the time is coming! I don’t know but all this neglect and delay and quarreling is wholesome. In the end I am sure it will bring about great Negro equality. Half a dozen such men as Fred Douglass in Congress (if you could find a dozen such more white or black) would greatly improve the body and show that we believe what we have been preaching so long – I go now the largest liberty.
I have your letter to father Abraham*. Keep hammering – it is the only way. Love to all the babies from Nell down.
Your affectionate husband,
Hon. Charles B. Sedgwick
April 19, 1860
Dear Mr. Sedgwick,
If you will allow an address from one who has just read your very interesting and able speech upon ‘Southern Aggression’ in a copy you sent to Bronson Alcott. Please send me one or two or even three copies, if it is not asking too much. It is a comfort to see that such things can be said on the floor of Congress at last – it seems to nullify a future such as I have almost despaired of –
It is the 19th of April and old Concord is ringing with jubilee cannon – It is true as steel to freedom – and all its blood is up hot as in 1775 as you have lately seen – Does Mrs. Sedgwick know that Anna Alcott is to be married the 23rd?
Elizabeth P. Peabody
“Let me congratulate you on the honor you have achieved in being the first to speak in Congress in just and fitting terms.”
Wendell Phillips, on Sedgwick’s speech about abolishing slavery
“You have done a good service to the cause of suffering humanity.”
Reverend and abolitionist Samuel Joseph May (brother of Abigail Alcott, Concord, MA)
“It is not often that I am tempted by a speech in Congress to such neglect of my affairs.” James Freeman Clarke
Yours Affectionately, Osgood: Colonel Osgood Vose Tracy’s Letters Home from the Civil War, 1862-1865 edited by Sarah Tracy Burrows and Ryan W. Keating. Kent State University Press, 2022. Cloth, ISBN: 978-1606354407. $58.00.
After more than 150 years, there still exist collections of Civil War letters in need of discovery and transcription. The letters of Osgood Vose Tracy of the 122nd New York Volunteers have much to show us about his experiences. Most of Tracy’s letters went to his mother, Sarah Osgood Tracy, with his brother William and future wife, Ellen “Nellie” Sedgwick, among the most common recipients. Because this is the full transcription of a larger collection, editors Sarah Burrows and Ryan Keating include several other letters written about Tracy’s wartime experiences.
A young and educated officer, Tracy makes for an interesting subject. His family was well-connected in the Syracuse area, and he maintained a relationship with his uncle, Edwin Vose Sumner, a Union major general. Tracy maintained the family’s position in Syracuse after the war. One interesting aspect, probably connected to this background, is Tracy’s ability to take a larger view of the conflict. Rather than become obsessed with momentary swings in military fortune, Tracy consistently tried to contextualize what he saw and maintained a confident perspective on Union military progress.
One of the first notable things about Tracy’s experience is how little combat he saw in his first year. Though he enlisted in the later summer of 1862, Tracy and the 122nd New York first fought nearly a year later at Gettysburg. His letters from this early period discuss the vagaries of camp life and document his attempts to remain engaged with friends and family at home. Tracy has many interesting observations about the nature and course of the war, as well as remarks about mundane experiences like building cabins for winter quarters. He also took a great interest in his friends and neighbors, especially their romantic lives. This is part a larger pattern throughout the letters, where Tracy sought some connection to the civilian world he left behind. He worried throughout the war that dropped correspondence meant the end of a friendship through distance and absence.
Probably the most interesting experience of Tracy’s wartime service was his capture by Confederate forces at the battle of the Wilderness in 1864. He was taken to Richmond, but his time there was short as he and a companion escaped—making their way back to Union lines to rejoin the army outside of Richmond. Here is one place that the editors make good use of other materials in Tracy’s collection, supplementing his experience with notes from friends in the army to his family. It also includes Tracy’s full account of his capture and escape, published in the Syracuse Herald in 1914.
This last piece is illustrative of perhaps the most interesting aspect of the collection: the inclusion of Tracy’s postwar writings on his military experience. It is an interesting editorial choice not just to include them, but also to intersperse select ones with the contemporary letters. The editors clearly identify these pieces and offer explanations as they appear.
Also included are Tracy’s other writings from after the war. Tracy himself provided several war stories to local publications, and both he and his brother gave addresses at the regiment’s monument dedication in Gettysburg. Tracy took an active role in preserving and defining the war, putting the soldiers’ experience in the center. Though noticeably antislavery before and during the war, here he ignored the issue and remembered the men who died, while William issued a call to care for those veterans and their families unable to care for themselves.
Burrows and Keating have done well to contextualize Tracy’s wartime experiences and preserve his own voice. This is an interesting collection for those interested in soldiers and the home front, efforts at commemoration, and the history of central New York. Keith Altavilla teaches history at Lone Star College-CyFair.
In her recent book, Sarah Burrows Winch ’90, P’25, under the pen name Sarah Tracy Burrows, shares a collection of private, family letters written and sent home by an ancestor during the Civil War, providing personal accounts of the war and time.
Yours Affectionately, Osgood: Colonel Osgood Vose Tracy’s Letters Home from the Civil War, 1862-1865, with a preface and epilogue by Winch and context and analysis provided by historian Ryan W. Keating, gives insight into the life of a soldier in the volunteer 122nd New York Infantry Regiment, through letters home between September 1862 to the end of the war in May 1865. In addition, included are letters written to and by Tracy’s younger brother, William Gardner Tracy, who also served in the war and was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his part during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
“I felt strongly that the letters should be published and the story be told in film, and I wanted to be the one to make that happen,” -Sarah Burrows Winch ’90.
Osgood Tracy, Winch’s maternal, great, great grandfather, shares his thoughts on political and social movements of the time, such as the Union’s war efforts and the abolitionist movement, in addition to his commitment to his family, including widowed mother, Sarah Osgood Tracy, and his sweetheart, Nellie Sedgwick.
Winch says the reason she wrote the book came from Tracy’s own request to his mother. “I trust you stow all my letters away in my chest for I wish to preserve them,” Tracy says in a letter from Sept. 30, 1863.
As a young child, Winch’s maternal grandfather shared the letters with her, building her interest in Tracy’s life and history in general.
“When I about 10 years old, I actually experienced an ‘epiphany’ moment which I still recall to this day, standing next to my grandfather as he talked about the stories,” Winch says. “I felt strongly that the letters should be published and the story be told in film, and I wanted to be the one to make that happen.”
“These wartime letters from a Union Army officer to his mother, interspersed with his later accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg and his capture at the Battle of the Wilderness and subsequent escape, describe a range of soldier experiences: camp life, marches and battles, bonding with comrades, the highs and lows of morale, and homesickness. The reader will emerge with a broadened understanding and appreciation for the service and sacrifices of Civil War soldiers,” says James M. McPherson P’93, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom. Winch met McPherson through her friend, Cynthia “Cricket” Allen ’92 who is friends with McPherson’s daughter, Jenny ’93.
The book can be purchased from Kent State University Press, Barnes and Noble or Amazon. A portion of the book’s proceeds will go to preserving Civil War battlefields, along with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Winch is the president of the Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History. At William Smith, she graduated with degrees in English and history. She is married to Peter Winch ’91 and the couple has three sons, Ryan, Alex, and Andrew. Andrew is currently a sophomore at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and is the sixth in the Burrows and Winch families to attend the college, including his grandfather, William P. Burrows ’52, P’85, P’90, GP’15, GP’25, who along with his wife (Winch’s mother) Ann Tracy preserved the letter collection after Ann’s father died.
In March 2022 Sarah was elected president of the Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History, named for her 8x great grandfather, by its’ Director and Board of Trustees. Sarah had been a trustee since 2019 and Chair of Steering.
She follows in the footsteps of Dr. Firth Haring Fabend, who was president since the institute was first organized in 2014.
I have been a resident of Stowe on West Hill Road a short six months. In summer and fall across the street, we watched the black-and-white Holsteins graze. The tractors working the land quickly gave a cyclical pattern to the changing seasons in this picturesque place we now call home.
My favorite experience in Stowe, however, was walking nearby on Percy Hill Road, by the vista landscape of the old Percy farm at the corner of Percy Hill and Weeks Hill roads. My husband, Peter, and I took an almost daily loop by, where I slowed and stopped to talk to the cows, among them Ivy, Annie, Moose and Faith.
As Pete waited patiently, I often took out my camera, for I felt as though I was walking through scenes in a James Herriot novel. The landscape and smell of the farm reminded me of Yorkshire, England, where Herriot worked as a vet and I often visited while studying nearby, and of my childhood, my friend’s grandparents’ dairy farm in upstate New York.
During a late afternoon walk on Wednesday, Feb. 2, which felt spring-like compared to the bitter cold days of January, I said, “I look forward to seeing the cows again. I miss them.”
When I woke Thursday morning to the devastating news that the barn had burned in the night and all were lost, I was heartbroken. It is said that some calves were saved, though I don’t know yet if the newborn I witnessed with its mother on Aug. 24 was or not. My heart aches at the loss of the beautiful, sweet animals who supplied milk for Cabot products, the extended Percy family and all those who cared for the cows.
To the Percy “girls,” I will never forget you. You were most definitely creatures great and small and all things bright and beautiful.
Sixty years ago, during the Cold War, my 25 year old maternal uncle, Lt. John Tracy Jr., co-piloted a Secret Air Command Mission to the Soviet Union. Upon his return February 2, 1962, he and six other men were lost when their plane exploded and here we are today facing a second Cold War at the helm of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a letter to his parents, “Johnny” wrote about protecting world peace and what might happen if they failed. “If it should fail (the U.S. Air Force) and the Russians feel they can get the better of us, it’s going to be one heck of a war.”
Author of Goodbye, Friend and The Souls of Animals, Gary Kowalski, suggests one might look to words to help heal from the death of a beloved person or pet. A minister, he writes, “I counsel those who are grieving to employ the power of words by writing a eulogy for the one they loved. The term itself means “good words,” for a eulogy attempts to sum up all the good qualities that made another person or pet memorable and worthy of our care, that reflects on traits that made the creature most endearing or stamped with a special personality.” As I often turn to my pen (usually my keyboard) to express my feelings, here goes:
Scout was our beloved five-year old Golden Retriever. There was something special about Scout. It wasn’t just his handsome looks, but his temperament and personality. Scout was gentle, mellow, kind, and goofy. He loved to love, and be loved.
Scout enjoyed curling up next to me on the couch as I read or wrote, and would often lay his head on my computer.
Other times he would sit or lay along the wall of the front porch near the door or under the shade of the Pear tree watching for the school bus or whoever was rounding the bend on the sidewalk across the street.
He also loved lying on the hardwood floor in the kitchen, with back legs flat out or up against the wall.
The staircase landing was a place Scout rested and watched from, too.
From there he could turn to a jump down the stairs and jangle of his collar to follow any or all three boys outside to play. Scout loved going in and out and probably enjoyed being outside most. He’d come in the back deck then soon ask to go out the front, often when he spotted a dog friend able to play on our front lawn.
Other times in the family room he’d jump up in the air with the boys to cheer on the Patriots. In general, Scout was our fourth ‘boy.’ He most certainly was part of the family.
Scout arrived to us by some part fate. On August 28, 2015 we un-expectantly lost our 9 year-old Golden Retriever, Biscuit, to cancer of the blood vessels. He became sick and had to be put down the day before our oldest son, Ryan, was due at college freshman year. It felt so young to lose a dog yet ironically now I would give anything to have had four more years with Scout.
We thought we would wait one year to get another dog but when our youngest son, Andrew, cried himself to sleep each night I googled Golden Retriever breeders north of Boston. Several popped up. I was drawn to Pathfinder Golden Retrievers. Breeder Laura Bellochi’s website noted the business was named for her father, a military veteran. His job in wartime was to jump out of airplanes as a group of men followed. I liked that, a lot, and her dogs were beautiful, so I sent Laura an email. I stated our family grievance, explained why we love dogs, and how we came to choose Golden Retrievers (footnote at end). I also told her I appreciated her father’s service and that I was writing a military story based on my ancestors’ service.
Within days of sending the email, Laura and I spoke. We connected. She happened to be driving back from Pennsylvania where she had taken her female, Story, to be bred to a stud named Detour. Both names spoke to me, in regards to the letter I’d sent her and our family’s situation. She explained Story had a sweet, mellow temperament, had won “Best of Winners” at Westminster Dog Show that February 2015, and after her next litter would become a therapy dog.
In a few days Laura learned Story was pregnant. We visited Story and her pups, when about six weeks old.
Andrew and Scout, week 6
Scout came home to us December 11, less than four months after Biscuit died.
To be honest, it took me awhile to bond with Scout. When he was a puppy, for instance, I recall him pulling at the hem of my jeans until they tore. Wanting Biscuit back I cried. But soon I enjoyed watching Scout’s ‘firsts’ such as the sight of the ocean on a windy, cloudy day. I took him to Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea and the sight of the waves crashing in made Scout freeze. The wind and his fear flapped back his ears. But then, slowly, with my encouragement he inched his way to the shoreline. Scout and I grew to love our walks on the beach together where he was free to run and play with other dogs.
One of Scout’s favorite things was blankets’. Laura sent him home with a green and white one scented with Story and his litter mates. He slept with it and often wanted to take it outside. Knowing it might get lost I would ask for it at the door. “Leave it, Scout.” When he wouldn’t (@90% of the time) I would unclench his teeth and pry open his mouth for him to drop it. He not only loved that blanket (which we still have) but other ones. If any were folded or draped on the couch or a family member had one in their lap, he would sneak over and before we knew it the blanket was being dragged over the family room Berber carpet to his bed or a cozy spot. Scout would then lie down and with ease curl it up and create a perfect pillow to lay his head upon. It was so funny, and quite an art, really!
Blanket pillows created by Scout
Like many retrievers Scout loved picking up and carrying shoes, usually from the front hall to the family room but bedrooms weren’t off limits. More mornings than not I would search for my L.L. Bean ‘Wicked Good’ slippers, walking down stairs with one on, one off, looking sleepily for the missing one before making coffee.
Scout fortunately didn’t chew shoes but the family room was strewn with them and various blankets. We often joked it looked like a yard sale.
Scout loved to sit on the ottoman in the family room where he could watch anything going on there but also in the kitchen.
He also liked to ‘nudge’ us with his nose for attention (especially when we held electronic devises) but he rarely misbehaved, accept when something like this happened while we were away (laugh out loud):
Scout wanted to please, and he did. He didn’t beg for food but rather lay under the kitchen table or stools at our feet during mealtimes. As soon as we stood to clear plates, however, he would pop out, wondering if he might get something. He’d go to his bowl looking longingly at it then dart his eyes back to us. He loved a treat of chicken (his favorite) or steak that had been grilled. Being near the grill with Pete was a special time for the two and I know more often than not Pete sneaked Scout a piece of meat or cheese.
The other frequent past time for Scout and Pete occurred at the nearby trails and fields at Gordon College where we often walked. The two had a game in which Pete would hold up a lacrosse ball that he’d found near the stadium. Scout would freeze in position to run. When Pete’s arm released Scout would chase the ball with all his speed. Upon return, it was difficult for Scout to let go of it.
Near a steep embankment next to the stadium Scout discovered his keen scent. He could find a ball buried down that hill under leaves or snow and was so pleased with himself when he returned with one. In the woods beside the trail winding along the pond Scout loved racing and bounding about like a deer, back and forth, dodging trees, stumps, and other obstacles. We were amazed at his agility. It was beautiful to watch.
Scout enjoyed going on college tours with all three boys. We cherished those times with him.
Campus Tour, Colgate University
At Hamilton College Scout sat on the steps of the library surrounded by two students who petted him. He couldn’t have been any happier except when he gently stole a flip flop off one of the girls feet and they laughed. He wore the biggest grin!
He visited Ryan and Alex at the colleges they attended.
UVM, December 11, 2015 and January 2016
Middlebury College, Fall 2019
Making new friends, and in the spotlight. Middlebury College Golf Course
And Scout was beside Andrew when he learned he was accepted to his first choice college.
December 2020, upon acceptance to Hobart
Scout spent each of his four summers in the Adirondack Mountains on Big Moose Lake where he enjoyed the freedom of an unfenced yard, time with his human brothers, their cousins, and friends relaxing, hiking, swimming, and boating.
He also went to Martha’s Vineyard each summer
and various other places we traveled through the year such as Stowe, Vermont where we moved five weeks after Scout died.
(Stowe, Thanksgiving 2020)
Scout comforted us as a family in times of need. He was by my side as I grieved the passing of my mother and all of us at different times when we needed love. He showed support in so many ways. He loved to snuggle!
When Scout was a puppy Andrew (then age 13) lay on the kitchen floor on his back and urged Scout to sit on him. Scout would smile and Andrew would laugh.
It made us all laugh and Scout knew it. It was silly and special and they did this almost every day, including the day Scout was euthanized. We were outside the front doors of Massachusetts Veterinary Hospital (due to Covid). Scout was almost too weak to hold up his head. IV and dialysis wires had been removed, but not the tight dialysis neck brace. Andrew lay down on the pavement and tried to help Scout onto him. Though Scout was too weak, he knew what Andrew tried to do. It was a deep act of love, and beautiful.
Upon learning of Scout’s sudden death someone who cared deeply for him looked at me in disbelief and with tears in her eyes, shook her head. “Scout was so smart,” she whispered. I believe she was right. Scout was intelligent. We believed he understood English and comprehended most things we talked about. He was respectful and understanding, too, when he interacted with dogs, puppies, or humans. He was a gentleman, so to speak.
I ‘pen’ these words four months after Scout’s passing and I still find it unfathomable he died at age five. Will I ever not? What is most difficult, for us, about Scout’s demise is that it was unnecessary. He was given a Lyme vaccination at the same time he had an active Lyme infection, which caused an overload of Lyme antibodies to attack his kidneys (Lyme Nephritis). In addition, when symptoms first began (two weeks before his death) there was failure to correctly diagnose Lyme which likely would have saved his life. Once a proper diagnoses was made (one week later) Scout was on life support and not even dialysis (a grueling six hour daily procedure) or a plasma exchange could save him.
I wrestle with what I could have done differently, too, or what I missed.
There was much left for Scout to do and enjoy and for us to experience with him. He was our “bridge” to our new home in another state, as we became “empty nesters.” He never saw the house where he would have roamed on the countryside and experienced new things, like the sight and smell of cows, different bird species, and the view of the Worcester Mountain range in four seasons. He would have enjoyed the “Quiet Path” (where dogs and their walkers frequent), hikes, and greeting his brothers when they came home. We were all supposed to get older together.
It is heart breaking to know Scout is not coming back. His sudden passing is another indicator how fragile, uncertain, and sometimes unfair life is. None of us know what lies ahead, so we must enjoy today and the love we receive and give. I find some comfort in knowing Scout enjoyed his life and lived in love. I also find sharing his story with others helps, not only to keep his memory alive but to hear others’ stories. In doing so we have learned of similar situations and devastating losses, both pet and human, or both at the same time. But whatever the stories are (and they are never the same), they connect us and by connecting we support each other.
As my family turns a page to the next story Scout is still by our side. There has not been a day since May 23, 2021 that we have not thought of, talked about, or missed him. Each day I speak to him and ask for signs he is with us. Scout was such a good boy and is missed beyond any words or story can explain.
Four months after Scout’s passing our next “story” is an 8 week old female Golden Retriever born July 29 (same timeframe between bringing Scout home after Biscuit died). She is another “Pathfinder,” whose litter name is “Road Trip.” We have named her Ranger Scout Winch. Named Ranger because of a letter I received from a 91 year old friend who wrote me about Scout being sick. By the time I received it, Scout was gone. It read: “I am praying for Ranger.” The name spoke to me, for it means “Keeper of the countryside, a protector of a body of men,” which seemed to fit perfectly for our new home, the boys, and with Scout.
We brought Ranger home Sunday, September 26 and in the blur of the first week, between the “in and outs” every 20 minutes, night wakings, training accidents, teething, etc., there were periodic tears over Scout’s loss. The two of us asked, that week, “How has this happened? Why isn’t Scout here? Can we handle a puppy? We were just doing this five years ago…” But in two week’s time we have connected with Ranger, just like we did Scout after Biscuit. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss Scout any less or feel the sharp pain of his too early loss but Ranger redirects us.
The fact, too, that we see similarities in her to Scout gives us all comfort. The kind veterinarian who euthanized Scout said, “see you on the other side, Scout…” but perhaps we did not have had to wait that long. Either way, Scout was wonderful, is missed, and with us – always.
Laura Bellochi of Pathfinder Golden Retrievers and I with Scout, Story, and another Pathfinder. 2018
Big Moose Lake sunset, August 2020
Note: In the summer of 1970 at age three I fell in love with two Golden Retrievers (Sandy and Corn) that I spent each day with. For three years I asked my parents for a Golden Retriever puppy, finally writing my father a letter about it. He said my “P.S. Please say yes!” sealed the deal. In late 2015 I wrote a short story about that experience, losing Biscuit, and Scout coming into our lives. Titled Asking for a Puppy, it was published in 2016.
The raid this past week on the House of Representatives reminded me of one which occurred generations ago in the city in which I was raised. Unlike the raid on the House, “The Jerry Rescue” was a necessary and meaningful attack as it protected the right to freedom for all humankind.
Last spring, when Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd (and other officers stood by watching) and a white father and son shot a young African American man while he was jogging, I was writing vignettes for my manuscript pertaining to The Compromise of 1850, The Fugitive Slave Act and the case of Jerry.
While the anti-slavery Liberty Party was holding its New York State convention on October 1, 1851, a black man named William “Jerry” Henry, who had escaped slavery in Missouri via the Underground Railroad and made his way to Syracuse, New York where he lived and worked freely for eight years as a Cooper, was captured by Federal Marshalls at his place of work. Months before in May Secretary of State Daniel Webster (under President Fillmore’s administration), delivered a speech to the citizens of Syracuse – the city Webster referred to as “that laboratory of abolitionism, libel and treason.” Webster threatened federal agents would come down hard on any citizens if they tried to stop the return of runaway people as “property” to their “owners.” This threat did not sit well with most Syracuse citizens. In fact, it outraged them.
During those summer months between Ward’s speech and Jerry’s arrest, the Vigilance Committee made plans against possible raids. Charles Baldwin Sedgwick (my 3x great grandfather) and Reverend Samuel Joseph May (who assisted William Lloyd Garrison in founding the New England Abolition Society and the American Anti-Slavery Society), were members of the Committee, along with other ‘freedom fighters’ such as George Barnes and Jermain Loguen, a black man born into slavery and like Jerry, an escapee.
On October 1 Jerry was captured at his workplace, put in leg irons, and injured and bloodied after struggling with his captors (both federal authorities and local police) dragged by cart to the police station. Witnessing this event abhorred the citizens of Syracuse. Thousands rallied in front of the station where Samuel Ward – another runaway living freely – addressed the crowd:
“We are witnessing a sight as, I pray, we may never look upon again. A man in chains, in Syracuse! Not a felon, yet in chains! On trial is this man, not for life, but for liberty! Hear, though, what I say. Jerry will not be abandoned and is likely to be freed as a result of the hearing. Judge Charles Sedgwick and Mr. Charles Wheaton are meeting at this very moment to prepare a kidnapping complaint against Federal Agent Allen who came here to catch Jerry and take him away. Commissioner Sabine has ordered the case to be heard at 5:30 p.m. here at the station. But please heed this warning; County Sheriff Gardner has threatened to call out the National Guard if he has to.”
As this was occurring a group of twenty-five men made a plan of action during which Gerrit Smith ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrit_Smith) stated: “It is not unlikely the Commissioner [Joseph Sabine, an abolitionist himself] will release Jerry but the moral effect of such an acquittal will be as nothing to a bold and forcible rescue. A forcible rescue will demonstrate the strength of public opinion against the possible legality of slavery and this Fugitive Slave Law in particular. It will honor Syracuse and be a powerful example everywhere.”
Reverend May agreed but on one condition. “We must act without hatred and violence. If anyone is to be injured in this fray, I hope it may be one of our own parties.” Jermain Loguen, however, responded: “If white men won’t fight, let fugitives and black men smite down marshals and commissioners – anybody who holds Jerry – and rescue him or perish.”
By 5:30 p.m. nearly three thousand bystanders stood outside the police station. Rocks were suddenly hurled at the building and a cry of “NOW!” sounded. Using clubs, iron bars and axes which had been stacked outside Wheaton’s Hardware Store, a group of men, some who had smeared burnt cork on their faces, rushed at the police station. Doors and windows were smashed. Gas jet lamps in the front office were hit out. Using a ten-foot beam the group smashed the front door crying, “Onondaga County is coming!” Inside, they discovered a deputy stood in the hallway. A rock was thrown at him and he fell to his knees. Within minutes the rescuers had forced their way in.
In a back room Marshal Fitch stood guard behind the door of the room in which Jerry was being held. The marshal stepped out and fired two shots at the mob. Someone raced at him and smashed his arms with a club, which sent him running to jump out a second story window, breaking his arm. A gang of white and black, armed men raced at several marshals. The group then grabbed Jerry and carried him out the front door. At the sight of Jerry a loud cheer went up from the crowd and Jerry was paraded through the streets to hurrahs everywhere.
Two weeks later, when Jerry was sent safely in Canada through the Underground Railroad and the white men who had broken into the jail and were subsequently arrested had been bailed out by Sedgwick and Smith, the Vigilance Committee mailed a package to President Fillmore in Washington, D.C. What did the box contain? The irons that federal marshals had placed on Jerry.
“When the people of Syracuse saw a man dragged through the streets, chained and held down in a cart by four or six others who were upon him; treated as if he were the worst of felons; and learned that it was only because he had assumed to be what God made him to be, a man, and not a slave—when this came to be known throughout the streets, there was a mighty throbbing of the public heart; an all but unanimous uprising against the outrage. There was no concert of action except that to which a common humanity impelled the people. Abhorrence of The Fugitive Slave Bill poured in burning words from every tongue. The very stones cried out,” Reverend Joseph May later told the Convention of Citizens of Onondaga County.
Sedgwick and Smith went on to represent Jerry’s rescuers, in trials lasting over a two-year period. Later that decade, Sedgwick was elected as a New York State representative, where he served two elected terms and was the first person to give a speech (titled The Act of Southern Aggression) on the House floor (1860) denouncing slavery. Sedgwick was known for his “no compromises, no concessions” stand on the slavery issue and because the Southern states refused to concede he believed the only way to end the institution of slavery was war. Refusing to leave Washington “until every slave is free,” my 3x great grandfather was in the House the day slavery was abolished on January 31, 1865.
I am proud that I was raised in a city where generations before citizens showed support and human decency for a man they regarded as their fellow human being. I imagine that the men who served on Syracuse’s Vigilance Committee would agree with the peaceful protests that took place in 2020 (not the destruction of property). In reading and transcribing the letters Charles Sedgwick wrote during the turbulent years leading up to the Civil War and in those he served in his two terms in Congress, I believe his advice to today would be to “keep hammering;” for us to write to city, state, and national representatives to express our thoughts and most importantly take action in our own lives and places of work to make things better for all people.
JUNE 10, 1864
The course of Congress on the Negro pay bill is wholly inexplicable – There is not a decently fair man in Congress who does not admit that they should be paid the same as white soldiers – It is just honest & politic – it is absolutely essential to the further vigorous prosecution of the war and yet collectively – in these corporate capacity Congress acts like the devil about this- But the time is coming! I don’t know but all this neglect and delay and quarreling is wholesome – In the end I am sure it will bring about this great negro equality – equal rights for Jonathan – vote with him – go to schoolwith him – preach to him and go to Congress. He can get votes enough – Half a dozen such men as Fred Douglass in Congress (if you could find half a dozen such more white or black; would greatly improve the body and show that we believe what we have been preaching so long – I go now for the largest liberty.
Charles Baldwin Sedgwick
I have your letter to father Abraham. Gov. Andrews letter – resolutions – letter to Twitchell – Keep hammering – it is the only way – in the end it will be efficient – a half loyal Marylander told me yesterday that he didn’t consider any body a Yankee but a Massachusetts man! You have you… the port of honor and it becomes you to work. I am doing what I can to make myself as thoroughly hated as a genuine Yankee- Love to all the babies from Nell down. Your affectionate husband, Charles
We had another glorious day yesterday – On Mr. Sumner’s motion Ino v Rock a colored Citizen of Boston was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the U.S. Reverdy Johnson in arguing the Dred Scott case said if the Court decided he was a Citizen they would yet see colored men admitted to practice in the Court and perhaps sitting upon the Bench. Well who can say nay? The first part of his fear is realized sooner than anybody had any reason to believe it could be- the other part may be sooner than we can now believe – I think we are very near the time when we can afford to make peace – I suppose Mr. Seward and the Rebel Commissioner Shepherd & Hunter and how diarguing the terms of peace on a vessel in Hampton Roads. So at least a little bird hear whispered me. I shall hail it with the greatest joy with the greatest joy of slavery is nally and truly killed as I believe it is. I feel quite sure that three quarters of the states will approve the amendment to the Constitution and end the Iniquity and then peace will be most welcome.
I can say for myself that nothing but emancipation is worth carrying on war for and that secured and assured they may arrange all other terms as they please. I fear that may be put in possible jeopardy by too speedy a peace: slite the fear is so weak as scarcely to cloud my conviction that slavery cannot survive this war – a conviction which I have had from the outset.
Washington 30 (31) Jany, 1865
Tuesday eve 9
My Dear Dora [Sedgwick’s wife Deborah Gannett Sedgwick] –
This has been a most glorious day. The Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery passed the House at 4 o’clock this afternoon by a vote of 119 to 56. A majority of 7. All this you have doubtless learned long before this (8 p.m.) by the telegraph, and we expect to hear by tomorrow evening that several states have already ratified it. I hope New York or Missouri may be first and Massachusetts next but fear she may get the start of the others.
It was a most exciting scene in the House. The galleries were crammed early in the day. Nell got a place early in the Diplomatic Gallery and sat out the session with distinguished gentleman many of whom were filled with anxiety as to the result. I noticed among others Mr. Jno Jay and Chief Justice Chase. It was very doubtful from the preliminary votes how the main question was to be decided although I have felt great confidence for several days that it was to carry. Finally as the vote was taken it was impossible to suppress applause upon the floor and in the galleries as one after another doubtful voice pronounced in favor of the measure and it began to be apparent that Justice and Liberty were to be established as the fundamental laws of this great nation.
When the result was declared from the Chair it was — (can not transcribe word) impossible to restrain the enthusiasm – It burst forth in shouts or cheers and waving of handkerchiefs, tossing of hats in the air – everybody rose to their feet and hardier cheers never were given – There was no use in trying to suppress it and in the midst the House adjourned. I saw Wm. H. Channing rushing around like a madman – some one proposed to sing John Brown & if one had begun it all would have joined in the swelling chorus. It has been what the Romans would call the whitest of white days. I tried to write while the House was in progress but although I exhibited no excitement I could not write – it was just impossible. No man or woman who has had the least influence in producing this most auspicious result has lived in vain. I never hoped to see this day, during the many long and unpromising years of the past, until the madness of this Rebellion proved that the hour of destruction of the infernal system was appointed of God and since then I have never doubted – I cannot write more – the children (Nell and Mrs. Eliot) are going to the P.M. Generals reception, and in the morning Nell goes North. Your loving husband, C.B. Sedgwick