Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Local author David Cleutz grew up in Gettysburg -- with battlefields right in his backyard.
In recent years, he learned a Regiment that trained right here in Broome County played a crucial role in winning that battle.
"When I give a talk, the first thing I say is, 'How many people have been to Gettysburg?' All the hands go up. And I say, 'How many know that it was a regiment from here that saved the battle of Gettysburg? And if I get one hand in 10..." says Cleutz, who has researched the 137th Regiment for about 8 years.
One thousand men from all around the Southern Tier made up the 137th Regiment, many of them were barely 18 years old.
"They were good kids, but what they'd do is they'd write 1- 8 on a piece of paper... and put it in their shoe. Then, when the recruiting sergeants said, 'Are you over 18?' They'd be able to say, without lying... 'Yes, I'm over 18.'" Cleutz explains.
That's right, they stood over the number 18.
The men fought more than 12 battles in the Civil War. They led the charge up Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But perhaps most memorably, the 137th held out at Culps Hill at Gettysburg to fend off the Confederate Army one late July night.
"They were all alone on, right on the Union Line. They were surrounded on 3 sides, they were outnumbered 5 to 1. And yet, they managed to maneuver and get into a position where at 11 o'clock at night... Running out of ammunition, Captain Joseph Gregg led a bayonet charge that finally drove the Confederates away and stopped battle for the night."
Cleutz says if it wasn't for that effort, Culps Hill would have fallen to the Confederacy and the battle of Gettysburg would have been lost for the Union.
"Probably England and France would have recognized the Confederacy and we might be having to use passports going into Virginia today," he laughs.
Under the leadership of Colonel David Ireland, the 137th trained for 6 weeks in the summer of 1862. The camp site, Camp Susquehanna, is near what's now known as Veteran's Memorial Park. The camp was along the south bank of the Susquehanna River -- just east of the Park Diner.
"It's a shame there's no Civil War State Historical Marker there," Cleutz says he and others are working to establish one.
There is a monument in front of the Broome County Courthouse, and another marks the efforts of the 137th at Gettysburg.
Of the 1,000 men, only a little more than 100 returned home from the battlefields. Many heroes were laid to rest in area Southern Tier cemeteries.
Colonel Ireland is buried in Spring Forest Cemetery. Blink and you could miss the graves of others... Like 15-year-old Admiral T. Coon. He was laid to rest behind a truck stop in Kirkwood.
"People need to know that there are heroes buried in their midst," Cleutz adds it's equally as important to pay tribute to those heroes.
"I think that we don't celebrate the Civil War. We commemorate it, and we commemorate the fact that all these men gave their full measure of devotion in order to preserve our union. To keep our country together," he says.
If you'd like to hear more about these men and their contributions to the Civil War, David Cleutz will make a presentation Wednesday evening.
It will outline his most recent book, "Fields of Fame and Glory." The presentation will be in the Decker Room at the Broome County Public Library at 6:30 Wednesday evening.