Today in History: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is Inaugurated For First Term

FDR Inauguration 1933

On March 4, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) is inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States beginning the longest tenure of any U.S. president (1933-1945). The fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, who served as the 26th U.S. president from 1901 to 1909, FDR took this opportunity to roll out his plans for the New Deal. Most proposals were approved within his first 100 days in office.

Six months prior, in September of 1932 as Governor of New York, FDR visited Syracuse for a campaign party at the home of his cousin, Colonel Henry Roosevelt, in Skaneateles.


This Week in Civil War History: NYS Volunteers Head to Wilmington, N.C after Union Capture


Today, we check back in with our Civil War Soldier David W. Nelson of Company A, 117th Regiment N.Y.

Nelson and his fellow soldiers would head to Wilmington, North Carolina days after its capture, which occured on February 22nd, though Nelson wouldn’t hear of it until February 26th. Wilmington was the last major Confederate seaport open to blockade-running traffic which was ultimately captured by William T. Sherman following a bombardment by gunboats under the command of Rear Admiral David Porter.

“The loss of most of the North Carolina coast and coastal waterways was a blow both to Confederate morale and the young nation’s ability to supply its armies in the field. By late spring 1862, Union soldiers occupied the towns of Plymouth, Washington and New Bern. But aside from a few raids from those bases, the Union forces went no farther until the very end of the war when Sherman entered North Carolina in March–April 1865.

The one bright spot for the Confederates along the coast was Wilmington. Protected by strong fortifications at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the port remained open, shipping supplies to Lee’s army in Virginia until they fell to Sherman in early 1865.”
(Via Civil War Traveler)

Also of significance, the same day as Wilmington’s capture, Voters approve a new constitution, including the abolition of slavery, in Tennessee.

Capture of Wilmington, North Carolina, 1865

22 February: The weather continues warm and pleasant.  But there is an appearance of rain soon.  I am tired of this place  We get hardly enough water to drink to say nothing of washing ourselves & clothes.  I am getting out of money having spent nearly all I had for eatables-small squads are continually coming and going here.

23 February: Rain again today and it dismal enough.  A large No of men come during the day, many of whom have to lie out through the night, their not being tent room for all-  Am feeling quite a depression of spirits today.  My mind is wandering back to the past and sad thoughts are springing up.. But such is life a mingling of joys grief and sorrow.  There is no sign of our leaving here yet.

24 February: The weather clears a little this morning and a little colder.  Large squads of men are arriving today.  No boat here for us yet.  Wilmington is today said to be evacuated by the Rebs.  37 Reb Deserters pass here today—the flag of (…..)boat passed up the River for an exchange.

25 February: A rainy dismal day.  This morning squads are sent to the front.  A transport lies at the wharf & it is thought we will get away today.  At dark we march to the River & go on board.  Transport  Admiral Dupont which moves out in the stream & cast anchor for the night.

26 February: At break of day we get under way down the River, arriving at Ft Monroe at 9PM.  Ft Fisher is now said to be ours with Wilmington.  We put out to sea at sun set.  We are a colored guard doing down.

Interior of Fort Fisher after Union capture in 1865.
Interior of Fort Fisher after Union capture in 1865.

27 February: Out to sea this morn.  Pass Cape Hatteras at 8AM.  Sea is quite calm for this time of the season.  Many of the Boys are seasick.  We expect to get in to Fisher in the morning.  A man overboard, but he is rescued.

Today in Music History & Journey’s Syracuse Connection

Today is Journey pianist Jonathan Cain’s birthday and tomorrow is guitarist Neal George Joseph Schon’s birthday, who, along with Syracuse native George Tickner, helped to form the band in the Bay Area of California. Tickner would go on to leave the band after three albums, the last of which was in 1977, before he went to attend Stanford Medical School.

Today in History: The Cult Classic Movie “Slap Shot” Released in 1977


Today in History the movie Slap Shot​, which filmed scenes at the Onondaga County War Memorial​, was released in 1977. This also happened to be the same year the Syracuse Blazers won the NAHL Championship (the Lockhart Cup), the last year before the league folded that September. The Blazers also won the Lockhart Cup in the first year of the NAHL’s existence during the 1973-74 season.


The connection runs deep between Syracuse and this cult class. The ficticious league in the movie (the Federal Hockey League) was partially based on the North American Hockey League (NAHL), where the Syracuse Blazers played. The Charlestown Chiefs, the team Paul Newman plays for in the movie, was based on Pennsylvania’s Johnstown Jets. The NAHL was also known for it’s fights and bench clearing brawls, many of which the Blazers were a part of. (Note, this video is from the Eastern Hockey League, where the Blazers played before joining the NAHL. However, the result is the same.)

Players from the Blazers even appeared in the movie, including Blake Hall, Dan Belisle, Reg Krezanski, and Ray Schultz. However, there’s another player who made it into the movie, though he wasn’t given an opportunity to play himself because, according to the player, “They thought I was too wild and I’d beat up Paul Newman.”

Billy “Harpo” “Goldy” Goldthorpe inspired the character “Ogie Ogilthorpe” who played for the Syracuse Bulldogs. We’ll let you be the judge to see if there’s any resemblance:

Bill Goldthorpe
Bill Goldthorpe
Ogie Ogilthorpe
Ogie Ogilthorpe

As far as Ogie’s in movie antics, there’s a scene where, during the play, the puck is deflected off of a players stick and sent into the stands (in those days there was no protective netting and the glass was a few feet shorter). The puck careened so high it hit the organ player, knocking him out cold. This moment in the movie was inspired by the time Goldy was sent to the penalty box, which infuriated him. So much in fact, that he picked up a water bottle in an attempt at hitting an opposing player only, it slipped, and knocked out the nearby penalty announcer.

Today in History: The First Post Office Opens in Syracuse


John Wilkinson195 Years Ago: On February 24th 1820, the first post office opened in Syracuse and John Wilkinson, a lawyer and banker, would later become the first postmaster. Syracuse had previously been known as Corinth among a host of other names which included Salt Point (1780), then Webster’s Landing (1786), Bogardus Corners (1796), Milan (1809), South Salina (1812), Cossits’ Corners (1814), and finall Corinth (1817) before changing the name to Syracuse. Why the last name change? Because a town of Corinth already existed in Saratoga County, the citizens had to come up with a different name in order for the federal government to open the post office. Wilkinson was the one who suggested it be called Syracuse because of the geographic similarities between this region and that of Siracusa, Sicily. Both places were on a body of water, were surrounded by hills, and were the location of salt production.

You can learn more about the naming of Syracuse and the city’s Italian history in the exhibit “In Our Very Name: The Italian Heritage of Syracuse” at the Onondaga Historical Association Museum.

Today in History: Lincoln Arrives in Washington D.C. after Visiting Syracuse

Syracuse in 1861 - Courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863Today in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington D.C. to end his pre-inaugural trip. At this point, seven states having already seceded from the Union since Lincoln’s election and the threat of civil war grew with each passing day along with the threat of his assassination, leading to Allen Pinkerton, head of a private detective agency, to plan a way to safely get Lincoln to Washington D.C. The following is from the History Channel.

“Lincoln agreed to the covert arrival. With Pinkerton and Ward Hill Lamon, his former law partner, Lincoln slipped out of the hotel in Harrisburg on the evening of February 22. He wore a soft felt hat instead of his customary stovepipe hat, and draped an overcoat over his shoulders and hunched slightly to disguise his height. The group boarded a sleeper car and arrived in Baltimore in the middle of the night. They slipped undetected from the Calvert Street station to Camden station across town. There, they boarded another train and arrived without incident in Washington at 6 a.m. On the platform, the party was surprised when a voice boomed, “Abe, you can’t play that on me.” It was Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, a friend of Lincoln’s from Illinois. Washburne escorted Lincoln to the Willard Hotel.”

Lincoln’s journey across the country included stops in New York, one of which was Syracuse on February 18th. However, due to the crowds that met him at other stops, Lincoln only stopped in cities such as Rochester and Utica for about 5 minutes, though Syracuse did enjoy a bit longer of visit.

The following excerpt is from the website Mr Lincoln and New York.

“Mr. Lincoln’s remarks from a platform Syracuse were more extensive. They were delivered in front of the Globe Hotel:


‘I see you have erected a very fine and handsome platform here for me and I presume you expected me to speak from it. If I should go upon it you would imagine that I was about to deliver you a much longer speech than I am. I wish you to understand that I mean no discourtesy to you by thus declining. I intend discourtesy to no one. But I wish you to understand that though I am unwilling to go upon this platform, you are not at liberty to draw any inferences concerning any other platform with which my name has been or is connected. [Laughter and applause.] I wish you a long life and prosperity individually, and pray that with the perpetuity of those institutions under which we have all so long lived and prospered, our happiness may be secured, our future made brilliant, and the glorious destiny of our country established forever. I bid you a kind farewell.’

“At Syracuse a crowd estimated at 10,000 people was assembled to receive Mr. Lincoln. The special train arrived at Utica ahead of time and was awaited by thousands of people who were standing in a snowstorm.”

Today in Civil War History: Columbia, South Carolina Occupied

This week in Civil War history, the New York Times reported by U.S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General that General Sherman “entered Columbia yesterday morning (February 17th), and its fall necessitates, it presumes, the fall of Charleston, which it thinks has already been evacuated.” A day later, on February 19th, the Times had the following report:

“GLORIOUS NEWS; Triumphant March of Gen. Sherman. Columbia, S.C., Occupied on Friday Morning. Beauregard’s Forces Retreat as Our Troops Enter the Town. Large Quantities of Medical Stores Destroyed by the Rebels.The “Cradle of Secession” Violently Rocked.The Evacuation of Charleston a Military Necessity.Speculations as to where Sherman will Next Strike.He Lives on the Country and is Unopposed in His Advance.OFFICIAL REPORTS FROM GENERAL GRANT. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War. THE FALL OF COLUMBIA. From the Whig. Rebel Reports. Table of Distances.”

From here, we pick up with on our own Civil War soldier, David Nelson of the 117th New York State Volunteers, whose diary entries give us insight into the life during the war as it came to an end.

24th entry  9 February This is a morning of excitement to us.  The Transport Mississippi lies just off the Wharf and is to be loaded today for the Army of the James.  The squad from our Barrack goes on board at dark.  We are among a rough set and are likely to have rough voyage.  A Co of the 61st Marine are guard of the Transport.   A Provost Marshall goes with us from the Island.  We bid adieu to the Isle of Gallop.

25th entry  10 February Early this morning the anchor is up and we are out to sea.  The sea is quite rough and I am feeling sea sick.  There are no bunks made for our accommodation some have to rough it on the floor…like and a nasty pen it is for us.  We have on board a rough set of cut throats who are getting rather bold robbing and plundering who they like.

26th entry   11 February Last night was stormy on, this morning the waves run high and the ship rolls and pitches at terrible rate.  Today a man falls overboard, is saved by a small boat.  He is a good swimmer or would have been lost.  The wind blows a gale this PM.  We expect to get to Ft. Monroe tomorrow. Am sick all the time since starting.  This is the most shameful usage I ever saw soldiers get.  This Vessel is not to be compared to a pig pen.

27th entry  12 February Am feeling better this morning.  The air feels as though we were nearing land again.  I eat a little breakfast, the first since we started.  We (run) all day but no land in sight.  I shall be very glad when this voyage is over.  This has been the most stormy of any of my sea travels.  I think land is near by the soundings the land has been east a no. of times.

28th entry  13 February This morning we arrive off Ft. Monroe. After a few horses, we go on board of a City Point boat, and move up the James, just at night.  Wilmington Troops are all sent up, it better cold and many of the men have to lie out on sick.  I am in Co with a man of the 142nd NY.  We propose going to our Regt together.  There is some ice in the river, which will stop us before we get up.

29th entry  14 February Our boat has to halt below City Point last night on account of the ice.   This morn a breaker came down after which we (….) up. Arrived at the Ft. at 7AM, laid at the Wharf a while, then (…..) over to Bermuda Hundreds, where we were landed and then went into a sort of a pen, used as a camp of distribution. At the Wharf, I came across several of the Boys of the Regiment.

30th entry  15 February We are in one of the most filthy, ill conducted things here that ever went by the name of a camp.  A large No of those who came here with us are sent off today.  Nearby all but those going to Ft Fisher. I found a sergeant of Co D today who is also here waiting for transportation.  There is some firing up to the front which sounds quite natural.

31st entry  16 February No transportation  for the Regt. yet.  today came across 2 men of our Regt. We have rain and its (…..), Another fact we are having a most disagreeable time, Sgt Edward of Co D, Was of the 142nd and are in tent

 32nd entry  17 February This is a wet disagreeable day.  There is no getting out for the mud.  It is rather dull here, without news and but a few that I know for company.. quite a no. of Reb deserters are daily passing here.  It is said we go South on the morrow.  Our Regt., I hear is doing duty at the Landing near Ft. Fisher.  Rain tonight.

33rd entry  18 February The weather is clear this morning, the mud drying up through the day.  Still we are penned up on this place.  I did think to get away to the Regiment today, but my name was overlooked and I am left behind.   Watson and Evans are gone while I am left here alone.  Sent a letter to Father today.

34th  entry  19 February Weather is very pleasant and warm.  There is no prospect of getting away from here yet.  This is not in appearance a Sabbath day.  Noise & confusion are the prevailing elements.  If I were with the Regt, I should feel quite contented.  It is doubtful if I get back to muster at the close of the month.