In a letter to his parents 150 years ago, John McLaughlin described being by his brother Robert McLaughlin’s side as he laid dying on the battlefield in Fair Oaks, Va.
“Although he must have suffered dreadfully, he seemed not to mind it at all; his only anxiety being to know how the battle was going. And when I told him that our men were driving the enemy, it seemed to give him a great deal of comfort and he said he was satisfied to die if we only gained the battle,” read Clete McLaughlin, from the letter his great-uncle penned during the Civil War.
It was during the Battle of Seven Pines — also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks — the McLaughlin brothers fought with the 34th Regiment, New York State Volunteers, which was also known as the Herkimer County Regiment. The Fair Oaks battle was their “first serious battle,” which started Saturday, May 31, 1862, and ended the following day.
“Although a very personal family letter, I believe it is representative of the bravery, dedication and sacrifice that the men of the 34th demonstrated throughout their service,” said McLaughlin during Monday’s Memorial Day service in Eastern Park. “... It is important that we remember them and include them in our tribute to all our veterans.”
Little Falls VFW Post Commander Don Bronson hosted the ceremony, which included the raising of the American flag, the POW/MIA flag and the flags for each branch of the military.
Bronson thanked the efforts of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts there for placing American flags on the graves of 2,500 veterans in the city.
Bronson asked those there to reflect on the American flag in front of the veterans’ headstones.
“Please never forget them and the service they’ve given to you, and what you now reap from what they have given,” he said.
Other Memorial Day events throughout the region included a ceremony in Dolgeville, where Stanley Bilinski spoke about the veterans in his own life, including his father, father-in-law and son.
“Though I did not serve in the military, I most certainly have a connection to it ... I have a profound appreciation for all those who have served,” he said.
The ceremony included a reading of “The Gettysburg Address” by Braden Case and “In Flander’s Field” and Helen Young, both with the Dolgeville Central School Marching Band, the lowering of the flag to half mast and laying of the wreath by Korean war veteran Fred Doerrer and Bill Mahardy.
In St. Johnsville, a parade honored the village’s living veterans on Monday. Organizers said 12 of the 15 were able to participate. The parade started on Failing Avenue and proceeded to Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park, where Dawn Lamphere was the guest speaker. The parade also included the St. Johnsville High School Marching Band, members of the St. Johnsville Little League and the fire department.