Only our individual faith in freedom can keep us free.
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Memorial Day commemorations
The first Memorial Day was declared on May 5, 1868 by general John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans: “Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us, a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”
Honoring Memorial Day here in the Hudson Valley is an opportunity for our families to acknowledge our gratitude for the service of our country’s women and men who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty, as well as to appreciate how very local some of that history is. One small gesture is to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance, observed by one minute of silence at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day. Here’s a roundup of Memorial Day and other history-related activities taking place this weekend.
First Person Tours at Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh
Congratulations goes out to the City of Newburgh, New York State’s first Purple Heart City, designating it as part of the Purple Heart Trail, a “symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal.” That’s pretty cool, because in 1782, commander-in-chief George Washington issued the first Badge of Military Merit, the predecessor to the Purple Heart, right in Newburgh.
Beginning this weekend, the Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site runs First Person Tours, with an interpreter portraying a person of the past through the historic headquarters. The featured characters are Antoinette Corwin, a Newburgh preservationist, on Saturday, May 25 at 1 p.m. and on Sunday, June 9 at 2 p.m.; and John H. Martin, superintendent of Washington’s Headquarters on Saturday, May 25 at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 26th at 2 p.m. and on Saturday, June 1 at 1 and 3 p.m. The special event fee for each tour is $5 per person, and advance tickets are strongly recommended.
Washington’s Headquarters is located at 84 Liberty Street in Newburgh. For reservations or more information, call (845) 562-1195 or visit www.facebook.com/washingtonsheadquarters.
Graveside ceremony at New Windsor Cantonment
1782 was also the year that Washington declared a ceasefire in the War of Independence, and he issued the orders from the nearby New Windsor Cantonment. On Monday, May 27 at 2 p.m., join the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site to “Honor Our Nation’s Fallen Soldiers.” Continental soldiers perform an 18th-century graveside mourning ceremony, followed by music with Linda Russell, who “performs the songs that inspired and comforted the American people when our nation was at war.”
The New Windsor Cantonment is located at 374 Temple Hill Road, or Route 300, in New Windsor. For more information, call (845) 561-1765 or visit https://nysparks.com. To learn more about the musician, visit www.lindarussellmusic.com.
Vets get in free at Hudson River Maritime Museum
A little further upriver, the Hudson River Maritime Museum “is the only museum in New York State exclusively preserving the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries and the industries that developed around it.” On Memorial Day, veterans receive free admission to the Museum; and active-duty military and their families always get in free with military ID, since the Museum is part of the Blue Star Museum program. On Tuesday, May 28, the celebrated John J. Harvey historic fireboat, which was called back into service during the September 11 attacks, is on display at the Museum.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is located at 50 Rondout Landing in Kingston. For more information, call (845) 338-0071 or visit www.hrmm.org. To learn more about the John J. Harvey, visit www.fireboat.org.
Catskill Mountain Railroad reopens for the season
Memorial Day weekend means that the Catskill Mountain Railroad is open for the season, and it’s celebrating its 30th anniversary. Witness the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 25 at 1 p.m., and riders will receive a free commemorative pin while supplies last.
The Railroad is usually open just on Saturdays, so take advantage of its extended schedule on Memorial Day weekend. Trains depart the Kingston Westbrook Station on the hour from 1 to 4 p.m. The Kingston City Limited is a slow, short ride, but it’s one way to experience how travel used to be. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for children aged 2 to 11 years and free for children under age 2.
The Kingston Westbrook Station is located at 149 Aaron Court in Kingston. For more information about the Kingston Shuttle or the Mount Tremper station, call (845) 688-7400 or visit https://catskillmtrailroad.com.