Perhaps you have an ancestral link to the Civil War, or you’ve wandered around local cemeteries and have come across Civil War gravestones, or are just otherwise interested in the history of that time. One group that remains active since the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) formed is the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War (DUVCW), incorporated in 1885.
The local DUVCW, Mrs. Benjamin Harrison Tent 2, based out of Binghamton, N.Y., and named for the wife of President Harrison, originally organized in 1893 and participates in parades, living history demonstrations and memorial services, among other patriotic ceremonies and dedications. Binghamton’s Tent 2 is the oldest functioning chapter in New York State.
The DUVCW encourages new members to join and formally meets from April to October. Some activities fall during other months, too, such as a December event where members placed wreaths at the Tioga County Civil War monument for the annual Wreaths Across America.
DUVCW, a not-for-profit, also helps preserve Civil War battlefields, historic sites and monuments, and offers a scholarship program, among other work.
The DUVCW often partners with the 137th New York Volunteer Infantry at events, and a few individuals belong to both groups. In spring of 2017, both groups participated at the dedication of two road markers in Binghamton, which honored Col. David Ireland, who trained the 137th to fight in various battles, and most notably, Gettysburg.
Bonnie Baker-Duff, a Tioga County resident for nearly 30 years, has been involved with DUVCW for several years, and previously held the role of DUVCW President. Baker-Duff’s background includes professional work as an outreach worker at Opportunities for Broome, as well as working at the rape crisis center, domestic violence office, and helping the Onondaga / Haudenosaunee people.
Baker-Duff explained that when she was a young girl she accompanied an aunt to Chenango Valley Cemetery and was intrigued to learn that two men buried there are ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Inspired several decades later, in 2010 Bonnie and her daughter set out to research the family names found on the shared headstone she first saw as a young girl. Research included utilizing on-line ancestry and military records web sites, which led her to discover that female ancestors were part of Tent 2 and other veterans associations. Subsequently, a phone call to the Binghamton Civil War Roundtable helped her connect the dots further to prove her Civil War ancestry link.
The primary goal of the DUVCW, Baker-Duff explained, is education. The group works to share the role of women in the Civil War, and also encourages the public to become interested in their family ancestry. Based on questions she is asked, mostly from young people at events, Baker-Duff said she is often left wondering what level of attention schools give to the subject of the Civil War.
Regarding membership, any woman who is a direct descendant of a Civil War soldier is eligible to join DUVCW. And for the Tent 2 organization, residents of northeast Pa. are welcome as well. Information and requests can be completed via the national website, www.duvcw.org/. Individuals will, in turn, be referred to local contacts.
Bonnie shared, “Obtaining proof of ancestry for membership can be difficult,” and further explained that web sites such as ancestry.com and Fold3.com offer some needed information or good leads. To prove her own ancestry link, Baker-Duff paid for records from the National Archives.
Baker-Duff hopes that the DUVCW will become more involved in activities at the New York State Veterans’ Home at Oxford during the coming year and looks forward to regular activities and potential new events. One of the most satisfying projects, Baker-Duff shared, was participating in a Susquehanna Valley School Days event, which featured Civil War themed activities and reenactors.
The DUVCW tentatively plans to meet in March. For individuals interested in learning more about the group, contact Bonnie Baker-Duff by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “DUVCW interest/critical” in the subject line.