SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The uniform of the first Union officer killed in the Civil War and the flag that draped President Abraham Lincoln's casket when it passed through Albany will be among 10,000 military artifacts housed at a new museum in the National Guard Armory here.
Gov. George E. Pataki recently announced the creation of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center and pledged $1 million to remodel the 31,000-square-foot, 112-year-old armory here. Pataki said he hoped the state money would attract federal and private dollars to complete the conversion into a museum to open next spring.
"Saratoga's prominent place in our nation's history, its central location in our state and its proximity to both the Saratoga National Historic Park and the Saratoga National Cemetery make it the ideal location for New York's military museum," Pataki said.
The state's most prized military artifact - the uniform Col. Elmer Ellsworth of Mechanicville wore when he was shot in 1861 in Alexandria, Va. - will be moved to the armory along with other items in the nation's largest state-owned collection of military memorabilia.
The announcement by Pataki culminates a six-year effort to catalog the collection, which includes cannonballs and soldiers' correspondence, 1,800 historic battle flags and videotaped remembrances of New York veterans. Now listed on a computer database, notes on the items were kept on index cards and stored in shoe boxes until 1995. Artifacts were lost or stolen, and military and police officials are still trying to recover them.
State legislation requiring the preservation of New York's military artifacts was enacted in 1863, according to Maj. Gen. John H. Fenimore, adjutant general of the New York National Guard.
"Quite frankly and sadly, not a whole lot has been done since then," Fenimore said. "This has been a long time coming."