The Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society had a huge turnout for its free presentation on the Civil War at the Palmyra Community Center on January 9, 2014.
The publicity blurb promised material history archives and comprehensive research on the socioeconomic impacts of the war specific to Palmyra.
Jay Howard of the Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society delivered on that promise and gave a detailed analysis of Palmyra’s social and economic condition during the 1860s.
He based his conclusions on an incredible present that a very generous Cinnaminson resident gave them–a set of Civil War diaries.
We could look at, but not touch, one ledger of the multi-volume diary written by Capt. Charles Hall, Fourth New Jersey Volunteers, which was passed down through his family. His great-great-granddaughter Virginia Harding donated it to the Palmyra organization a few months ago. .
Jay Howard, who is also a professor at the Community College of Philadelphia, has been engrossed with their contents since. He coordinated the names mentioned in the diaries with names listed on local Civil War muster sheets and consulted Adjutant General William S. Stryker’s two-volume Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865.
I confess that I went hoping to freeload some information about Riverton’s involvement in the War between the States because at that time, the towns of Riverton and Palmyra were still part of Cinnaminson Township.
While the focus that evening was definitely on Palmyra, there may be some Civil War vets from Riverton we’ll hear about later when the PH&CS finishes transcribing the diaries. We have a short list of Riverton Civil War vets compiled, but part of the difficulty is sorting out names of Riverton residents from the Cinnaminson records.
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer Edward Colimore interviewed Mr. Howard about the author of diaries, their donor Virginia Harding, and the information he has gleaned from them. You can find the philly.com article here.
Here is a link to his a PDF file for Jay’s slide presentation in which he examines Palmyra society of the Civil War era. Note slide #7 which gives a general overview of the economic situation in Riverton. You’ll want to see this separate Word .doc which includes Jay’s explanations of the slides.
This is a perfect example of the tremendous value that primary source materials serve in documenting local history. We thank Ms. Harding for her extraordinary generosity to the community and Mr. Howard and his research team at the Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society for their contribution to our understanding of the region’s history.
I certainly look forward to the next chapter in Jay’s investigation. Let us know what you think and we’ll pass it along to Jay. – John McCormick