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1 Lt. Martin L. Wilson

Photo: Taryn D. Tomasso

     One of several small cemeteries within the town of Camillus is the old Oswego-Bitter Cemetery located just off of Bennetts Corners Rd. The cemetery was the burial ground of the once thriving community of Oswego-Bitter which boasted a furniture factory, mill and even a hotel. Settlers were recorded in the area as far back as 1780. Each year a parade committee member travels to the old burying ground to mark with flags the graves of veterans buried there, including that of a Revolutionary War veteran and the long forgotten grave of 1 Lt. Martin L. Wilson, an officer of Company A. of the 122nd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. 

     Lt. Wilson was described as 5’ 8’’ with dark hair, dark eyes and dark complexion; records indicate he was working as a laborer prior to his enlistment. He was married on October 11, 1861 in Syracuse by a Justice of the Peace of the Town of Salina. He and his wife, the former Martha J. Evans, had one son according to a widow’s pension application. It can be surmised that their son John, born July 30, 1862,  would have very much loved to spend his childhood learning from his father and hearing stories of his brave and gallant days as a soldier, but as the Civil War raged in the country, this was not to be. Martin was serving as an officer of Company A of the 122nd New York Volunteers when he was wounded at the Deer Run Crossing Battle on June 10th, 1863. He recovered from his injury sustained this day and was able to return to the regiment and continue fighting and leading his company. 

     Most unfortunately, Martin was struck down again almost a year later on May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness, which took place in Virginia from May 5th to May 7th and cost the 122nd significant losses. Martin was said to be wounded severely in the shoulder and a newspaper clipping referencing the regiment’s members makes note of a Mr. L. Wilson (Martin’s brother) who returned home after searching for his wounded brother. The article states that he found Lt. M.L. Wilson on a transport (presumably a train) coming from Fredericksburg with a bad wound in his right shoulder which was improving and that Lt. Wilson was expected to return home in three or four weeks’ time. 

     The family’s joy at the good news only lasted a short while, as they later learned that Martin would not be coming home alive. Instead, his body was shipped home for interment; Lt. Wilson succumbed to his injuries in Seminary Hospital in Georgetown, Virginia on June 19, 1864. It is worth noting that although Martin’s war ended and his family was left bereft, the cause for which he died continued and ultimately triumphed; on June 19th, 1865, exactly one year to the date of Lt. Wilson drawing his final breath in that hospital, the last enslaved persons in the south were given freedom from slavery on what has now become known as the first Juneteenth Day. Martin L. Wilson’s grave is located in a cemetery that is the final remnant of a bygone community erased by time, but the memory of this man who left his family and gave his life for an end to slavery and the unity of our nation should never be forgotten.

Thank you, Martin, for your service and your sacrifice.

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