34th NY Volunteer Infantry

Contributed by BetteJo Hall-Caldwell

Col. James A. Suiter

Ilion Citizen, Friday, March 25,1904

History of the Man who Led the 34th Regiment Through the War of the Rebellion - Soon to celebrate his 88th Birthday.

"We'll follow Col. Suiter Thro' battle storm and flame. Shall tremble at our name."

Prophetic lines these written soon after the battle of Fair Oaks, of that intrepid leader and brave officer, Colonel James A. Suiter, now an aged and honored citizen of our village, guietly resting in the afternoon of life waiting for the call of that Great Commander to the glorious better where war and strife are unknown.

James A. Suiter

Col. James A. Suiter

Herkimer has no more interesting citizen than Col. Suiter, born here April 29, 1816, soon to enter upon his 88th year, his fund of knowledge and information regarding the town and people of the earlier days is well nigh inexhaustible. Still enjoying good health, with a clear mind and most remarkable memory he can talk for hours of early events in town, county state, and nation. It is of the history of this man, who had an eventful career from a civic and military standpoint that we write.

The Colonel was educated in the common schools and at an early age took up the trade of saddle and harness making, tutored in the work by the late John D. Spinner. In 1840 he engaged in business for himself and so continued for over fifty years except for a few years when his brother, Augutus W. was associated with him. He first started in business in rooms over Chas. Spinner's grocery store, located on the present site of the Palmer House; next he occupied upstairs rooms on the present Hemstreet corner, then he occupied a building owned by the late Nicholas Smith where the Metzler block now stands. While there he closed his shop and went to war, returning after peace had been declared, he again engaged in business in rooms once used by Judge Underwood as an office next to where the Waverly House now is, from there he moved to a building where C. Halter is now located. Thence to the site of the postoffice where he remained for fourteen years, until 1881, when he purchased the building on Albany street where his son James A. is now engaged in business. Colonel Suiter continued in business until January 1,1899, when he retired from active work, but not from the shop where he has spent so many hours, for every pleasant day he can be found there visiting with old comrades and friends who make the Suiter store a rendezvous.

Colonel Suiter always had a liking for military life and being prominent in politics from his majority he was active in securing the election of George Petrie to congress, who in turn used his influence for the young Herkimerite and at 31 years of age he was made second lieutenant of Co. E. First Regiment in the Mexican war, serving until the close of the war and being mustered out at Fort Hamilton, New York Harbor. He was a member of the Lafayette Guards, commanded by the late Gen. F.E. Spinner. In 1852 he was elected Captain of Co. G. 38th Regiment New York State Militia, and later was made Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment.

In April 1861, when President Lincoln issued his first call for troops Col. Suiter was the first man to enlist in Co. G. of the 34th Regiment which throughout the persistency and strong will of the Colonel [marked characteristics of the man] came to be known as the Herkimer county regiment and brought much fame to the county because of the bravery of its members. He was elected Captain of the company, then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment and March 20th, 1862, was commissioned Colonel of one of the bravest regiments of the war the rebellion - the old 34th.

A man knowing no fear he successfully led his regiments through the battles of Fair Oaks, Glendale, Antietam, Fredericksburg and fourteen other engagements, always being at the head of the regiment and in the thick of the fray. The horse, old Billy, that he rode through the war was wounded at Fair Oaks, Antietam and Fredericksburg but the Colonel escaped without injury and returned home in 1863.

No officer in the army commanded the respect and esteem of his men to so marked a degree as did Col. Suiter. His boys fairly idolized him and while he was firm and commanding, as befitting his position, he never forgot his boys and many favors came to them through his efforts. For years he has aided his comrades in securing pensions and never tires in helping those who battled so loyally for their country.

At the dedication of the monument on the field of Antietam in September, 1902, the honor of unveiling the monument very properly fell to the son of Col. Suiter, James A. Suiter, jr.

The first Grand Army Post organized here was named Suiter Post in his honor but later in obedience to an order from headquarters that all Posts be named for some hero who fell on the battle field, the name was changed to Aaron Helmer Post. When the 34th Regiment Association was organized, Col. Suiter was given the post of honor and by unanimous vote made president of the association for life.

Col. Suiter was active as a whig and led the party in Herkimer in many political skirmishes. In the early fifties he was appointed postmaster by Zachariah Taylor, the postoffice being located in a building where the Metzler block now stands. His clerk was Warren Mack, grandfather of George W. Mack of this village. Col. Suiter cast his first vote for William Henry Harrison in 1840. He was in at the birth of the republican party, casting his vote for John C. Fremont. He served as supervisor of the town in 1860 and again in 1872, was justice of the peace for four years and has held the office of trustee, treasurer and assessor of the village.

A few years ago he read a paper before the County Historical Society giving an accurate description of the Village and location of buildings here in 1840 and is an authority as to the early history of the village. That he may be spared many years yet to enjoy the blessings of our glorious republic which he helped to sustain is the sincere wish of all.

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Created 11/12/03
Copyright © 2003 BetteJo Hall-Caldwell
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