ABOUT THE HISTORIAN
My interest in the 18th New York Infantry started back in 1999. I learned through family that my 3rd Great Grandfather, Robert Conklin, had served in Company D of the 18th, and I wanted to know more. After a cursory search in the most authoritative books on the war, I found scant mentions of the 18th. My first thought was they must not have seen much action, for someone would have written books on their combat laurels, but to flash forward to know what I know now I was never more wrong. This regiment saw the good, the bad, and the ugly on many fields of the war, and dozens of patriots that paid the ultimate sacrifice should be read about.
My curiosity became an obsession, but a healthy one I think. I truly believe that if one is to get to the core of the Civil War soldier and understand their experiences enough to tell it to others, historians have to immerse themselves and create a sense of obsession.
As a commuter from Pennsylvania, I have maxed out an odometer through my travels that has spanned from coast-to-coast. Historical societies, libraries, universities, cemeteries, and even the homes of descendants, I have left no stone unturned. I have meticulously sifted through thousands of service records, medical records, and court-martials at the National Archives. When it comes to the number of pension records of men from the regiment that I personally pulled and examined in their second-floor reading room, I have combed through just shy of 200 of them. I have spent time in every hometown that the ten companies hailed from, walked every battlefield, and visited every site of prolonged encampments that the regiment was ever on.
The best tool I ever made during my research was when I built the original website for the regiment in 2001. This has helped me share my findings for others to learn, but more importantly the website has served as a channel for many descendants to get in contact with me. Descendants across the country have shared precious tidbits, photos, and even diaries that have helped me understand the history of the 18th. Through their help, the story of the 18th New York is being told by their descendants, even without having met any of the veterans. There’s something truly special about that.
Yes, I have so much more that would probably crash the internet, but the best form that I am most excited to share soon is a book that will finally tell their history. Although this website merely scratches the surface of this great regiment, their complete history and all of my findings can be read in the book The 18th New York Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster
I welcome questions from historians and hope I may be of service. I strongly encourage descendants of men who served in the 18th to write to me, for I may be able to provide more information about your ancestor. The book may be published, but my interest remains steadfast.
All the best,
Ryan A. Conklin