Deep Dive: Exploring the Collections

Union Forage Cap

This forage cap - found in the Southampton History Museum's collection - was most likely worn by Alonzo Foster from the time of the Civil War, a resident of Good Ground (now known as Hampton Bays). This hat was donated to the Museum by his son, Dr. Clarence D. Foster.

By the fall of 1861 the United States was in full Civil War. The Northern Army’s failure at Bull Run created a panic in Washington. Abraham Lincoln put out an urgent call for more volunteers to defend the Union. Answering that call was Alonzo Foster from Good Ground. On October 15, Alonzo's 20th birthday, he volunteered to join what was to become the 6th New York Cavalry Regiment. The 5’ 7” tall Alonzo had blue eyes, dark hair and a fair complexion. Born in 1841, he was the fourteenth and youngest child of John S. and Phoebe Foster. John Foster was a farmer and a direct descendent of Christopher Foster, one of the early settlers of Southampton. Alonzo was 12 years old when his father died at age 64. On the day he enlisted, Alonzo started an adventure that was typical of most common soldiers. He trained on Staten Island, saw his first combat (know as “Seeing the Elephant”) near Williamsburg and lost his best friend at Trevilian Station. After the War, Alonzo described the fighting at Trevillian Station:


While kneeling beside a low stump, and firing my carbine so rapidly that the barrel was dangerously hot, a bullet passed through the top of my cap cutting the hair from my head close to my scalp. Captain Wales quietly remarked, ‘A close call, my boy.’ The cap I still retain as a memento of that day.”

Alonzo was badly wounded, nearly losing his left hand, at a small battle near Deep Bottom, Virginia on July 26, 1864. After the war, Alonzo became the Keeper of the Pon Quogue (Shinnecock) lighthouse from 1866 to 1869. Alonzo then moved to Brooklyn, where he worked in the customs office and was active in New York veterans’ activities. He died on September 11, 1913 (age 71) and is buried in Good Ground Cemetery in Hampton Bays.

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