SARATOGA SPRINGS >> James Huffstodt’s biography of a Union Civil War general who grew up in Saratoga Springs has opened many doors for him.
Recently, he even took a trip back in time while presenting his book, “Lincoln’s Bold Lion,” to an attentive audience at Saratoga Springs History Museum.
His work tells in detail “The Life and Times of Union Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin,” the stepson of Chancellor Reuben Hyde Walworth, one of the Spa City’s most prominent 19th century citizens.
While visiting Saratoga Springs, Huffstodt was enamored with his tour of the History Museum’s third-floor Walworth Memorial Museum, which provides insights into the Walworth and Hardin families.
“It was like entering a time machine,” Huffstodt said. “I was particularly drawn to Reubena Hyde Walworth’s bedroom because of her tragic and heroic death nursing soldiers during the Spanish American War, upon their return from Cuba. She was a beautiful young woman, only 29 at her death, an artist and graduate of Vassar.”
General Hardin was her uncle.
Hardin, a close friend of Lincoln’s, lost an arm during combat and closed out the war in Washington, D.C. where he helped lead the search for the president’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
“Lincoln’s Bold Lion” was released in January, but Huffstodt said he’s still learning a great deal about Hardin’s maternal and paternal families.
Hardin was born in Illinois, where his parents were close friends of the Lincolns. After his father died, Hardin’s mother married Chancellor Walworth and moved to Saratoga Springs, where Hardin was raised before going to West Point.
“Most of his ancestors were pioneers, Indian fighters, attorneys and explorers who played a key role in the opening of the ‘dark and bloody ground’ we know as Kentucky,” Huffstodt said.
Before arriving in Saratoga Springs, Huffstodt stopped at West Point where he was interviewed for an oral history project about Hardin.
“It focused on Hardin’s time at West Point with the Class of 1859,” he said. “I was also asked about my service in Vietnam in 1967 as a military journalist attached to a tank battalion of the 25th Infantry Division. The taped interview will be archived at West Point’s Center for Oral History for future use by scholars and interested laypeople and will also be accessible on the Center’s webpage.”
Huffstodt’s book is the first biography ever written about General Hardin. It has been favorably reviewed by more than a dozen publications including two British magazines
On Oct. 19, he will be interviewed live on an internet broadcast of ‘Civil War Radio’ from the campus of East Carolina University, in North Carolina.
During his recent local visit, Huffstodt also made a trip to Saratoga National Historical Park. In the 1880s, General Hardin had a monument placed there to honor his great-grandfather, American patriot John Hardin, who fought in the 1777 Battles of Saratoga.
“That was meaningful and moving,” Huffstodt said. “John Hardin was singled out for his bravery by American General Wilkerson. The 5-foot tall monument was placed at the edge of a dark and tangled woods where American sharpshooters, including General Hardin’s great-grandfather, picked-off the British soldiers who were easy targets in their blood-red uniforms. Rifleman John Hardin later told family members that he was forever remorseful because the fighting was more like execution than a battle.”
Huffstodt is now researching subjects for another book.
“I’ve narrowed it down to either a biography of noted American ornithologist Frank M. Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History, or a memoir of my time as a young man serving in Vietnam,” he said. “Writers never retire.”