When General James Wadsworth made a hasty visit to his home in Geneseo during the summer of 1861, he knew that the war to preserve the Union would be a long one. Although Livingston County had already supplied enough men for at least one regiment, he was anxious that the county do its “whole duty.”
Accordingly, he appealed to Colonel John Rorbach, who agreed to attempt to recruit more men. Colonel Rorbach soon found that a local depot where he could send enlistees was necessary. While the last two companies were quartered in hotels in the village, barracks were erected for these new recruits at the head of North Street, and the site (depot) named Camp Union. This regiment was named the Wadsworth Guards, and later, the 104th New York Volunteers. After drilling and learning the manual of arms, they departed for war on February 26, 1862.
We are indebted to Judge John Abbot for an eye-witness account of this departure, as given in a Memorial Day address some years later: “The sun was shining brightly on that winter morning when the soldiers came out of their barracks at the end of North Street; they formed in line with the band playing and banner flying; they marched through the streets of the village where many of them had been born and had always lived; through the scenes of their boyish sports and pleasures; down Court Street to the railroad station. Here a long train of yellow, wooden cars with a big smokestack, wood burning engine at the front, stood ready to take them away … The bugle sounds and the boys in blue file aboard the train. The whistle blows and with the band playing amid the waving of handkerchiefs and last goodbyes, they are off …”
The site of Camp Union is now honored by a historical marker, erected in 1965 by the A. A. Curtis Women’s Relief Corps No. 64 as part of the 175th anniversary celebration of the first settlement of Geneseo.