Marshall Secunda lived his entire life in upstate New York. As a young boy, he and his brother would play army and fight imaginary battles in the field next to their house. This led to visits to the ruins of Ft. George and to the rebuilt forts of Ft. William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga on Lake George as well as visits to the ruins of Ft. Carillon and Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The Saratoga National Battlefield was also close by. Each of these sites played an important part in the French and Indian War and/or the Revolutionary War. One would often hear him say, “We live a short distance from Saratoga National Battlefield, location of the two battles that would ultimately change the outcome of the Revolutionary War.” Yes, he loved visiting and learning about the early wars that formed our country.
Marshall at Ft. Ticonderoga
When he first met Gail, his partner/wife of 36 years, she quickly recognized his interest in history, particularly the battles of New York state. She, too, loved history. In an effort to broaden his horizons, she suggested a trip to Gettysburg National Battlefield.
On the way to Pennsylvania, she recounted stories about the three day battle. She had learned these stories while serving as a chaperone for eighth graders. Upon arrival, they visited Spangler’s Spring, the wheat field, the peach orchard, and Devil’s Den.
They hiked up Little Round Top and envisioned the gallantry of Union Colonels O’Rourke and Chamberlain as they defended it. Marshall was hooked.
Marshall was a life science teacher and Gail was a middle school counselor. Spring school vacations along with time in the summer enabled them to visit all the significant battlefields from Maine to Florida and westward to Tennessee and Texas. They camped, hiked, and biked to get the feeling of what it might have been like to experience life 100 years or more earlier. It was hot; it was wet; the bugs bit – this was the twentieth century and they were wearing shorts and covered in insect repellent.
Marshall would often exclaim that he couldn’t begin to imagine what it had been like for the men and women back then.
Marshall speaking to a re-enactor at Yorktown
Military re-enactments played a significant role in their understanding as well. They watched as Lord George Howe was killed in Ticonderoga, They attended several encampments both at Lake George and Saratoga. They went to Gettysburg several times to witness the July battles. They attended a cavalry re-enactment at Brandy Station. And Marshall got up at 3:30 one morning in 1987 to travel with his brother, Ron, to observe the re-enactors at the Battle of Antietam during the 125th anniversary commemoration. The highlight for him, however, occurred at the re-enactment of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. He was standing right in the middle of Upton’s innovative angle assault at the Mule Shoe. He was awed by how the assault worked and it left a lasting impression on him.
Marshall standing next to “The Texas”, the steam locomotive that pursued the captured train “The General” at the Atlanta Civil War Museum
Together, they also visited the cities associated with the war action – Gettysburg, Fredricksburg, Richmond, Petersburg, Atlanta, Vicksburg, and all the small towns in between which had played a role in one of the wars. They walked the streets, visited the sites, and toured the museums. Along the way, they were introduced to the APCWS and Marshall immediately joined. He was pleased that this organization was raising money to preserve Civil War battle fields. He also enjoyed reading the magazine’s articles about the Civil War officers and their men, their battle strategies, and the results of such strategies. Such articles provided a more in-depth view of the grounds he had already walked many times.
Marshall was pleased to be a part of preserving Civil War sites, but he wished that the organization could expand to recognize the French and Indian and Revolutionary war sites of his childhood along with other NYS historical places.
Fortunately, the organization became the American Battlefield Trust in May 2018. Marshall’s hope had been realized. Wishing to preserve more land significant to the NYS battles of long ago, he provided for a significant donation to the Trust upon his death. Marshall died September 5, 2018. His donation will help build a nature path in present day Ft. Ann on an abandoned trail used by the French, British, and Indians as they traveled to and from Lake George, Lake Champlain, and other upstate NY places. The areas he valued as a child and that he wanted others to know about and enjoy have been enriched by his generosity.
Marshall at Ft. Monroe, place where Jefferson Davis was imprisoned