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Great Neck Men In Gettysburg 150 Years Ago

The Battle of Gettysburg isn’t just history. It’s local history. After all, Great Neck sent four men into the killing grounds of southern Pennsylvania a century and a half ago this month. Today, we are reminded of these men thanks to Matthew Moshen. Fighting the Civil War from Great Neck were Daniel A. Cornell, Augustus Finkmann, George Messemer and Louis Wanson/Wansor.

Two years ago, the Great Neck resident begin searching on the Internet to see how far back he could trace his family tree. He had no idea that the project would be so revealing and rewarding, and that it would spark in him an intense interest in the Civil War and those from the North Hempstead area who participated.

A timely discovery by Moshen, in light of the current commemoration of the 150th year anniversary of the battle, where more than 60 men from the North Shore fought in what historians say was the turning point of the war. In addition to the 19 from Manhasset, Moshen found documentation that revealed 18 from Roslyn, nine from Port Washington, five from Westbury and four each from Great Neck and Sea Cliff.

“It directly ties us to the Civil War,” Moshen said of how his research relates to our area. “We are part of American history.”

He initially found out that his family came to the Colonies from England early in the 17th century, and that two of his ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. But what fascinated him especially was his discovery that three of his family, then rooted in the South, fought for the Union during the Civil War, and that an uncle may have fought on the Rebel side.

“While I was looking up my own genealogy,” he said, “I started thinking about this area and I wondered who in Great Neck fought in the Civil War. To do this research I used a number of online databases, especially and The second site includes extensive information about when each soldier joined the service, their hometown, what rank they achieved, when they were discharged and whether they were wounded or killed in action.” Moshen also found the historical archives at the libraries in Great Neck, Port Washington, Roslyn and Hofstra University of great help.

Moshen had some trouble properly identifying many of the soldiers because records back then sometimes attributed a soldier as being a North Hempstead resident when he actually lived in the Town of Hempstead. “And during the war,” he added, “North Hempstead was still considered to be the easternmost part of Queens.”

During the course of his research, Moshen learned interesting facts about soldiers from the area.

“Great Neck’s Henry McIlvaine was an artillery commander at Harper’s Ferry who had to surrender to Stonewall Jackson,” he said. “Roslyn’s Obadiah Downing served as a major under General Custer and aided a mortally wounded President Lincoln out of Ford Theater to the hotel across the street. Great Neck’s Samuel Day was a white officer of a United States Colored Regiment. Back then, an African-American regiment had to have a white officer in charge.” Moshen found that McIlvaine (according to the 1860 census) owned real estate in Great Neck worth $30,000 and that his personal “estate” was $5,000.

Many of the soldiers from North Hempstead were members of the 119th Infantry.  This company was recruited by a Roslyn lawyer, Benjamin Albertson Willis, and was heavily involved in the first two days at Gettysburg. A monument to the 119th is on display at Gettysburg.

Moshen still spends about 10 hours a week on his research. He has compiled an extensive archive of his own and would happily share it with Civil War scholars and students.

“I’d like to put it on the web, but I don’t have the knowhow to build the site,” he said. “I think it would be great for high school students and college students to use for study and research.”

Though it is 150 years after Gettysburg, Moshen sees his work as just a beginning.

“I’d like this to be starting point for people to either do their own genealogy or start to think about the history of this area,” he said.


The recent adoption the Common Core Learning Standards, a rigorous series of teacher and student assessment testing, and the potential sharing of confidential student information with third parties have resulted in a radical change in the educational landscape in New York State—one that many parents have been concerned about.

To address these growing concerns, the Great Neck School District’s United Parent Teacher Council recently hosted a question and answer session at South High School with New York State Regent Roger Tilles, a Great Neck resident who has been outspoken with both his support of content the Common Core and his disapproval in how the new set of learning standards have been implemented.

At a meeting last week, after almost four hours of back and forth between Clover Drive residents, the attorney representing builder Frank Lalazarian’s controversial Old Mill II project and members of the Village of Great Neck’s Planning Board, there was very little progress, no vote taken and far more questions than answers.

The subdivision plan, a project under discussion for the last five years and recently approved by the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals, calls for 11 houses to be built in the area behind the Old Mill Apartments, with sole access from Clover Drive. Complicating the builder’s efforts to gain approval to start building is the fact that one of the lots is within the boundaries of Great Neck Estates and will require that village’s approval also.  Additionally, Lalazarian’s project must gain the approval of several Nassau County agencies, including its department of public works, department of health and planning commission.


The Bears team before a recent game at the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink with Coach Dan Marsella.

Great Neck’s Ayal Hod is the proud coach of Great Neck’s winning Top Gun sixth grade team in the Island Garden Fall League. Hod puts together the team every season, mixing local youngsters from Great Neck and children son Dillon’s AAU Jamaica Queens team. The league is very competitive and challenging and it teaches the children many valuable lessons: “how to be great teammates by sharing the ball, how to compete hard on every possession and what you put in is what you get out.”

Hod says that the main challenge is for every child to bring their individual talent to the team and collectively they have something special. an ex-player, he says that “basketball was very good to me, it helped pay my college education and it  paid my-bills for many years to come via several basketball commercials ... basketball also opened many doors for me and it helped me tremendously in my business career.”

Hod enjoys sharing his basketball journey background with his son and his friends and having them learn lessons too.


Park District Swim

Saturday, Dec. 7

Board of Education Meeting

Monday, Dec. 9

Peter Max Exhibit Presentation

Tuesday, December 10


1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller,

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry,

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller,