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Hidden Hero - Brigadier General George Fleming

How many times have you passed this historical marker located at the intersection of Routes 34B and the Fleming Scipio Townline Road and wondered why George Fleming was being remembered with this sign? From this sign, we know that the Town of Fleming was named for him in 1823 but what made him significant?

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, Fleming received a commission in the Continental Army as a First Lieutenant in Henry Knox's Regiment of the Continental Artillery. During his first few years of enlistment, he was posted along the Hudson River at West Point, Chester and the Highlands where he observed the capture, trial and execution of Major Andre, as recorded in his diary. In 1781, Fleming was assigned to the staff of French Lt. Col. Louis de Portail, Commander of the Allied French and American Artillery, who were responsible for the creation of the bastion at West Point. In 1785, Fleming became the Commander of West Point which, at that time, housed the military stores of the Continental Army. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America. Fleming, with the support of Henry Knox and Alexander Hamilton, desiring to eliminate America's wartime reliance on foreign engineers and artillerists, urged the creation of an institution at West Point devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare. These efforts continued following the conclusion of the war with Thomas Jefferson signing legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802.

As a reward for his military service, Fleming received extensive land in this area resulting in the building of the home we see today. In 1806, Fleming and his family moved into this home which contrasted significantly from the surrounding log cabins of the area and reflected the wealth and interests of Fleming. His ninety-eight volume library was notable not only for the number of volumes, but for the numerous volumes of military related books. When the War of 1812 broke out, Fleming was placed in command of Fort Oswego as Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the defense and protection of the frontier against British invasion. As such, Fleming commanded 400-500 soldiers. Fleming next was appointed Quartermaster of Indian Troops in Buffalo serving in this capacity during several frontier wars and numerous internal conflicts. In 1816, Governor Tompkins appointed Fleming as Brigadier General of Porter's Volunteers in recognition of his military success.

Following his retirement from military service, Fleming enjoyed the life of gentleman farmer. His life of devoted military service was honored upon his death in 1822. Two companies of grenadier and dragoon soldiers led the procession from his home which included the General's horse with his boots reversed in their stirrups. The procession was met three miles south of Auburn by officers of three local military regiments, in full uniform. The church bells of Auburn tolled from 2:00 pm until sundown with cannons firing at regular intervals. Citizens joined the procession as it marched to muffled drums to St. Peter's Episcopal Church. The procession continued to the North Street Cemetery in Auburn where the general was buried. During the evening, the Auburn guards fired volleys over his grave. This indeed was a fitting tribute to a military great whose persistence led to the establishment of the United States Military Academy at West Point - the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.

Credit to Sheila Saft Tucker, Fleming Historian, who wrote an extensive account of Fleming in her book written in 1973 "The Township of Fleming, Cayuga County, New York" providing most of the information for this article.


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