It's hard to fathom just how much history can be packed into the 's Grove Street headquarters.
While its latest exhibit on the Civil War certainly excels at filling the museum to the brim with unique artifacts, documents and photographs; it is the monumental historical relevance of the items on display that blows the mind.
A check with the signature of John Wilkes Booth, pieces of a flag that flew over the Confederate capitol of Richmond and even the last letter written by Mary Surratt – the first woman to be executed by the federal government for being involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
"God knows I am innocent, but for some cause I must suffer today," Surratt wrote.
"It was written right before she was hung," said museum curator Sara Mascia.
Many of the pieces on display make you feel like you are right there, back in the 1860s, living through our nation's bloodiest conflict which claimed the lives of more than 620,000 soldiers and an unknown number of civilians.
While letters signed by Abraham Lincoln and items recovered from famous battlefields give the exhibit an international appeal, it is the local pieces of history that round out the full story of the Civil War.
There is a small display on the captain of The Monitor – the first iron-clad warship built for the US Navy during the Civil War – who was born just north of Sleepy Hollow in Scarborough.
There is also extensive documentation of the New York 32nd Company, often called the Tarrytown Company. There are the original enlistment notices, draft records, letters and journals from the local company. Their accounts are painted vividly, one local solider even describing the execution of a deserter.
In the hall of the museum is one of the last hand-sewn American flags from the 1860s. The item is showing its wear, but has special local significance as it was flown over the Homestead Inn, which was located on Cortlandt Street, every day local soldiers came home from the front lines.
There is also the sad story of George Acker, who at 19 became the first local casualty in the war. Acker was a musician who played the fife going into battle. His hat and fife are on display, along with his picture imprinted on a metal plate.
It's been ten years since some of these items have been on display. That was the last time the Historical Society serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown had a Civil War exhibit. But even if you happened to catch it ten years ago, you'll be surprised at the amount of new items.
"It's all new stuff, and we have a lot of different stuff this time," Mascia said. "We have a lot of original photographs, a lot of original member items and newspaper articles."
Some of the items in the Historical Society's collection are on loan, but the majority actually came by way of the men who fought in the war, and brought items back with them.
"That is why we have such an incredible collection, because all these people brought this stuff back and left it with their families," Mascia said.
One of the most interesting items brought back form the Civil War is still a work in progress. Held in a large glass case and supported by acid-free paper is a Confederate flag that is said to have come from the CSS Alabama – a raiding ship that was sunk by Union forces in 1864.
Mascia has been working to validate the authenticity of the item, which, when unfurled, takes up an entire room. It has long been a part of the society's collection, and was labelled as the flag from the CSS Alabama.
"I am working with a curator in Mobile and the state museum in Alabama on this," Mascia said. "What we have in our records is that this flag is indeed from the CSS Alabama."
Mascia said if it can be confirmed, the flag would likely be sent to Alabama if the state can offer something in exchange. That makes it all the more imperative to see the item before it's too late.
"It doesn't fit our mission, so it really doesn't belong here," Mascia said.
The Civil War exhibit will be running until the end of September and could go into October. The Historical Society serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown is usually open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 2-4 p.m., unless there are weather issues.