Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories

Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories

by Dione Longley, Buck Zaidel


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Winner of the Bruce Fraser Award (2016)

Voices of Civil War soldiers rise from the pages of Heroes for All Time. This book presents the war straight from the minds and pens of its participants; rich passages from soldiers’ letters and diaries complement hundreds of outstanding period photographs, most previously unpublished. The soldiers’ moving experiences, thoughts, and images animate each chapter. Written accounts by nurses and doctors, soldiers’ families, and volunteers on the home front add intriguing details to our picture of the struggle, which claimed roughly 6,000 Connecticut lives. Rare war artifacts—a bone ring carved on the battlefield or a wad of tobacco acquired from a rebel picket—connect the reader to the men and boys who once owned them. From camp life to battle, from Virginia to Louisiana, from the opening shot at Bull Run to the cheering at Appomattox, Heroes for All Time tells the story of the war through vivid, personal portrayals.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819571168
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 02/25/2015
Pages: 342
Sales rank: 1,203,066
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 10.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

DIONE LONGLEY is an independent historian and writer. For two decades, she served as director of the Middlesex County Historical Society. She annotated The Old Leather Man, by Dan DeLuca. BUCK ZAIDEL, a dentist and longtime Civil War enthusiast, collects objects and images related to Union soldiers’ daily lives. He has exhibited at Civil War and antique arms shows across the country, and contributed items to museum exhibitions, including Photography and the American Civil War at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Read an Excerpt


Men of Connecticut!

War Begins, Spring 1861

"Men of Connecticut! to arms!!" thundered the Hartford Daily Courant on April 13, 1861.

Splashed across the newspaper was the shocking news: The day before, the Confederate military had opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Forty-three Confederate guns and mortars pounded Sumter until the Union commander surrendered the fort to the Southerners. With undeniable certainty, civil war had arrived.

Suddenly the Land of Steady Habits was anything but. Agitated and confused, people drew together to discuss the astounding events.

"Large groups were congregated upon the streets, and ... the war was the all absorbing theme ... In the conversation, heated and passionate, in which the crowds participated, there was but little to be heard except indignation at the outrage of the Southern Rebels. It was deep and earnest."

In the quiet town of Winchester, it wasn't much different. "The bombardment of Fort Sumter flew over the telegraph wires on Saturday, April 14, 1861, and electrified the country," wrote resident John Boyd. The Winsted Herald declared grimly, "Northern blood is up, and history, faster than the pen can write, is making."

But not everyone was astonished by the South's attack. For months, Governor William Buckingham had vigilantly followed each development in the national conflict. After Abraham Lincoln's election on November 6, 1860, South Carolina had moved to secede. Six other states had quickly followed. When Southerners fired upon an unarmed ship bringing troops and supplies to Fort Sumter on January 9, 1861, Buckingham had quietly directed his state quartermaster to order equipment for 5,000 troops, and advised militia units around the state to fill their ranks and stand ready.

Buckingham's forethought was providential: on April 15, President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion. The governor turned to his citizens and asked for a regiment of volunteers. Would Connecticut respond?

For or Against

"You must be counted for or against the government: which shall it be?" the Hartford Daily Courant demanded. "Descendants of those who marched under the banner of George Washington, which shall it be? ... Sons of the old Charter Oak State, on which side do you enlist?"

The answer came swiftly, from virtually every community in the state. Men crowded into hastily called meetings in town halls, assembly rooms, and churches. In Hartford, "men of all parties met, buried in a common grave all differences of opinion, and stood up as one man, brave, earnest, and steady for the contest. There was no faltering voice."

Men gave passionate speeches, calling for volunteers to defend the nation. George Burnham, a clerk, "said that if he had been so mean and despicable as to hesitate about his duty to his country's flag, he could not have hesitated longer after seeing the brave, determined men before him ... what he could do, he would do, and with his whole heart."

Farmers, teachers, factory workers and college students jumped to their feet and cried, "I'll go!" At a meeting in Brooklyn, Connecticut, a town of perhaps 2,000 people, 60 men enlisted in the space of half an hour. John Boyd, the secretary of the state, enrolled in the 3rd Regiment — at the age of sixty-two.

"O! Pa. you do not know what enthusiasm, what patriotism, there is here among all classes," a New Haven woman wrote excitedly to her father. "Party distinctions are not named, every body is for our country and the right. Not only the American born but the Irish and the Germans [immigrants] are ready to take up arms in our common defense."

Wide Awake

The spirited support for the Union had emerged in Connecticut more than a year earlier, in February of 1860, sparked by the enthusiasm of a group of young Republican men in Hartford.

A group of Northerners had formed the Republican Party in 1854 to fight the spread of slavery into the nation's western territories. Steadily, the Republicans gained support in the Northern states and began to challenge the long-established Democratic Party, which supported the extension of slavery.

In early 1860, Connecticut's gubernatorial race was in full swing. Thomas H. Seymour, a pro-South Democrat, faced Republican governor William Buckingham, who strongly opposed the expansion of slavery. Connecticut's election for governor was viewed as a bellwether for the upcoming presidential election.

"It is the commencement of the contest between free and slave labor," announced the Hartford Daily Courant, adding that "a vote this spring in Connecticut for Thomas H. Seymour, is a vote for slave labor in the territories. Laboring men — young men of enterprise and muscle — you are interested in this decision! ... Shall the territories become plantation of negroes? — or shall they be the homes of ... every man following his own plow, on his own soil, working for his own family?"

The young men that the Courant addressed were not asleep. Daniel Francis, twenty-four, and Edgar Yergason, nineteen, were clerks in a dry- goods store in Hartford. In February of 1860, the two attended a meeting of Hartford Republicans, which closed with an enthusiastic torchlight parade. Several hundred men lined up and lit kerosene torches, only to find that many were leaking. Just a few steps away was the store where Francis and Yergason worked; they hurried in and emerged with lengths of inexpensive black fabric which they and a few others tied around their necks like capes to protect their clothing from the kerosene. The capes gave the men a military look, and the procession's organizer put them at the head of parade.

A few days later, Dan Francis, Ed Yergason, and thirty-four other young working men formed a Republican club. The group would promote the election of Republican candidates, beginning with William Buckingham. The members decided their organization would assume a military air: they would wear dark capes and caps as they escorted Republican speakers, kept order at political rallies, and generated enthusiasm for the upcoming elections. Francis, Yergason, and the others might as well have slapped the Democrats in the face with their gloves — the challenge was clear.

Several weeks earlier, the Republican state convention's chairman had spoken of the party's "wide-awake spirit." Now the young men took up the phrase for their club: they became the Wide Awakes. For decades, political questions had been decided by older, established men; now, suddenly, the young men found they had a voice.

The Rail-Splitter Arrives

The club's inception could not have come at a better time. Just a week before, Abraham Lincoln had come east. In New York, 1,500 people came to hear what the ungainly Illinois lawyer had to say about the issue facing the nation. Deftly, Lincoln showed that America's founders had expected to regulate slavery. President Washington had signed a bill modifying slavery, and a majority of the signers of the Constitution voted in Congress to limit slavery.

As he drew to a close after more than an hour, he urged quietly, "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it." The audience exploded into cheers.

The next day Lincoln's speech graced the front page of the New York Times, and suddenly his name was everywhere. Republican leaders in Connecticut invited him to speak. On March 5, he faced a large and curious audience at Hartford's City Hall. Lincoln got right to the point: "Whether we will have it so or not, the slave question is the prevailing question before the nation."

As he often did, Lincoln drew his listeners in with stories and metaphors.

Suppose, he said, he found a rattlesnake out in the field. "I take a stake and kill him. Everybody would applaud the act and say I did right. But suppose the snake was in a bed where children were sleeping. Would I do right to strike him there? I might hurt the children; or I might not kill, but only arouse and exasperate the snake, and he might bite the children ... Slavery is like this." Getting rid of the rattlesnake, he cautioned, took careful preparation.

In New Haven the following evening, Lincoln met with "the wildest scene of enthusiasm and excitement." But his next appearance was to be the blockbuster. In spite of rain, sleet, and the resulting mud, the streets of Meriden were thronged with people. When Lincoln's train arrived, the crush at the station included Wide Awakes, several bands, and thousands of citizens who marched along with the speaker's carriage to the hall. As an estimated 3,000 people crammed in, with hundreds more standing outside the open doors, Lincoln held the crowd spellbound.

Lincoln's visit left Connecticut Republicans primed for the turbulent campaigns. Around the state, young men immediately launched more Wide Awake chapters. As the gubernatorial election approached, the Wide Awakes rallied for Republican William Buckingham. The Democrats, just as tenacious, assailed Republican rallies and parades, hurling derision and rocks. On April 2, over 88,000 Connecticut voters cast their ballots. Buckingham won by 541 votes. The Wide Awakes breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Wide Awake for Lincoln

Six weeks later, the nation's Republican convention chose Abraham Lincoln as its presidential nominee. "Momentum" can't begin to describe the energy that the Wide Awakes now spread. All over the North and West, from Maine to California, hundreds of Wide Awake chapters sprang up and filled with members. In bigger cities, Wide Awakes filled car after car on special trains that brought them to rallies with other clubs.

Getting Lincoln into office promised to be a vicious battle. "Wherever the fight is hottest, there is their post of duty, and there the Wide Awakes are found," declared the Hartford group in a circular it sent to other chapters.

The day after Lincoln's victory, the Hartford Times — a Democratic newspaper — predicted that the states that allowed slavery would "form a separate confederacy, and retire peaceably from the Union ... We can never force sovereign States to remain in the Union when they desire to go out, without bringing upon our country the shocking evils of civil war, under which the Republic could not, of course, long exist."

Democrats were bitter. Many would nurse their resentment against Lincoln, the Republicans, and abolitionists for years.

The Wide Awakes, exultant in Lincoln's victory, had little left to do. Their role in the presidential campaign had very possibly changed history.

It would be just a few months before Dan Francis and Ed Yergason put away their capes, donned the blue wool uniforms of Union infantry, and faced bullets instead of rocks as the fight moved from the political arena to the battlefield.

Help from All Quarters

Now that war had arrived, those who couldn't enlist found other ways to help. Factory owners promised to continue the salaries of employees who enlisted. Towns pledged to support their soldiers' families: at a single meeting, Norwich citizens donated over $14,000. In Middletown, Dr. Baker proposed to treat soldiers' families at no cost, and the photography team of Bundy and Williams promised free pictures of all the volunteers.

Henry Schulze, a Hartford tailor, offered to cut out uniforms; other tailors throughout the state did the same. Thousands of Connecticut women joined them, sewing uniforms and haversacks in shifts, day and night.

Everywhere, Connecticut citizens showed their support for the Union. William North Rice, a Wesleyan student, described the scene in Middletown: "The war spirit is rampant here. About half the people one meets in the street wear union badges — cockades, neck-ties, pins, buttons, etc ... . Flags are hung out from many of the houses."

"Already the national flag had come to have a new and strange significance," asserted one Connecticut writer. "When the stars and stripes went down at Sumter, they went up in every county of our State."

Everything Is Warlike

As Connecticut scrambled to organize troops, Massachusetts' 6th Regiment had already filled its ranks and was on its way south. When their train pulled into the Hartford station on April 18, the Massachusetts boys found 2,500 Connecticut people waiting — at two o'clock in the morning — with enthusiastic speeches, food, and rousing cheers.

Dr. George Clary portrayed the mood in Hartford: "Everything is warlike, the streets, the dress of people, the papers, etc. The air resounds with the din of war and nothing else can be thought or talked of."

Connecticut Volunteers

Now Connecticut moved forward, rapidly filling three regiments during April and May of 1861. A regiment (usually 800 to 1,000 men) was composed of about ten companies, each assigned a letter.

Horace Purdy joined Company E of the 1st Regiment. A twenty-six-year-old hatter, Horace was a member of the Wooster Guard, a volunteer militia unit in Danbury. As events unfolded, the Wooster Guard gathered with a sense of rising urgency. Horace jotted the proceedings in his diary: "Wednesday April 17th ... Attended a special meeting of the Guards at our Hall in the eve at which we volunteered our services to the Governor (Buckingham) as volunteers in the U States service in answer to the Presidents call for 75,000 troops. There were a large number of spectators at the room and when we with one voice offered our services, a long loud shout went up from the people."

Across the state, other militia units did the same, each acting as the nucleus of a company of 75 to 100 soldiers. Most community militias had drilled together and marched in parades, but few had serious military training. As the Hartford Daily Courant put it, "The Hartford City Guard was not organized for the purpose of performing military duty ... But the time has come when men are wanted to protect the government, and the Hartford City Guard have overthrown their character as holiday troops, and are putting themselves in condition for acceptance as volunteers."

Soldiers of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd regiments enlisted for only three months — a term so brief that it was hardly an impediment to the mostly young men who in a surge of patriotism had stepped forward to volunteer. Gustavus Dana, a toolmaker who enlisted in the 1st Regiment, noted: "the general opinion was that the trouble would be ended and that we would be home at the end of the three months."

While the governor appointed the colonels who would lead the regiments, the captaincy of each company was usually awarded to the man who had actively recruited most of its soldiers. Daniel Klein, the son of a German immigrant, became a captain in the 3rd Regiment after he enlisted scores of men from New Haven's German community, with names like Gustav Voltz, Caspar Zimmerman, and Otto Frankel.

As each company filled, its soldiers left for training camp: New Haven, for the 1st and 2nd Regiments; Hartford, for the 3rd Regiment. As they left their hometowns, the soldiers found themselves surrounded by well- wishers. A young tinworker from Middletown described his departure:

As our company were taking the [railroad] cars to Hartford, the rendezvous of the Third regiment, a good, honest farmer, from the village in which I had been living, came along ... There was a large crowd around the cars, so that he could not get to the door, but he edged his way up to my window, and reaching up his hand, said, "Pull me up, I want to see you." ... He hung onto the car window for half a minute, wishing me the best of luck and good wishes generally, and then shook hands with me and left. As he shook hands, he left a five dollar bill in my hand ... there was something in this man's style that showed he was sincere in what he said; that his heart was with his country in the hour of trouble, and that his heart and sympathies were with those that were going to fight for the country's honor. He might have made a patriotic speech two hours long, and it would not have impressed me as favorably as that five dollar bill did.

George Branch, a harness maker in Hartford, enlisted in Connecticut's 1st Regiment on April 16. On the evening of April 19 he got married; the next morning, his regiment departed for camp.

Sgt. Andrew Knox, a housepainter in the 1st Regiment, left behind his nineteen-year-old bride, Sarah. In a letter from training camp, he tried to explain why: "it was as much as I could do to tear myself away from you but my country called and I must obey my duty. For the first time the proud flag of my country has been insulted and disgraced it must be avenged at any cost and now my dear wife be true to me and I may soon [be] back but if I fall on the field of battle remember ... that I die in [a] good cause the cause which our fathers fought for and died for."


Excerpted from "Heroes for All Time"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Dione Longley and Peter A. Zaidel.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Men of Connecticut!” War Begins, Spring, 1861
Chapter Two: No One Dreamed of Anything but Victory Bull Run, Summer, 1861
Chapter Three: The Voice of Duty A Long War Ahead, Autumn, 1861 to Summer, 1862
Chapter Four: War by Citizen Soldiers The Makings of an Army
Chapter Five: I Never Knew What War Meant till Today Antietam September, 1862
Chapter Six: Emancipation is a Mighty Word Freedom Arrives
Chapter Seven: No Men on Earth Can Be Braver Fredericksburg, December, 1862
Chapter Eight: Who wouldn’t be a soldier? Life in Camp
Chapter Nine: All This Heroism, and All This Appalling Carnage Fighting in Virginia and Louisiana, Spring and Summer, 1863
Chapter Ten: That Place Long to Be Remembered Gettysburg, Summer 1863
Chapter Eleven: There Will Be No Turning Back Stubborn Fighting, July 1863 to June 1864
Chapter Twelve: Hope Never Dying From the Siege of Petersburg to the Sea, June to December 1864
Chapter Thirteen: Our Army Perfectly Crazy On to Appomattox, 1865
Chapter Fourteen: Soldiers of the Union Mustered Out The Aftermath
Illustration Credits

What People are Saying About This

Michael McAfee

“Heroes for All Time is a fascinating study of the many services rendered by Connecticut and its soldiers and citizens during the Civil War. Combining the soldiers’ own words with portraits, artifacts, and views, this book is well worth reading.”

From the Publisher

"I highly recommend this rich and well-edited collection of original source material, which reflects the lived experience of Connecticut soldiers and their families during the Civil War—tracing that experience from initial enthusiasm, through times of suffering and hardship, to victory and the return home."—Richard Slotkin, author of The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution

"Heroes for All Time weaves compelling personal accounts and evocative original images with crisp narrative to create a riveting, unforgettable account of Nutmeggers' Civil War experience from battlefield to home front."—Diana Ross McCain, head of the Connecticut Historical Society Research Center

"Not since 1868, when Croffut and Morris published their Military & Civil History of Connecticut in the War of 1861–1865, has there been a book so focused on the sacrifice, suffering, and serviceof the soldiers from the Nutmeg State. Never before have so many images of Connecticut soldiers been gathered in one book."—Andrew De Cusati, former Marine infantryman, Baptist, and longtime student of the Civil War

"Heroes for All Time is a fascinating study of the many services rendered by Connecticut and its soldiers and citizens during the Civil War. Combining the soldiers' own words with portraits, artifacts, and views, this book is well worth reading."—Michael McAfee, West Point Museum

Diana Ross McCain

“Heroes for All Time weaves compelling personal accounts and evocative original images with crisp narrative to create a riveting, unforgettable account of Nutmeggers’ Civil War experience from battlefield to home front.”

Richard Slotkin

“I highly recommend this rich and well-edited collection of original source material, which reflects the lived experience of Connecticut soldiers and their families during the Civil War—tracing that experience from initial enthusiasm, through times of suffering and hardship, to victory and the return home.”

Andrew De Cusati

“Not since 1868, when Croffut and Morris published their Military & Civil History of Connecticut in the War of 1861–1865, has there been a book so focused on the sacrifice, suffering, and serviceof the soldiers from the Nutmeg State. Never before have so many images of Connecticut soldiers been gathered in one book.”

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Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So well written! Lovely photos and stories. Absolutely read this.