Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Second Week - April 29th to May 5th - Settling In

During this time the First Connecticut Volunteers were still stationed in New Haven, Connecticut. Purdy describes the encampment as near the hospital whereas Pvt. Gustavus S. Dana of Company A recollected that the camp was at "Oyster Point" (Swift, 1965). The weather was poor, Sgt. Andrew Knox of Company E described it as very rainy, snowy, with thick ice building up on tents. According to Pvt. Horace Purdy:
"It was very cold night last for the season and I feared when I bunked in my tent that I should lie cold but by putting on my overcoat and three of us lying together spoon fashion with our three blankets over us together with our military overcoats on top of them and myself in between the two I lay as warm as toast, though many of the men lay cold."
Rations were also poor causing much discontent in the ranks, and resulting in the courtmartial of some members (from the journal of Horace Purdy):
Tuesday April 30th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“Discontent amounting to almost mutiny in our company on account of our rations. A Sgt. belonging to the Meriden company was court-martialed for disrespect to the Col. Cold in the eve I retired with the toothache”.

Wednesday May 1st 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“Rather cool for the season. Three Sgts. and one Corp. in the regiment were reduced to the ranks and two Privates dismissed from the service and their uniforms taken from them for bad and unsoldierly conduct.”
However, in letters to his wife Purdy himself did not find it to be too bad:
May 2nd: "This morning we had a piece of tough beef steak, a third of a loaf of bakers bread (a 6 cnt loaf) and about a pint of hot coffee. The food is plain, but healthy though many found a great deal of fault. Many of the men are becoming dissatisfied with the army rations. It is so very different from their accustomed fare at home. It is no worse than expected and if they will only give it to us in quantities sufficient, I think it will be better for us with our out doors exercise than the dainties which we have been used to".
Purdy, however, did have something to say about the election of the non-commissioned officers:
May 5th: "As for me being promoted to the position of Corporal it is not so. But had our election been a fair one by ballott I should have had that place or a higher one. The election of officers to fill the vacancies ... was done by acclaimation in a hasty moment, most of the men being new recruits did not know the as to vote understandingly".
Besides rigged elections and preventing frostbite and general starvation, most of the time was spent drilling.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The First Connecticut Volunteer Regiment - The First Week - April 22nd - April 28th 1861 - Camp Life Begins

Camp life for the average soldier was quite monotonous, full of drills, poor food, and numerous rumors, with occasional trips to the city and the odd alarm or interesting event.  To pass the time many soldiers wrote home and some, such as Purdy, kept detailed journals. These men also looked forward to letters and news from home. Rumors abounded in camp and the soldiers were often extremely frustrated by their lack of knowledge of details such as when and where they were going or if their services would be required for a fight. Quite a few soldiers, such as Horace Purdy, were strongly devout and worried about meshing army life and their ability to worship on the Sabbath. 

From the journal of Pvt. Horace Purdy (Infantry Co. E).

Tuesday April 23rd 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

"Pleasant. Drilled in the morning and in the PM. After tea we changed our quarters from the Hotel to the State House.”

Wednesday April 24th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“Judah P. Crosby + Chas. T. Stevens came on to the Green in the forenoon. They were on their way to Hartford to procure overcoats for our co. In the PM we pitched our tents on a field near the Hospital and went into camp. Rain in the eve. We continue to go to the N. Haven House for our meals.”

Thursday April 25th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“Pleasant. I received a letter from Gussie. I was detailed for guard duty at noon to continue to tomorrow morning.”

Friday April 26th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“Pleasant. I tried my revolver this morning by firing at a mark. It gave me good satisfaction. It shoots well. My feet are very sore. I retired early or rather bunked in my tent. Retiring is rather too refined an expression for camp life.”

Saturday April 27th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“We drilled in squads in the A.M. Capt. excused me after dinner to go to the city to get my boots mended. A. H. Byington, one of our members, mended them for me after getting permission of a shoemaker to use his seat for the purpose.”

Sunday April 28th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut.

“I attended the 1st Methodist Church. Dr. Kenedy Preacher. Text in the A. M., Heb. 10=36. In the P. M. it was Rev. 2=17. Geo. Allen and several others with myself attended prayer meeting at the same place in the eve. It has stormed all day and in the eve.

Letter from Horace Purdy to Augusta Purdy dated April 26, 1861:

Encampment near Hospital N. Haven Friday Apr. 26th 1861

Dear Gussie,

I received your good letter yesterday and am glad that you are as comfortable as you are. But I fear that you worry more than you ought. Wednesday P.M. we were ordered to a field near the hospital about a mile from the Green where we pitched our tents and encamped. We shall undoubtedly remain at these quarters while we remain in N. Haven. We march to the New Haven House for our meals. But I believe that the understanding is now that tomorrow we are to have our rations brought to us at the encampment and are to do our own cooking. This will come harder to us than anything else because we are not accustomed to it, but if we are to have such fare the sooner we commence the better so as to become familiar with it. We expect to have our overcoats today from Hartford. When we shall get our other equipments I do not know, before long I hope. I should not be surprised if we staid hear nearly a week longer. The reasons for our moving from the interior of the city was to encamp to become better aquainted with camp duty and also to make room for the 2nd Reg. which is getting together.Yesterday quite a number of our members were rejected for the purpose of reducing our numbers to 64 men. The rejected ones felt bad, some actually cried.

We have just had word that Mrs. Skinner is dead. Tell Geo. as for solice I cannot promise but I will do what I can. It will be inconvenient for me to carry a great deal besides my clothing as the knapsack will probably be full and the more I carry the heavier the burden to carry on my shoulders. I stood on guard last night, two hours on and four off. The day is ---. I am now in Capt. Wildman’s tent. The officers are telling stories, all hands are in a ---. A whole Co. is detailed at a time for guard duty. Our Co. was detailed yesterday. There are ten companies which compose the Reg. and consequently we will not have to go on guard duty again for ten days if we should stay here so long. Quite a number have given it as their opinion that when we move out at all it will be to go home. But I do not desire it. I would like to go though to Washington right ---. Notwithstanding I should like to be home.

(Horace Cooper??) the one who enlisted with us has backed out and gone home today. He is a complete coward in my opinion. The general opinion of him here is that he is only half-witted. We are all glad to have him go for he could not learn anything and would never make a soldier. He knew about as much about a gun as you do, and handles it about as handy. The news has just been brought to us to march. It may be true and it may not. I stop now, I may write more and I may not.


The alarm was false. Good by keep up good courage.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Brief Review of The First Assassin by John J. Miller

The First Assassin is a fictional historical thriller that takes place predominantly in Washington D. C. in April of 1861 after the attack on Fort Sumter and revolves around a plot by secessionists in South Carolina to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

The opening for the book deals with Lincoln's travel to Washington for his inauguration in February of 1861, and is based mainly on the "Baltimore Plot", an alleged conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln before his inauguration. It is still debated whether or not the threat was real and if the plan to sneak Lincoln into Washington D.C. was the wisest course of action (Lincoln regretted it later); however, journal notes written by Horace Purdy of Danbury Connecticut during this time suggests that many people (besides Allan Pinkerton) thought these threats were serious.

The book continues with the story of the travel by a runaway slave (Portia) to Washington on a mission devised by other slaves to warn Lincoln and thus strengthen their chances of being freed by the "abolitionist" president.  The story also deals with the professional struggles of Colonel Charles P. Rook, the soldier assigned to provide security for Lincoln against southern sympathisers (and ultimately the hired assassin) as well as his own superior officer (General  Winfield Scott) who believes that the threat against Lincoln is exaggerated.

The book is well-written and suspenseful enough to keep the pages turning. Some parts are quite predictable such as who the informant is for the main female southern sympathiser and the main villain gets tripped up too many times to be considered a truly convincing threat. Moreover, there are some loose ends that are never tied up, especially the storyline of another group with a plan to cause trouble in the Capitol. Overall, however, I found The First Assassin to be a realistic (i.e. the characters and historical setting) and highly entertaining story.  In fact, when I was finished with the book I found myself thinking that the story would actually make a great movie.

For more information you can check out the author's website.

Miller, John J. 2010. The First Assassin. Published by AmazonEncore, Las Vegas, NV, 446 pages, fiction. ISBN-13:9781935597117

Sunday, August 8, 2010

April 22nd 1861 - The First Connecticut Regiment Mustered into Service at New Haven Connecticut

From the journal of Pvt. Horace Purdy.

Monday April 22nd 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“Pleasant. Was sworn into the service of the U. States by Col. S. Loomis of the 5th United States Infantry. The examination and the administering of the oath was done on the Green in front of the State House [demolished in 1889]. The examination was not very close.”

From his letter to his wife from the same date:

"We were not personaly [sic] inspected at all. The U.S. officer and the surgeon simply passed along the line and if they saw one who looked rather old or pretty young he would ask them their age. Nelson White took the oath with us. For fear that he would not be accepted he told them he was 23 years old. The surgeon was aquainted [sic] with him, he looked at him and smiled and passed along. The city is all excitement, the miletary [sic] are pouring in from all parts of the state. There is more than enough already here for the first Reg. We are now only waiting for our equipments, as soon as those are procured [sic] we shall be ready to march. I intend if we are not ordered away too soon after we are equipped to have my picture taken with all my regimentals on, overcoat, knapsack, and a Sharps rifle in my hand, and send it to you. So that you can see just how I look as I leave N. Haven for the war."

"We may be ordered away in a few days, by the middle of the week I think. Direct to the N. Haven House then they will be brought to the hotel. This I shall send by a person going to Danbury I think. Tomorrow we expect the other Company here from Danbury to be put with the 2nd Reg., we will go with the first.

Other events on this date:
     - Robert E. Lee named commander of Virginia Confederate forces.

Numerous northern and southern units were mustered in on this date.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

First Bull Run Anniversary

Today is the 149th Anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), which was fought on July 21, 1861.

I'm hoping my posts will reach the eve of the battle in time for the 150 anniversary (sesquicentennial) next year.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Wooster Guard - New Haven, Connecticut - April 21, 1861

New Haven Hotel, Sunday April 21, 1861

Dear Gussie

I received your package containing the letter last night with the other things sent by the good people to the co. I sent to you yesterday by Saml. Gregory a letter and I presume before this time you have received it. I also sent one to the Pahquioque I hope to my old shopmates. It was about the same as yours. Some of the wives sent their pictures to the men and I remarked that you were going to give me yours when I started but I refused thinking that it would make me homesick. A short time after I had occasion to go to my bag for something and found it in the bottom and after all I am glad that I have it for it is a great deal of company for me. After breakfast this morning we were ordered out on the green for an hours drill. I was appointed to a squad of men to drill them. The reason for drilling today is on account of the new recruits who are very deficient we want the men to be as thoughourly [sic] disciplined as possible before going to Washington for we may have to chastise those Baltamorians before we get there [Note: two days earlier on April 19th, troops from Massachusetts an Baltimore citizens exchanged fire, which killed four Union soldiers and several civilians].

After drill we went to our quarters in the fifth story of the hotel and prepared for church. The whole company marched to Dr. Bacon’s church on the Green and listened to a very interesting and patriotic sermon prepared expressly [sic] for the occasion and I confess that I came out of that church willing if need be to serve my country and fall on the field if I must. But I do not believe I shall. I believe that though I have to help fight in hard battles, that God will protect me and bring me back safely to my friends and my home. I feel impressed that I shall go through it all safely. Last night the Capt. requested me to read in the Bible before to co., I did so. This morning the Bible was read to the Co. again and one of our new recruits from Norwalk, Thomas Hootan offered prayer. Most of the men knelt upon the floor, those who did not gave the very best attention. It does me good to see it and I believe if we put our trust in God he will protect us. We are all in good spirits but it seems strangely to hear the sound of the drum and the tramp of the soldier on the Sabbath. My mind is in Danbury today. I can see you all in the Sabbath School. I have been with you in heart for 6 years, I have been in the school and it seems strange now to be doing a soldiers duty on the Sabbath.

9 1/2 o’clock. Evening.

I have just returned from a prayer meeting held at the Central Church, the same I attended this morning. It was holden expressly for the volunteers, it was an interesting meeting. Mr. Southmayd and others drove from Danbury here today and I sent this by him. The city has been the scene of the utmost enthusiasm today. 3,000 troops from Mass. passed through here about 4 o’clock P.M. Goodbye.

Affectionately, Horace

Write immediately thanks to Fanny, tell her I will pray.

Some other notable occurrences on this day (April 21, 1861)
- Colonel |Thomas J. Jackson placed in command of Virginia Military Institute cadets who were ordered to Richmond to serve as drillmasters for new army recruits.
- Communication lines between Baltimore and Washington were cut.  An attack on Washington by Confederate forces is feared.  Union troops from Massachusetts and New York arrive in Washington to defend the capital from attack.
-The 12th and 71st NY regiments left for Washington.
-The U.S.S. Merrimack is captured by Confederate forces at the Gosport Navy Yard (now the Norfolk Naval Shipyard) in Virginia after being partially burned by withdrawing Union sailors the previous day.
-George B. McClellan made Major-General of volunteers in the Union army.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Wooster Guard Arrives in New Haven - April 1861

This is the first letter written home to his wife Anne Augusta "Gussie" by Private Horace Purdy of the 1st Connecticut Volunteer Regiment and contains much more details than his journal entries.  The company has just arrived in New Haven by train from Danbury and is awaiting other units to join them.  At this point they have not yet been mustered in.  Purdy's letter reflects the excitement and uncertainty new recruits on both sides must have been feeling at this point.  Purdy also has a another reason for justifying his enlistment to his wife, guilt. At this time Anne Augusta is several months pregnant with their first child.

Another uncertainty reflected in this letter is equipage, especially weaponry.  Many of these militia units and early regiments were initially poorly equipped and there was a shortage of firearms in many cases, and many that were available were simply older smooth bore flintlock muskets that had been altered to percussion.  Some units did receive more modern Sharp's rifles and in some cases companies nearly mutinied when given the older musket's rather than the Sharp's (Tyler, 1872:29).  Although Purdy mentions in this letter that his company was going to be equipped with Sharp's rifles, they were later provided Springfield rifled muskets instead (Swift, 1965).  The 1st Connecticut Regiment did have two Rifle Companies, equipped with Sharp's rifles, but the rest of the unit was armed with muskets.

New Haven Saturday Apr. 20th 1861

New Haven Hotel

Dear Gussie and all the friends,

We arrived here last eve at 6 PM. We were met at the depot by a portion of the N. Haven Greys and escorted by them to our quarters which are excellent. We have good beds, plenty of food and that which is good. In fact we have no reason for complaint. The citizens met us in great numbers with prolonged cheers. Danbury has the honor of being first in the field, or rather first at rendezvous. We will be in the first regiment from Connecticut and by being first at rendezvous we will probably be at the head of the regiment. I feel proud of Danbury, we shall not only live long in the hearts of our own townsmen, but in the hearts of the people of the whole state. We were greeted at Bethel by a large concourse of people and the firing of cannon with a grand display of the stars and stripes. One man came into the cars at Wilton Station and enlisted. Six did the same at Norwalk, they could not wait for the people of Norwalk to move. We came into New Haven with 78 men, all in good spirits. The hardest task was to get away from Danbury.

I wore through my white gloves shaking hands. I thought I had got (through) when I left home but when we marched into Concert Hall there to see our dear Father G. to pray for and with us I was nearly overcome.

Two companies are expected here from Hartford today, and two more from Bridgeport next Monday. Our examination by the surgeon will probably be merely a formal one, and I think that it will be exceedingly doubtful if I am home sooner than three months. I cannot desert my company in this time of need. My heart is with and for my country, and my trust is in God. I am far better pleased with being with my company in the discharge of my duty to my country with the assurance that you are well cared for, than I should be to be home with those faint-hearted ones who have been members of the company and have not the courage to take their places in the ranks to defend their country's flag. To stay at home would bring poverty to our door for there will probably be nothing to do and I should not receive the sympathy of the people, and perhaps my country would suffer for the want of my service. Now I know that I am doing my duty. I would like to be with you. My heart is in Danbury. My home and friends are dear but my country is also. I believe that God will defend the right and in him do I put my trust.

I room with our Captain and Lieutenants and orderly Sergeant and Geo. Allen which makes six in three beds. Capt. Wildman was presented with a splendid Bible from Mrs. L.S. Wildman as we left home and he has requested his roommates to have a chapter read in it every night, and I hope that soon prayer will also be established in his room. I shall do what I can to have it done even if I have to be chaplain myself.

We are armed with Sharp's breech-loading rifles with sabre bayonets. They are superior to our muskets which we have had although they were excellent. It has not yet cost us a penny and it probably will not. I have given away all of my paper except for this. The prospects are now that we shall leave for Washington sometime next week. We are to be fully armed and equipped, overcoats and all. And those who have uniforms will be allowed for them. The whole expense of our outfit is to be had by the state. We expect to be inspected today. Our company is now on the Green for drill and I must join them.

1 o'clock PM. I have had a good dinner and am now in our quarters five stories high, the whole floor was given up to ourselves. The weather is fine and all hands are fully good. Gussie, keep up good spirits and all will be well. We saw one secession flag between Norwalk and Bridgeport, all hands expressed their indignation at it, some by saying they would like the opportunity to pull it down. A large concourse of the citizens came to our hotel about 9 o'clock last night headed by a brass band and the American Flag to serenade us.

We are now called on the Green for drill and it is nearly time for Gregory to go, I send this by him. He goes home to raise another company. He will return if elected Lieutenant Colonel of our regiment as he expects. Good bye. Pray for me.

Yours in love,


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Two New Resources for the First Connecticut Volunteers Including a Book

I'm always on the look out for information regarding Connecticut's three month regiments (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) and recently obtained two new sets of letters, one published and one not.

The unpublished set is from Private William H. Cooley (sometimes spelled Coley) of Cold Spring, Connecticut who enlisted in Company H of the First Connecticut Volunteer Regiment on April 23rd 1861.  He fought in the First Battle of Bull Run and was honorably discharged on July 31st with the rest of his regiment.  While in the First Connecticut Cooley wrote 12 letters home from May 1st through July 15th.  These letters mainly give details of camp life and events and no letter providing detailed of the advance on Manassas or the battle on the 21st seems to exist.  Although he explicitly states in his letters that "thousands [of dollars] would not tempt him to enlist again", he did reenlist in the Fall of that year in the 7th Connecticut Regiment.  The first letter from his second enlistment is dated September 13, 1861, six days after his enlistment.  One of Cooley's letters [January 6, 1863] was referenced in McPherson's "For cause and comrades" and posted letters online show he was slightly wounded on June 22, 1862 during operations on James Island in South Carolina.  Cooley died exactly two years later of wounds suffered in the Petersburg Campaign.

Reference: William Henry Cooley papers #3678, in the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The published set is a book titled "Letters to a Civil War Bride: The Civil War Letters of Captain Wolcott Pascal Marsh" edited by Sandra Marsh Mercer and Jerry Mercer. Marsh enlisted as a private on April 17th, 1861.  This webpage states he enlisted in Infantry Company A, but he actually served in Rifle Company A.   He served at First Bull Run and was discharged on July 31st, 1861.  Wolcott went on to re-enlist as 2nd Lieutenant in Company A of the 8th Connecticut.  He was subsequently promoted to Captain of Company F, but resigned for medical reasons on December 22nd, 1862 after the Battle of Fredricksburg.  He had earlier contracted malaria in North Carolina.  The letters in this book are to his young wife Anna who he married shortly after enlisting in 1861. He had seen action at several places including First Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredricksburg. This book is available through Heritage Books (ISBN: 0788436856).

These new sets of letters, although not as detailed as those of Horace Purdy's, mesh nicely with my existing information, fleshing out many details of events leading up to First Bull Run.  I cannot fully post them here as I do not have copyright, but will post cited snippets from time to time as I feel is needed.  Again, if anyone is aware of any more sets of letters on this regiment, please let me know.  I will continue to share any new information I find here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Off to the War - 1st Connecticut Volunteers - April 1861

From the journal of Private Horace Purdy, 1st Connecticut Volunteers.

Friday April 19th 1861 Danbury to New Haven, Connecticut

“I went to the shop in the morning to get my shop clothes and some of my tools. I came home and completed my preparations for leaving home. We took dinner over to Father Griswold’s. He broke a bottle of wine to drink together before my departure. After dinner I bid goodbye to all and started for our hall. Before taking the train (which was the freight) the company paraded up as far as Franklin St. and down to Concert Hall where unexpected to me Father Griswold was waiting to pray with and for us ere we left our native town. After the prayer we went to the depot where the train was in readiness for us and a large concourse of people meeting to bid us perhaps a last farewell. After shaking hands with a thousand or less we finally moved off amid deafening cheers. A number more enlisted in our company at Norwalk. We arrived in New Haven about 6 o’clock P.M. A delegation from New Haven Greys [another local militia which served in the 2nd Connecticut Volunteer Regiment] escorted us to the New Haven Hotel where we were quartered. In the evening we were serenaded by the New Haven Cornet Band which played beautifully. We are the first company in the state to arrive at Rendezvous.”

Saturday April 20th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“Three other companies arrived today. We spent a part of the day drilling on the Green. We escorted Lt. Col Gregory to the cars in the P.M. He made a short speech on the rear car previous to starting.” [Gregory left to raise another Company from Danbury, see below].

Sunday April 21st 1861, New Haven, Connecticut

“After breakfast we were ordered out for an hours drill on the Green. It is claimed by the officers to be indispensible on account of the new recruits. I attended Dr. Bacon’s church on the Green in the P.M. He preached a very patriotic sermon. I was very much interested and I trust profited by it.”

From the "History of Danbury":
"Lieutenant-Colonel Gregory, who escorted the boys to New Haven, returned Saturday evening, and a meeting was called in Concert Hall. He, with the band, was escorted to the hall, and after the organization of the meeting by electing Isaac Smith as chairman, Colonel Gregory responded to loud calls, and reported the arrival of the boys in New Haven, their reception there, and what other information he possessed ooncerning them. The excitement was at a fever heat, and papers, pens, and ink. were called for and a roll started for a second company. This was in little over twenty-four hours from the time of the departure of the first company. As one after another put his name to the
paper, cheer after cheer were given".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Departure of the Wooster Guard (1st Conn. Regiment) from Danbury Conn, April 1861

The reaction of the town of Danbury Connecticut to the attack on Fort Sumter and the subsequent call for volunteers by President Lincoln in April of 1861 is detailed in James Montgomery Bailey's "History of Danbury Connecticut 1684-1896" (published in 1896). The Wooster Guard (local militia of which Horace Purdy was a member) was one of the first units to answer the President's and Governor's call travelling immediately to New Haven Connecticut where they were mustered into the first regiment from the state.

From the "History of Danbury Connecticut 1684-1896" pages 381-384:

It was three o'clock on the afternoon of Saturday, April 13th, 1861, when Danbury received the news of the fall of Sumter, and the first victory of the Secessionists. All that day anxious men besieged the telegraph office in search of the intelligence which they dreaded. When it came there was a shock. It was as if the batteries that played against the doomed fortress had been galvanic, with their wires running through our heart's very centre.

The next forty-eight hours were full of compressed life. They were mental yeast cakes. No excitement had equalled it since that April day, nearly a century dead, when the face of a foreign foe was turned our way and the tramp of an enemy's feet pressed our borders. Now we knew there was to be a war. Even the most sanguine of a bloodless ending to the trouble gave up the hope of peace, but not the determination to win it. In that first flush of indignant shame party lines went under, and a sea of patriotic passion swept over Danbury. There was little sleep in Danbury that night, there was none whatever the next day, although there were eight churches here. St. Peter gave way to saltpetre in the theology of that hour.

On April 15th President Lincoln issued his call for seventy five thousand volunteers, and Governor Buckingham supplemented it with a call for volunteers to rendezvous at Hartford. Danbury was among the first to awake to the necessities of the hour. Her patriotism was aroused, and her flags were unfurled, showing her to be true to her colors. Hon. Roger Averill flung out the first flag, and he was followed by others, until houses and hilltops were crowned with the emblem that had ever led the armies of our country to victory. An interesting incident occurred in connection with the unfurling of Governor Averill's flag. Many distinctly remember the venerable Colonel E. Moss White. Several years before the war he was stricken with paralysis, and never recovered from the shock. He moved about with great difficulty and lost all control of verbal expression except two words, in the form of an injunction, which were, " Come all!" On seeing the flag he smote his breast with both hands and cried aloud, again and again, "Come all! Come all!" And the record shows that the able-bodied men of his native town almost literally responded to the cry.

Governor Buckingham's call was received here on Wednesday, and on Friday, the 19th, the Wooster Guards, commanded by Captain E. E. Wildman, started for New Haven. It is a fact to the honor and credit of the Guards that even before the governor's call had been issued, the services of the company had been tendered him, which he had promptly accepted.

The departure of the Guards for New Haven, which had been made the rendezvous, was a grand, sublime, and yet a touching and pathetic scene. Soon after dinner the Guards met at their headquarters, then Military Ball, in the top story of D. P. Nichol's Block, on the corner of Main and White Streets. Hundreds of people met with them, and forming in line, escorted by a cavalcade of citizens and a band, they marched to Concert Hall, where now appropriately stands the Soldiers' Monument erected in memory of some of that brave band, whose courage was equal to the test of giving up their lives for their country. Filing into the hall, they were seated, and Rev. E[lijah]. E. Griswold, presiding elder of this district of the Methodist church, offered a prayer to the Throne of Grace for their welfare and that of the country. The services concluded the company re-formed, and escorted by the crowd, which had by this time swelled to thousands, they marched to the Danbury and Norwalk Railway station to take the cars.

Note: Elijah E. Griswold is the father of Anne Augusta Griswold Purdy, wife of Horace Purdy, and my direct ancestor.

The large square on the north of the station now became the scene and centre of the most intense and exciting interest. The place was a condensed mass of humanity. Wives, mothers, fathers, and children stood in tearful mood, but withal imbued with firmness and patriotism and heroism, and exchanged. Good wishes and farewells. Here, amid the huzzas of the crowd, the bursts of martial music, the waving of flags, the boom of Cannon, the Wooster Guards went forth, the first company in the State of Connecticut to pledge itself to the defence of the untarnished honor of the commonwealth and the nation.

The following is the roster of the company:

Captain, E. E. Wildman.
First Lieutenant, Jesse D. Stevens.
Second Lieutenant, John D. Bussing.
Sergeants: Andrew Knox, Milo Dickens, William. Moegling, Samuel Y. Petit.
Corporals: George B. Allen, E. S. Davis, Alexander Kallman, Nathan Couch.
Musicians: Edward H. Dann, Grandison D. Foote.

Privates: John Allen, Harris Anderson, C. H. Anderson, John Bogardus, Charles A. Boernm, James Blizzard, William H. Blizzard, Thomas T. Bussing, James Bradley, Theodore B. Benedict, A. H. Byington, George W. Banker, Charles A. Benger, Niram Blackman, Thomas D. Brown, Henry E. Buckingham, William K. Cowan, Lemuel B. Clark, William R. Doane, Josiah L. Day, Edward H. Day, Joseph L. Duuning, Ezekiel Eaton, C. Fieldstone, Dennis Geliven, Christopher Grimm, Charles A.. Gordon, H. W. Gibbs, Carl W. Hillbrandt, William O. Hoyt, W. P. Hoyt, David B. Hoyt, Alfred H. Hoddinott, Thomas Hooton, Otto Hagement, James Howath, Jesse L. James, Ernest T. Jennings, Isaac N. Jennings, George D. Keeler, Morris A. Krazynsky, William J. Murphy, Emil C. Margraff, James Martin, Andrew B. Nichols, Horace Purdy, Francis W. Platt, Joseph W. Raymond, James Reed, James R. Ross, Timothy Rose, George L. Smith, Alson J. Smith, Benjamin F. Skinner, David Sloane, Grandison Scott, Louis Shack, Eli D. Seeley, Augustus Staples, George Sears, James H. Taylor, Joseph Tammany, Darius A. Veats, Edgar L. Wildman, Howard W. Wheeler, John Waters.

The [Danbury] Times of May 2d, 1861, in speaking of the commanders of the Danbury companies, has the following: "Captain Wildman is a young, energetic, straightforward, and highly esteemed citizen. His response to the call of the governor was, 'Our country needs our services and it is our duty to go,' and by his manly, resolute course inspired his whole company with confidence and courage. It cannot be otherwise than a source of gratification to those who have friends and relatives in the guards to know that their services will be performed under a brave, gallant, and honorable commander."

The company arrived in New Haven at six 0' clock, and there they were met by the Grays, a company from that city, and by thousands of people, who gave them a hearty welcome. They were escorted to the New Haven House, where they made their headquarters.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gregory, who escorted the boys to New Haven, returned Saturday evening, and a meeting was called in Concert Hall. He, with the band, was escorted to the hall, and after the organization of the meeting by electing Isaac Smith as chairman, Colonel Gregory responded to loud calls, and reported the arrival of the boys in New Haven, their reception there, and what other information he possessed concerning them. The excitement was at a fever heat, and papers, pens, and ink. Were called for and a roll started for a second company. This was in little over twenty-four hours from the time of the departure of the first company. As one after another put his name to the paper, cheer after cheer were given.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Other Accounts of the First Connecticut Volunteers in 1861

Horace Purdy was only one of thousands of volunteers that answered Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteers in April of 1861 and only one of hundreds who enlisted in the First Connecticut Regiment. However, finding the accounts of these volunteers is very difficult because although almost certainly letters of other recruits exist, only a handful have surfaced. Probably the best known account of the three month regiments from Connecticut are found in the 1872 book "Wooden Nutmegs" at Bull Run by Elnathan B. Tyler (writing as Frinkle Fry) of the 3rd Connecticut Regiment. This is a well written and humorous account of the Connecticut regiments from April through July of 1861 and highly recommended to anyone interested in these regiments or even in events leading up to the first battle of Bull Run.

Another existing but little known account was published in the Lincoln Herald in 1965. Titled "Bully for the 1st Connecticut" (written by Lester L. Swift) it recounts experiences of Gustavus Sullivan Dana of Company A of the First Connecticut Regiment and includes entries from his enlistment to a good detailed description of the unit's role at First Bull Run, the best that is known.

Dana was a 22 year old machinist from Hartford Connecticut and was a member of the Aetna Hose Company and the Hartford Light Guards. Many of these early volunteers were firefighters and/or members of local militia units. He offered his services on April 19th and formally was mustered in on April 22nd in New Haven. Dana later reinlisted in the 6th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment and rose to the rank of second lieutenant. After the war he was president of the Lincoln Guard of Honor, which was organized to prevent the theft of the casket containing Lincoln's body (Swift, 1965).

Like others who enlisted at this time Dana believed that the war would be over quickly, "the general opinion was that the trouble would be ended and that we would be home at the end of the three months for which the first troops were enlisted" (Swift, 1965:73). In this expectation Dana left his tools in the charge of the shop superintendent and was told his job would be available when he returned; however, as stated earlier Dana served for the entire duration of the war and the fate of his tools and career as a machinist is unknown. He died in 1916 (Swift, 1965).

The accounts of Dana, Tyler, and Purdy are currently all we have telling the detailed story of the three month men from Connecticut. I have some leads on other possibly surviving letter collections, but nothing else for certain at this time. Thus, the details on this units as somewhat vague, and because the three regiments were dissolved in July of 1861, these units do not have the long histories or reputations as many of the later Connecticut regiments. Still their story is an important one that should be told, providing us with a glimpse of the early months of the war, and a unique one as at one point these units were at the forward position of the Union advance in northern Virginia. It is my hope that more accounts of these regiments will surface at some point for they must surely exist.


Swift, L. L. (ed.). 1965. "Bully for the First Connecticut": The recollections of a three month volunteer. Lincoln Herald 67(2):72-82.

Tyler, E. B. 1872. "Wooden Nutmegs" at Bull Run. George L. Colburn Steam Print, Hartford. (reprinted by Gale Archival Editions on Demand).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Excerpts from the Journal of Horace Purdy (1st Connecticut Volunteers) April 13th - 18th 1861 - the Fall of Fort Sumter and the Call for Volunteers

These entries reflect the attack on Fort Sumter and President Abraham Lincoln's subsequent call for 75,000 volunteer troops. Purdy's response was typical for many of the young men of the time. He enlisted without hesitation despite his job, obligations to his church, and the fact that his wife was pregnant with their first child.

Saturday April 13th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“It is reported in the papers today that the rebel batteries together with Fort Moultry [sic] have opened fire on Major Anderson in Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor S. Carolina and the Major has returned fire. I went into the street in the eve to get the news if there was any. The news by telegraph states that Fort Sumter is on fire with the flag at half mast and the Harriet Lane is on fire. It may be correct and perhaps not”.

[The attack began on April 12th and Anderson surrendered at 2:30 PM on the 13th. The garrison was evacuated the following day. The rumor that the USRC Harriet Lane was on fire was incorrect].

Sunday April 14th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“The telegraph has been at work all day receiving the war news. It says that Fort Sumter is on fire and Major Anderson has surrendered to the rebel forces under Gen. Beauregard. I don’t believe it myself, neither shall I until I hear something more tomorrow”.

Monday April 15th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“The surrender of Major Anderson at Fort Sumter is confirmed. The fire from the rebel batteries was too hot for him, burning the inside of the fort until all the wood work the officers’ quarters was consumed by the red hot shot and shell. The President has issued a call for 75,000 troops from the militia of the adhering states”.

Tuesday April 16th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“Our Co[mpany] assembled at the drill room in the eve. We are expecting to be called into the service of the government immediately as the President has issued a call for 75,000 men from the states adhering to the Union. We are hourly expecting an order from our Governor”.

Wednesday April 17th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“I worked in the shop all day. Attended a special meeting of the [Wooster Light] Guards at our hall in the eve at which we volunteered our services to the Governor (Buckingham) as volunteers in the NE states service in answer to the President's call for 75,000 troops. There were a large number of spectators at the room and when we with our voice offered our services a long loud shout went up from the people”.

Thursday April 18th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“Today has been spent mostly in parading the streets and hoisting the Stars and Stripes. I received my pay from Mr. Crofut preparatory to going away. The bells began to ring in the P.M. on account of a dispatch from the Governor accepting our services for the Government. Supposing that we are to leave this afternoon I went home, immediately packed what clothes I intended to carry, bid goodbye to wife and friends and started for our hall, but we did not go so I returned home again”.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Excerpts from the Journal of Horace Purdy (1st Connecticut Volunteers) - March 11 - April 2 1861

I apologize for the blogging hiatus, it's taken me a few weeks to get back into things. This batch of journal entries deals with the quiet time right after Lincoln was inaugurated and leading into the Connecticut gubernatorial election of 1861. The first posts are a reminder of the times in the nineteenth century when diseases like smallpox were still prevalent and feared. Deaths were practically an everyday occurrence for these people, but nothing like the horrors they are about to face. Things are about to get much more interesting because of an April 1861 event that took place in Charleston, South Carolina.

Monday March 11th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“Dr. Bennett has eight cases of small pox in town. Widow Wilcox’s youngest son has it just out on the corner. After I finished my work in the shop I went to Tweedy Brothers shop to see Lieutenant John W. Bussing about electing Frederick Starr Captain of the Guards.”

[John W. Bussing was the 2nd Lieutenant of the First Connecticut Volunteers.]

Tuesday March 12th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“I went to Andrew Knox and got a little paint to put on my rooms upstairs before renting.”

[Andrew Knox was a sergeant in the First Connecticut Regiment.]

Friday March 15th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“Philander Betts having had the varioloid in his family came to the shop for the first time since. The men, thinking him to be a dangerous person to be in the shop, called the men together and by a unanimous vote requested him to leave the shop and to stay away until it was safe for him to go out from his family without exposing other people.”

[Varioloid is a mild form of small pox that occurs in someone who has previously survived the disease.]

Monday March 18th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“Mr. Betts came to the shop again this morning and wanted to go to work, but the men being yet afraid to work with him on account of the varioloid, which he had had himself and in his family, voted unanimously to request him to stay away another week, but still he hung around the shop seemingly intent on exposing every man in the factory if it was possible.”

Tuesday March 26th 1861 Danbury Connecticut

“Warm and pleasant. The snow is disappearing pretty fast. Anna Beers died this morning at four o’clock. On my way home from the shop I took a letter from the office for Father Griswold from his brother (Uncle Dwight) bearing the intelligence of the death of Aunt Kate. She jumped from her chamber window. In a short time after she died. She was deranged.”

Thursday March 28th 1861 Danbury Connecticut

“I attended prayer meeting in the eve, after its close I stopped at concert hall a short time to listen to O. S. [Orris Sanford] Ferry addressing the Republicans previous to the state election on Monday next. Anna Beers was buried at 1 o’clock this P.M.”

[Orris Sanford Ferry was a Connecticut State Senator, Colonel of the 5th Connecticut Volunteers and later a Brigadier General. After the war he was elected to the United States Senate for two terms.]

Friday March 29th 1861 Danbury Connecticut

“I went to the drill room in the eve but there being only four members present we adjourned and went home. A Mr. Perrin who is speaking to the Democrats of Danbury this eve at Concert Hall is undoubtedly one cause of the vacant drill room.”

Saturday, March 30th 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“Cyrus W. Northrup of Norwalk spoke to the Republicans in the eve at the Concert Hall. I went and heard him. Our brass band was there, also the Bethel Glee Club.”

[Northrup was a President of Yale College and later President of the University of Minnesota. He was a Lincoln supporter and a popular Republican orator of the time.]

Monday April 1st 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“State election.”

Tuesday April 2nd 1861 Danbury, Connecticut

“I came home by way of Geo[rge] Starr’s shop and got a bag of shavings. Geo was at the Democratic meeting last eve at the Concert Hall and while setting down the figures of the election returns for his own gratification, was mistaken for the Jeffersonian’s reporter and three groans were given for him and then a vote taken to put him out, but he saved himself the trouble by going himself. The returns which they received last night were quite favorable for them and they thought that they had carried the state. But today the scale has turned and they laugh from the other sides of their mouths. We have carried the state. Gov Buckingham is elected by a larger majority than last year. We have a majority of both branches of the legislature, but we have lost O. S. Ferry of this district for Congress."