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.

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