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The unpublished set is from Private William H. Cooley (sometimes spelled Coley) of Cold Spring, Connecticut who enlisted in Company H of the First Connecticut Volunteer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".