Windham County, Ct in the Civil War.




An Age of Prosperity. - Growth of the Union and Anti-Slavery Sentirnént. - The Strongest Republican County in Connecticut. - Outbreak of the Rebellion. - County Mass Meeting. - Volunteer Companies Formed. - The Uprising of the Martial Spirit. - Popular - Exciternent. - Raising the FIag. - Recruiting. - Death of General Nathaniel Lyon. - Windham's Interest in General McClellan. - Organizations Represented by Windham County Soldiers. - Responses to Later Calls. - The Eighteenth Regiment. - Work of the Sanitary and Christian Commissions at Home. - The Martyrs to the Union Cause.

FOLLOWING the war of 1812-14 a long period of peace and material growth blessed the land with its strengthening effects. Windham county during this period was absorbed in building up her manufacturing enterprises and educating her sons in the principles which were to be put to the fearful test of a four years war. During all those years of peace the principles which were at last to be involved in war were taking root and firmly establishing themselves in the hearts of the people of this county in common with hundreds of other counties in the northern states of the Union. Though but one of the many in this respect, still it may be said of Windham that she was at least one of the conspicuous ones in her devotion to the principles of human freedom and support of the general union of the states. Though the resources of Windham county were relatively limited, yet her political status enabled her to extend most hearty aid and comfort to the central government. The strong anti-slavery sentiment early developed, deepened and strengthened by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and concurrent events, overcame partisan and political bias, and made her the strongest republican county in Connecticut. The call to aid in putting down the rebellion at the South met with immediate response in this county. Meetings were at once held in all the prominent villages, and measures were instituted for carrying out patriotic resolutions. Revolutionary scenes were re-enacted.

Young men hurried to cities to enlist, or joined in company drill at home; women came together to prepare clothing and lint; towns hastened to make provision for raising and supplying their prospective quotas. A county mass meeting was held in Brooklyn, April 22d, 1861, at which Governor Cleveland presided. A committee on resolutions, consisting of Daniel P. Tyler, W. H. Chandler, B. F. Palmer, H. Hammond, W. Simpson, J. Q. A. Stone, B. P. Spaulding and Jeremiah Olney, declared that "citizens of Windham County would expend their last dollar, and exhaust the last drop of their blood ere they would submit to a disruption of the Nation." Stirring, patriotic addresses were made by many earnest speakers. Sixty volunteers offered to take the field at once, and six thousand five hundred dollars was pledged for the support of the government, Mr. W. H. Chandler heading the list with five hundred dollars. Many volunteer companies were formed in the several towns in advance of state requisition. E. W. Whitaker and Daniel Whitaker, of Ashford, and Lester E. Braley, of Windham, gained admittance into the First regiment of Connecticut volunteers. No man rendered such service in organizing Connecticut's forces as the colonel of this regiment, Daniel Tyler, of Norwich, a worthy representative of the father and grandfather bearing the same name, so long honored in Brooklyn and throughout Windham county. Sixteen Windham county residents enlisted in the Second regiment, under Colonel Terry, and a small number in the Third, of which Alexander Warner, of Woodstock, was major, and Doctor John McGregor, of Thompson, surgeon. These regiments were hurried on to the seat of war, and took part in the action at Bull Run, where Doctor McGregor was taken prisoner.

In all the events which crowded upon each other during those early years of the war Windham county took a deep interest. The excitement and strange fascination which seized the people when the blare of martial movements swept like a noontide conflagration over the land will be remembered by those who were living at the time as long as memory shall serve its mission to them. But how like a dream it has already become! Were it not for an occasional mound in the graveyard, an empty sleeve or otherwise disfigured body, or the face of a loved one whom the fortunes of war have never returned to the home whence he went out in the freshness and vigor of his young manhood, we might almost be tempted to set our recollections of the war down as a dreamy illusion of our minds-a picture of the past conjured up by the imagination laboring under some strange spell of abnormal excitement. But there are enough of these sad material evidences to painfully refresh our fading memories and make real the misty recollections of the scenes associated with the great civil war. The people of Windham county heard the strains of martial music, as one after another companies of soldiers, in progress of forming and filling their ranks and marching to some rendezvous to enter the service, came through the different towns and villages. They heartily joined in raising the dishonored flag to every position of prominence where it could float on the pure breezes of these immortal hills and proclaim to the stars of heaven and to the noon sun their determination to avenge the dishonor that had been attempted upon it, and to preserve, at the cost of their treasures or their lives, the fullness of its emblematic significance. One of the prominent figures of the early part. of the war was General Nathaniel Lyon, a son of this county, and one of the early and conspicuous martyrs to the cause of the Union. His death was deeply mourned by the whole loyal country, but to Windham county the death was one of augmented importance from the fact already mentioned of his association with the county, and still further from the fact that hither his remains were brought and laid away in their final resting place amid impressive ceremonies, which were witnessed by the largest concourse of people ever assembled within the county. It was estimated that his funeral and interment at Eastford was attended by twenty thousand people. A more particular account of it will be found in connection with the history of that town.

The promotion of General George B. McClellan to the command of the Union army was another event in which Wiudham county was peculiarly interested by local association. He was the son of Doctor George McClellan, a distinguished Philadelphia surgeon, whose boyhood was well remembered in Woodstock. James, the father of the latter, was the son of General Samuel McClellan, who was among the prominent figures of this county during the revolution. Thus the name could not but awaken enthusiasm and hope for his success in the hearts of the Windham county people, and only the unwelcome conviction that the modern general lacked something of the fire of his ancestors, and did not share their anti-slavery views, overcame this early predilection.

The events to which we have referred in general and in par ticular, all awakened the deepest interest in Win dham county, stimulating activity in enlistment and military preparation. Young men kept back by the reiterated declaration that they would not be needed, were mustered by hundreds into the quickly forming regiments. About fifty were included in the Fourth regiment. Company H, of the Fifth regiment, Captain Albert S. Granger, of Putnam; Company A, of the Sixth, Captain Thomas K. Bates, of Brooklyn.: Company K, of the Seventh, Captain Charles Burton, of Killingly, who was succeeded by Captain Jerome Tourtellotte, of Putnam; and Company F, of- the Eighth, Captain Elijah T. Smith, of Plainfield, were almost wholly filled with Windham county men, while others still enlisted in other companies. The Whitakers and Edwin L. Lyon, of Ashford, were enrolled in Cavalry Company B. Judson M. Lyon. of Woodstock, was major of First regiment cavalry, and Andrew B. Bowen captain of Company A, with some thirty men from Woodstock and towns adjacent. The Eleventh regiment was greatly beloved in Windham county. Officers of this regiment from here were Charles Matthewson, of Pomfret, lieutenant colonel; Reverend George Soule, of Hampton, chaplain; Doctor James R. Whitcomb, of Brooklyn, surgeon; George W. Davis, of Thompson, quartermaster sergeant. The companies of Captain Clapp, of Pomfret, and Captain Hyde, of Plainfield, were mostly made up from this county. Many from the Ecuthem towns enlisted in Company G, of the Twelfth regiment, sometimes called the "Lyon Guards," under the veteran Captain Braley, of Windham. Alexander Warner, of Woodstock, went out as lieutenant colonel of the Thirteenth. Windham's contribution to this regiment were mostly included in Company E, of which E. E. Graves, of Thompson, was first lieutenant.

These soldiers received generous bounties from their respective towns and ample provision for their families, and went cut hopefully to their varied posts of duty and service. After six months of military vicissitudes, culminating in the withdrawal from the siege of Richmond, the towns were again called to raise their proportion of "three hundred thousand more." Eastern Connecticut responded with such alacrity that the Eighteenh regiment, raised in New London and Windham counties, though the last one summoned, was the first one to be ready to leave. This regiment was in line of march by the 22d of August, 1862. Enlistment in it, especially in the north part of the county, was greatly stimulated by the return of Doctor McGregor, after thore than a year spent in captivity. A public reception given him on Thompson Green was very largely attended, and his changed appearance and affecting story made a very deep impression, rousing sober, thoughtful men to a truer apprehension of the nature of the contest. The Eighteenth was the most emphatically representative regiment of Windham county. Colonel Ely was of Killingly parentage. Lieutenant Colonel Nichols, a favored son of Thompson, was widely known in other towns. Major Keach was a Killingly veteran, while Assistant Surgeons Barrington and Hough were familiar residents of Sterling and Putnam. Companies of Windham county men were commanded by Captains T. K. Bates, of Brooklyn; Joseph Matthewson, of Pomfret; G. W. Warner, of Woodstock; C. D. Bowen, of Windham, and E. J. Matthewson, of Killingly. Doctor Lowell Holbrook, of Thompson, and Reverend W. C. Walker, of Putnam. at a later date went out as surgeon and chaplain respectively, of this favorite regiment. Windham was also well represented in Companies D, J, and K, in the Twenty-first regiment, and in Company G, of the Twenty-sixth. Addison G. Warner, of Putnam, having recruited more than a hundred men for the First Cavalry, was commissioned captain, in January, 1864.

Windham also furnished recruits for the artillery and other regiments, and paid her proportion for the colored regiments, promptly fulfilling from the first to the last every requisition of government. More earnest in filling her quotas than in seeking for office, she furnished proportionably more subalterns than commanders, though many of Windham birth or stock who went out from other places, gained a high rank and rendered distinguished service. At home as in other sections there was great outflow of private liberality, money and labor being freely expended in sending comforts to friends who had gone to the front, and to the Sanitary and Christian Commissions, in every neighborhood Soldiers' Aid Societies were busily at work, and "prayer was without ceasing of the church unto God" for help and deliverance.

Of the service rendered by the men sent out from Windham county it is impossible here to give a detailed report, but there is good reason for belief that it corn pared favorably with that of the great mass of volunteers, and in many instances was signally effective. Still less can we speak in detail of the lives that were sacrificed. Each town has its death-roll and its honored graves, which the people yearly decorate. Some of these heroes were among the best and brightest young men of Windham county; most worthy to be remembered with those of a previous generation, who like them had given their lives for their country. We need not fear that their names or their deeds will be forgotten. Enrolled in the archives of the state and nation, embalmed in every patriot heart, their fame will but grow brighter with the lapse of years. Mustered into the great army that from age to age in every clime has raised the "battle-cry of Freedom," the men whose names are inscribed on Windham's latest war record may be sure of imperishable remembrance.

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