Tonight I am going to write a little about the Civil War – actually I will take some things from our book “Dear Transcript”. Let me know if you like them.
James Wilkinson, the associate editor at Putnam, of the Windham County Transcript, enlisted in April 1861 in the Buckingham Rifles of Norwich, which left on Monday for New Haven. From a letter written by J. T. P. 23rd Apr. 1861 New Haven, he says “there are twelve Windham County boys in the company comprising the Buckingham Rifles. We will remain in New Haven until we join the 2nd regiment.”
It is amazing to me how fast the towns recruited men and companies and regiments were formed.
The Union Guards of Windham County Co. A, 7th Regiment were formed in Killingly. From one to two hundred ladies of Danielsonville have been engaged through the days and late into the evenings making the uniforms, in Mr. Hyde’s large hall over his store, for the Union Guard. They made 350 shirts, 80 pairs of pants and 80 coats in less than six days! And the young misses from 12 to 14 years of age, have prepared for each soldier a very neat and convenient arrangement to carry pins, needles, thread, scissors &c. Their uniform is a grey sack tunic, trimmed with red; a fatigue cap the same, and blue pants–a very neat and handsome suit. Each soldier is provided with four shirts and a new pair of boots in addition.
Flag raisings were very common during this early time. They had speakers and the women made banners also.
There was a Killingly Home Guard, a company of “Silver Guards” made up of older men.
A company bearing the name of Dayville National Guards were drilling with the intention of offering their services to the government as soon as they make suitable proficiency in military tactics.
We have to remember that these “soldiers” were all country boys, not military men. Yes, most of them had probably been in the militia at one time or another, but they were not soldiers in the true sense. They had to be trained and it must have been so difficult for them to go from farms, factories &c to a part of the country most of them would have never seen in ordinary circumstances.
In the 6 June 1861 newspaper… Capt. Chester of the Buckingham Rifles, wrote a letter to his parents, giving an account of the alarm which called the 2nd Regiment to arms, expecting to march to meet the enemy. He says: You can’t imagine how the alarm yesterday, thrilled our soldiers’ nerves. We got word that within sight of Washington the troops were fighting, and in an instant the drum snarled out the alarm. For a moment all was excitement; then as men saw the necessity of preparing quickly, the noise ceased, and knapsacks were packed, and ammunition given out in the quickest time imaginable. What do you think I said to my men? I quoted my old motto–‘Take it cool.” I told them that the men who spoke loud would have to stay to help guard the camp, and you may be sure not a word was spoken. We had to detail two men from each company for a guard to remain behind. My two cried like babies. They said they wanted to ‘see some fun if there was to be any.'”
Another letter written by someone from Camp Douglass, Washington, D. C. 26 May 1861 tells of the 3rd regiments passage from Connecticut. “We embarked on board Steamship “Cahawba” and cast off our moorings at about dark, amid enthusiastic cheering both from those on board ship and ashore. Our route was through the Race, between Fisher’s Island and Long Island, around the east end of Long Island. We soon began to feel the power of Old Ocean. The swell was heavy and our ship though staunch and well appointed had to yield to the power of these mighty billows. By 12 o’clock many of our men began to experience the terror of most sea voyagers–sea sickness. As near as I could judge one half of the whole number were vomiting before morning, while some did not leave their berths for 36 to 48 hours.”
There were 900 men on board that ship.
The Pay of Soldiers–The legislature have passed the Military Bounty Bill. It gives the volunteers $30 per year in addition to the $11 per month received from the General government. It also gives $6 per month to the wife and $2 for each child under 14 years of age, providing, however, that no family shall receive more than $10 per months. In addition to this pay the soldier, when discharged, receives from the federal government one hundred dollars in addition to the regular pay and allowances. If he dies in service his legal heirs receive the amount. If wounded or disabled provision is to be made for him.
One of the local boys “Albert” writes from Chambersburg, Pa on 16 June 1861, where the 4th Regiment is located. “We arrived at Chambersburg Wednesday evening, at 10 o’clock. We marched to our camping ground, one mile from the depot, where we found a Wisconsin regiment. We were weary enough, and Nature’s sweet restorer–“balmy sleep” was hugely enjoyed, having only the “blue canopy” for our covering. The next morning an incident occurred, which gave us to understand that we were now in close proximity to the rebels. Two shots were fired into our encampment from the “Blue Ridge,” which lies about two miles to the West. One of the bullets came near the head of Mr. Aaron Day, passing through two tents. We found the ball, and I should like to send it to you to show the visitors to the Transcript office, but I have decided to keep it, and if I ever return, shall show it to the people of Danielsonville as a trophy of war.
Frank Brainard, of Chestnut Hill, has just come into camp, from the picket guard, four miles out, having been on duty 48 hours. He arrested a man, supposed to be a spy, and we now have a live secessionist in our camp. We don’t intend to eat him! But he may do to “whet up” our appetites. Aaron Day takes his position as the next guard, and remains 48 hours, and your correspondent is detailed to follow next.”
Will continue this later
The Fourth regiment left their camp at Chambersburg on Monday, the 17th June, and marched to Hagerstown, Md., a distance of 22 miles, which they marched in one day–from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m. Another correspondent writes from Hagerstown:
“Our Boys are ‘tough as a knot,’ but if they have as hard a march as they had yesterday, they will soon ‘gin eout.’ We had but two hard crackers, and such water as we could get from puddles beside the road, to sustain us on the march.”
James Wilkinson, the associate editor mentioned in the beginning, was in the first battle of Bull Run (Manassas). In the 1 Aug. 1861 paper, the editor has this: “During the past week we have been poised between hope and fear about the fate of our young friend and associate, Mr. Wilkinson. The latest intelligence which we have been enabled to gain give us strong hope that he is not dead, but a prisoner. A letter from Mr. Phillips and others state that he was wounded in the ancle (sic) and left on the field in charge of Corporal Jennings, who was reported killed, and there is great probability that both are still living.”
About Dr. John McGregor from Thompson: “From the latest reports from the Surgeon of the Third Regiment it appears that Dr. McGregor was not killed, but is a prisoner to the rebels.”
Dr. McGregor was indeed a prisoner and for a part of the time he was at Libby prison. He was kept longer than many of the doctors because he would not sign the parole paper agreeing not to help the Union. His time of imprisonment nearly destroyed his health and afterwards he was forced to give up his practice in Thompson.
In this day of instant news can you imagine how the families back home eagerly awaited word of their men and it took a week or more before they might hear some word. Not knowing I think had to be the worst agony.
Word from Mr. Wilkinson finally came from himself in a letter to the editor written from Richmond, Va. 3rd Aug. 1861. Here is a part of his letter: “My wound was not dangerous to life. I was struck by a “Minnie” ball in the front of my leg, about three inches above the ancle (sic). The ball struck the bone but did not break it, though the ball was flattened by the concussion. The night after the battle I slept under a tree with two Northern soldiers, both of whom had their legs broken by “Minnie” balls. They both died.
When I was wounded, Corporal Jennings, of Norwich, was left behind with me. He remained with me until we were taken. He, not being wounded, was taken to Manassas immediately, while I remained in hospital on the field of battle nearly a week. I have not seen Jennings since, though I suppose he is now in the city with the other unwounded prisoners. I mention this as it will be the source of some relief to Mr. Jennings’ parents.”
Dr. McGregor managed to get a letter home to his wife since his capture at Bull Run, written from Richmond Prison Hospital, 11 Aug. 1861. “My Dear Wife: As there is a probably chance to pass a communication with our lines by Dr. Morrell, who is allowed to return on parole, I embrace the opportunity, hoping in this way, to communicate with you. I have been in Richmond one week. As soon as the wounded at Oakland hospital (at which place I was stationed, during and after the battle) were in a condition to be moved, they were with myself moved to this city.”
He was assigned a post as Surgeon of one of the large hospitals in Richmond. Their letters to loved ones seem so formal to us, but the end of Dr. McGregors’ letter to his wife: “Give my kindest regards to our friends and believe me to be your affectionate husband, John McGregor.”
Another thing that was happening in the towns of Windham county were the Ladies and girls making things for the soldiers. They were called the Soldiers Aid Societies and they furnished most of the things of comfort that soldiers would need. I Nov. 1861 the Ladies Aid Society of the Westfield Congregational Church, Danielsonville, sent the following articles to Washington, which are in addition to the articles sent by the Soldiers Air Society: 23 quilts, 19 pr. socks, 13 pillows, 13 pr. pillow slips, 10 sheets, 12 towels, 3 pr. drawers, 1 shirt, 6 blankets, 1 bundle of lint, 30 rolls of bandages, 6 rolls compressors, 1 pair slippers, 1 woolen dressing gown, tape, pins, twine, castile soap, corn starch, &c.
The lint was used to stop bleeding.
On the 9th of Jan. 1862 the paper lists what the Norwich Aid Society had received from towns in Windham County.
From Pomfret – From Mrs. Charles Osgood, 6 pairs cotton flannel drawers, 7 cushions, 2 arm cushions, 2 linen sheets, 2 pillow cases, 3 napkins, 2 quilts. Mrs. Ruth Holbrook, aged 87 years, 1 patchwork comfortable.
From Westminster Society (in Canterbury) among the usual they also sent 1 bottle currant wine, 1 bag dried cranberries, 3 bags dried apples, package cranberries.
Central Village, Collamer, Moosup and Windham sent mittens, wrappers, flannel night shirts, socks, bandages, towels, bed sack, &c.
In the 20th Feb. 1862 paper is an extract of a letter written by Geo. H. Burlingham who is with a R. I. Battery, located near Ball’s Cross Roads, Va.: “Eat and sleep is all we have done for the last four weeks, for the mud has been in the road certainly a foot deep, and the worst mud to get off your boots that you ever saw. Just up above us at Ball’s Cross Roads the mud has been so it would run into a Wagon body in the road. What do you think of that? Deliver me from ever again being on the “Sacred Soil of Virginia” if this is a sample.
We practice occasionally at Target shooting, our Target being a mile off. We have put more than one hole through it. I am gunner of one of the brass 12 lb. Howitzers, and those pieces being used for close action I have not had so much practice as the gunners of the Parrott guns. The Parrott guns are sighted so as to hit at a distance of 6200 yards or nearly 4 miles. We use a ball about ten inches long in the Parrott guns. They are awful things when they strike, turning the ground up &c. The solid shot that we shoot in them can, by unscrewing a lead fuse in the end be made into a shell which will explode when it strikes, so the two are combined.”
In the 6 March 1862 paper: A Call from the Soldiers in the Eleventh. Mr. Stone: we have just received a letter from our neighbor, Col. Mathewson, saying that many of the soldiers at Hatteras Inlet are sick, and in the opinion of the officers and others, they need flannel under-clothing, which is not furnished by the government.