Litchfield County at Gettysburg

I’ve just returned from my annual trip to the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, which led me to think about Litchfield County’s role at the battle. Gettysburg was not Litchfield County’s battle; the majority of volunteers from the northwest hills served with the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery. Their day would come at the Battle of Cold Harbor, nearly a year after Gettysburg. Still, a glance at the casualty lists on Charles P. Hamblen’s Connecticut Yankees at Gettysburg reveals the sacrifices made by some residents of the county in the Civil War’s greatest battle.

Robert McCarrick of Lakeville was 19 when he left the state to serve the Union cause, enlisting as a private in the 20th New York State Militia (also known as the 80th New York  Infantry). He was captured by Confederates on July 1, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. He returned to the Union army and served through 1864.

Allen Brady of Torrington served as the major of the 17th Connecticut, which was primarily a Fairfield County unit. When Lt. Colonel Fowler was killed on July 1, Brady assumed command of the regiment, which bravely repulse a Confederate assault on Cemetery Hill on July 2nd. In this action, Brady was wounded by a shell fragment and was discharged from the army for disability. He received an honorary promotion to colonel.  With Brady on Cemetery Hill was Private Daniel Hunt of Bethlehem. He was captured by Confederates on the morning of July 3rd. Paroled in August, he served through the rest of the war.

Charles Squires of Roxbury, a private in the 5th Connecticut Infantry, was captured in the fighitng on Culp’s Hill on July 2nd. He was paroled in August 1863, but was killed in fighting at the coincidentally-named Culp’s Farm in Georgia in 1864.

Nathan Abbott of Watertown, a sergeant in the 20th Connecticut, was wounded in the fighting on Culp’s Hill on July 3rd. He recovered from his wounds and was promoted to be an officer. He served through the remainder of the war, returning home in June 1865.

 

 

Litchfield County’s most famous Civil War soldier was John Sedgwick of Cornwall. A West Point graduate and a major general, Sedgwick commanded the Sixth Corps of the Union Army of the Potomac, at 18,000 men the largest corps in the army. He led his men on a famous 34-mile march to Gettysburg, arriving in time for some of his men to go into action on July 2nd and 3rd. Following the battle, Sedgwick was tasked with leading the pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s retreating Confederate army. Sedgwick was killed at the battle of Spotsylvania Court House in May 1864. He is buried in Cornwall, and monuments to his honor stand at West Point, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and in his hometown.

 

 

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Litchfield Then and Now: The 150th Anniversary of the End of the Civil War

archarchmodernApril 9th, the anniversary of the Lee’s surrender to Grant, marks the culmination of the Civil War sesquicentennial. Litchfield County soldiers served with the 29th Connecticut Infantry, an African American unit that was the first Union regiment to enter the Confederate capital of Richmond, and the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery that pursued Lee’s army to the surrender at Appomattox Court House. While the war ended in the early spring, it was not until August 1865 that many of Litchfield County’s veterans returned home.  That month a great celebration in Litchfield honored returning veterans from the county. The village was decorated with enormous national flags while the smaller flags of a dozen army corps flew from the giant pole on the Green. A triumphal arch, made of papier-mâché, was erected on East Street, near where the Litchfield Historical Society now stands. It had the Sixth Corps flag in the center and two divisional flags on the side, commemorating the army units to which Litchfield’s soldiers belonged.  Below those flags were the names of the battles in which the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery fought.

The returning veterans – 300 to 400 strong – arrived in East Litchfield by rail, marched to the town, and paraded through the arch – soldiers on one side, civilians once again on the other.

Colonel Elisha Kellogg of the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery

Colonel Elisha Kellogg of the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery

The local newspaper reported that “The reception of the 19th in this town on Tuesday was a most gratifying success.”  Residents of neighboring towns began arriving in the early morning.  Reverend Richards gave a benediction, and Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Smith of Woodbury gave a welcoming speech:

I will not recount the list of your battles – they are known to all present – from that               first bloody day to the last unparalleled march of over 100 miles in 22 marching                   hours – ending in Lee’s surrender.  These things – memories to you – are glorious             wonders to us!  We look upon you with emotion!  With joy and gratitude, and bid                 you welcome!

Congressman Hubbard, who lived on South Street and was a favorite of Lincoln’s who referred to the representative as “Old Connecticut, also spoke:

Your hard fare, your toilsome marches and constant exposure to wounds                            and death have been crowned by the highest reward ever gained by men at                        arms.  The conspirators against a people’s government are in the dust and                          freedom is triumphant.

Major General John Sedgwick

Major General John Sedgwick

Thousands of people attended the festivities, which consisted of bands, food and drink, and performances.  An exhibit hall was set up with relics from the war, including the coat with the bullet hole that killed General John Sedgwick of Cornwall, captured swords, battlefield artifacts, paintings and photos of Henry Dutton (killed at Cedar Mountain, John Hubbard (the Congressman’s son), the three Wadhams brothers (killed at Fort Darling, the North Anna, and Cold Harbor), and Colonel Elisha Kellogg (killed at Cold Harbor).

At dark, an illumination allowed the festivities to continue until the lights went out at 10 p.m., when the crowd dispersed.