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Civil War and Reconstruction


Senator William Wallace Eaton

William Eaton, a Peace Democrat and Civil War Opponent

This 19th- century Connecticut politician took a controversial stand against a war that would divide the Union and decrease states’ rights.

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Globe Onion

The Many Layers to Onion Farming in Westport

Westport’s fertile soil and ease of access by boat and rail once made it home to a thriving onion farming industry.

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A Muster Ceremony, New Haven Green

The First Battle of Bull Run: Connecticut Troops Stand Firm When the Battle Turns Against Them

Connecticut troops earned admiration for staying to fight when others fled.

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Up from the Ashes: Fire at the Meriden Britannia Company – Today in History: July 16

A manufacturer of silver-plated ware rebounds from the worst fire ever to occur in Meriden.

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General Mansfield's uniform epaulets

One of the Honored Dead: General J. K. F. Mansfield

A resident of New Haven and Middletown, Joseph Mansfield rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Union army before losing his life at the Battle of Antietam.

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Crisis Management during the American Civil War: The Hartford Soldiers’ Aid Society

The Hartford Soldiers’ Aid Society was one of the most important relief organizations during the Civil War and provided new opportunities for women in the public sphere.

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More than two dozen veterans of the Ninth Regiment gathered for a reunion at Savin Rock in West Haven

Fighting Sons of Erin: Connecticut’s Irish Regiment in the Civil War

Men with names like O’Brien, Kennedy, Mahoney, Murphy, Donnelly, Fitzpatrick, and Sullivan flocked to enlist in what a recruiting poster confidently described as a “destined to be gallant Regiment.”

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A Civil War Soldier Engineers an Iconic Career

Horatio Wright was a Connecticut native who served with distinction…

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Rally – Today in History: March 5

On March 5, 1860, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Republicans of…

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Shipbuilding at Gildersleeve Ship Construction Co., Portland

The Gildersleeve Shipbuilding Legacy in Portland

The town of Portland has a rich history of shipbuilding….

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Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stratton

Charles Stratton and Lavinia Warren Wed – Today in History: February 10

He was rich, handsome and famous, she was considered a great beauty and their wedding was front page news around the nation.

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Sam Colt

Sam Colt’s Funeral: The Day Hartford Stopped

The funeral of America’s first great munitions maker was spectacular—certainly the most spectacular ever seen in the state’s capital city.

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The Smith Sisters and Their Cows Strike a Blow for Equal Rights – Today in History: January 8

Abigail and Julia Smith of Glastonbury (along with Isabella Beecher Hooker) fought for a woman’s right to speak at town meetings and have a say in government.

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Can Opener, E. J. Warner, patented January 5, 1858

The First US Can Opener – Today in History: January 5

On January 5, 1858, Waterbury native Ezra J. Warner invented…

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Pierre Lallement and the Modern-Day Pedal Bicycle – Today in History: November 20

On November 20, 1866, mechanic Pierre Lallement, a temporary resident of New Haven, Connecticut, received a patent for an improvement in velocipedes.

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“’No Taxation without Representation’: Black Voting in Connecticut

In 1870, Connecticut ratified the 15th Amendment, but poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and other means of disenfranchising African Americans remained in place.

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A Baltic Mill Helps Found a New Town

The Baltic Mill was once the largest cotton mill in the United States and led to the founding of the town of Sprague.

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The Influence of Woman, Harper's Weekly, 1862

Bridgeport Women Answer the Call – Today in History: April 15

On April 15, 1861, the women of Bridgeport created the…

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Searching for the Common Good, 1819-1865

During the early 19th century, the General Assembly was slow to deal with rising crime, poverty and the other social costs of a rapidly changing society.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Making Self-Government Work, 1819-1865

In the mid-19th century, Connecticut looked toward changing its electoral processes as well as its civil rights record.

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Celebrating Civil War Men and Women – Today in History: April 9

Today marks the anniversary of not only one, but two…

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Portrait detail of Frederick Douglass

“An Admirable Portrait” of Frederick Douglass

Hartford photographer Stephen H. Waite capitalized on the public’s interest in the great abolitionist.

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Hills "Archimedean" Lawn-Mower

Reel Lawn Mower Patent – Today in History: January 28

On January 28, 1868, Amariah Hills of Hockanum, Connecticut, received…

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Freedom to the Slave

From the State Historian: Connecticut’s Slow Steps Toward Emancipation

Slavery remained in the Land of Steady Habits until 1848, and it was not quick to advance suffrage for African Americans, either.

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Connecticut’s Chickamauga Tree: An Investigation

The Connecticut State Capitol displays part of a tree with a cannonball lodged in it. While it is believed to be a remnant of the battle at Chickamauga Creek during the Civil War, evidence exists suggesting the artifact may have been fabricated for the purpose of commercial sale.

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Plan of USS monitor, 1862

Cornelius Bushnell and His Ironclad Ship

Cornelius Scranton Bushnell was a 19th-century Connecticut businessman and shipbuilder…

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Muster of Civil War troops, Main Street, New Britain, May 11, 1861

The Civil War Commences: Connecticut’s Involvement in the Civil War

Diaries, letters, and other documents provide firsthand witness to the sacrifices of Connecticut men and women during the years of bloody conflict.

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Anna E. Dickinson

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson at Touro Hall – Today in History: March 24

On March 24, 1863, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, a 20-year-old Quaker…

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Cover of a patriotic song dedicated to Lincoln's secretary of the navy Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles, US Secretary of the Navy and Lincoln’s “Neptune”

“He was a man of no decorations; … but he understood his duty and he did it efficiently, continually and unwaveringly,” said a contemporary of this Glastonbury-born leader.

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The boiler that fed the machinery at the Fales & Gray Car Works in Hartford exploded

Fales & Gray Explosion – Today in History: March 2

On March 2, 1854, a steam boiler explosion rocked the…

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Effect of Confederate shot on the USS Galena, 1862

Mystic-built USS Galena Part of Plan to Strengthen Union Navy

This 950-ton, steam-propelled gunboat took fire from critics and Confederates during the Civil War.

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Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stratton

Charles Stratton and Lavinia Warren Wed – Today in History: February 10

He was rich, handsome and famous, she was considered a great beauty and their wedding was front page news around the nation.

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Detail from a map of Hayt

Ebenezer Bassett’s Historic Journey

This educator, activist, and associate of Frederick Douglass served the US as its first African American ambassador.

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Armory Fire

Colt Armory Burns – Today in History: February 4

On February 4, 1864, most of Colt’s East Armory burned…

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Hazard Powder Company gunpowder barrel

One-Legged Stools – Who Knew?

. . . that Hazard Powder Company employees sat on…

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Sam Colt

Sam Colt’s Funeral: The Day Hartford Stopped

The funeral of America’s first great munitions maker was spectacular—certainly the most spectacular ever seen in the state’s capital city.

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Can Opener, E. J. Warner, patented January 5, 1858

The First US Can Opener – Today in History: January 5

On January 5, 1858, Waterbury native Ezra J. Warner invented…

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The Great Remedy. Hand-colored lithograph by E.B. & E.C. Kellogg

The Great Remedy: Picturing the Emancipation Proclamation

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, declaring more than three million African Americans in those states in rebellion against the United States to be forever free.

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Receiving end of the first successful pipe-line built in 1865

William Hawkins Abbott Finds the Energy to Power the Northeast

William Hawkins Abbott was a 19th-century pioneer in the energy…

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Detail view of the 29th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

29th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers Fought More than One War

The state’s first African American regiment of the Civil War distinguished itself by battling Confederate forces and 19th-century prejudices.

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Borden's Evaporated Milk Crate Label

Evaporated Milk’s Connecticut Connection – Who Knew?

…that in 1856 businessman Gail Borden Jr. opened the first…

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Remembering Civil War Prisoners of War

Outside the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford stands a monument to the Connecticut prisoners retained at the Andersonville Prison during the Civil War.

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General Nathaniel Lyon

From the State Historian: The Final Journey of Nathaniel Lyon

The first Union general to die in the Civil War, this soldier from Eastford received national attention as mourners from Missouri to Connecticut gathered to pay tribute.

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The southeast block of West Street, Litchfield as it looked in the Civil War era, 1867

The Peace Movement in Litchfield

Connecticut saw no combat on its soil during the Civil War. Yet, the conflict left its mark on the state in ways that historians are still sorting out. This account details the war’s impact on two Connecticut towns.

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Machine for Paring Cocoa Nut Meats

North Branford Vied for the Title of “Shredded Coconut Capital of the World” – Who Knew?

…that patents granted to North Branford residents included one for…

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Dr. Sheffield's creme dentifrice box

Aristocratic Dental Cream Gets Squeezed

Dr. Washington Wentworth Sheffield was born in North Stonington, Connecticut….

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Billings & Spencer Company

Christopher Miner Spencer, 19th-century Arms Manufacturer

A well-known American inventor in his day, this Manchester native obtained 42 patents during his lifetime and created the first successful breech-loading repeating rifle.

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Connecticut’s War Governor, William A. Buckingham

Connecticut governor William Buckingham made significant contributions to the state’s war effort, sometimes even covering war expenses out of his own pocket. His bronze statue at the Connecticut State Capitol honors the selfless manner in which he guided the state through the Civil War.

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The boiler that fed the machinery at the Fales & Gray Car Works in Hartford exploded

Today in History – Fales & Gray Explosion Underscores Need for a Hartford Hospital

At 2 pm on March 2, 1854, the power of…

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Hotchkiss & Sons Artillery Projectiles

Connecticut Arms the Union

Colt, Sharps, and other gun-makers weren’t the only Nutmeg-based firms that supplied armaments during the Civil War. Makers of kitchen utensils, sewing machines, textiles, and other goods re-geared production lines to meet demand.

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Soldiers with cannons, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery

The Complicated Realities of Connecticut and the Civil War

Citizens’ dedication on the battlefield and home front did not always signal agreement on key issues of the day.

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Image of Soldiers Memorial, Company B, 29th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers

Connecticut’s Black Civil War Regiment

“If you win freedom and citizenship, we shall share your freedom and citizenship.” With these words, abolitionist Frederick Douglass reminded African American soldiers from Connecticut that they fought for the hopes of many.

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German American workers from the buff room

Late 19th-Century Immigration in Connecticut

Immigration to Connecticut in the second half of the 19th…

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Map of the Town of New Britain, Hartford County, Conn. From original surveys by E.M. Woodford

“A Noble and Precious Life”: Edgar M. Woodford, Civil Engineer, Abolitionist, and Soldier

This Avon-born man not only put his talents on the map, literally, he also went west to secure Kansas as a free state.

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Hazardville Powder Company

Powder Hollow in Hazardville – Who Knew?

…that 40% of all the gunpowder consumed in the Civil…

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Norwich Arms barrel room

Norwich’s “Volcanic” Past

With its year-round availability of water power, its location at…

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Little Sorrel

Little Sorrel, Connecticut’s Confederate War Horse

A foal born on a farm owned by Noah C….

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New Haven: What Was Everyday Life Like During the Civil War?

Questions? We get a lot of them and some of…

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Civil War Monuments and Memorials in and Around the State Capitol

During the fall 2013 semester at Central Connecticut State University…

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Hall of Flags: Memorial to Connecticut’s Civil War Colors

Battle flags played an important strategic and ceremonial role in Civil War battles. The preservation of Connecticut’s Civil War colors has been a long, delicate, and expensive process.

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Pomp and Circumstance: Civil War Commemoration

The completion of the Forlorn Soldier did not meet with the pomp and circumstance of many other CIvil War commemorations, despite its media coverage and an overflowing sense of nationalism among the general public.

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Stanley Works for New Britain

In 1843, Frederick Stanley founded a small shop in New…

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Gideon Welles’s Role in Lincoln’s Cabinet

Earning the trust of Abraham Lincoln, despite reservations from many in Lincoln’s cabinet, Gideon Welles navigated the Union navy through the Civil War. He did this largely through expanding the navy and investing in new technology, such as ironclad ships.

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The Excelsior Needle Company

Thread Your Needle – Today in History: March 2

On March 2, 1866, the Excelsior Needle Company of Wolcottville…

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Colt workers in front of the Armory, 1876

Workers at the Colt Armory, Hartford 1867

Colt Firearms has been one of the most prominent industries…

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John Frederick Kensett, Twilight in the Cedars at Darien, Connecticut

John Frederick Kensett Illuminates the 19th-Century Landscape

John Frederick Kensett was a landscape painter who is now…

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Honor and Duty: The Life of Alfred Howe Terry

Born in New Haven, Alfred Howe Terry studied law before heroically capturing Fort Fisher during the Civil War. He earned the thanks of Congress for this victory before maintaining peace between whites and Native Americans in the Dakotas.

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The 29th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Flag and Display

Regimental flags played important symbolic and strategic roles in battle. The State of Connecticut maintains a collection of 110 such flags from the Civil War, among them, the flag of the 29th (Colored) Volunteer Infantry.

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J.O. Davidson, Battle of Port Hudson

Connecticut’s Naval Contributions to the Civil War

From makers of gun boats to bakers of ship biscuits, companies across the Nutmeg state helped keep the Union navy afloat while sea-savvy leaders and sailors from the state kept it in fighting form.

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Nathaniel Lyon. Lithograph by E.B. & E.C. Kellogg

Nathaniel Lyon: Colorful Commander from Connecticut

The military exploits of this passionate abolitionist include an attack on pro-secessionist forces that may have assured Missouri remained part of the Union.

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General Joseph R. Hawley

General Joseph R. Hawley Helps Commemorate Connecticut’s Civil War Soldiers

“Let monuments be raised in every town, let songs be sung and orations delivered,” urged this state politician and skilled speechmaker.

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Corpse preserver

Death and Mourning in the Civil War Era

The Civil War transformed traditional practices of death and mourning in Victorian-era Connecticut.

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