This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861 to 1865), also known as the "War Between the States". It turned out to be the costliest war ever fought on American soil. Approximately 620,000 men died while millions more were injured. Experts believe the seeds of war were planted decades before as politicians argued over states rights (powers reserved for state government versus federal), westward expansion and slavery.
Abraham Lincoln was elected President on November 6, 1860. He was anti-slavery. Slavery was considered incremental to the Southern economy. As a result of Lincoln's election and stand on slavery, South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Within two months, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas followed suit. On February 9, 1861, Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former US Army officer, formed the Confederate States of America and was elected its President. Then on April 12, 1861, Confederate Commander Pierre Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, with 50 ship cannons. This is considered to be the beginning of the American Civil War.
Locally, just as across the rest of the country, there were sympathizers for both sides. Those Democrats who sided with the South (Confederacy) were called "Copperheads". They were called anti-war and Peace Democrats. Those Republicans who favored abolition were termed "Black Republicans" or "Radicals". They wanted black equality, and urged Lincoln to allow recruitment of black soldiers. Democrats who favored the end of slavery (abolition) were called "War Democrats". They wanted Abe Lincoln to be more aggressive in pusuing freedom for slaves. (Incidently, Greenwich had slaves until 1823.)
The first troops to travel south passed through Greenwich on long trains, which sometimes had bunting and the regiment number attached. After Abraham Lincoln put out the call for volunteers, the town offered a $100 enlistment bounty. This was increased in 1863 to $300 as citizens began to tire of the war. Four-hundred-and-thirty-seven Greenwich volunteers served in 26 Connecticut Regiments. This was 7% of the population at the time. They fought in many major battles of the war: Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburgh, Petersbugh. Approximately sixty-nine Greenwich soldiers died. Eleven were killed in action (KIA) or were missing in action (MIA); fifty-eight died from disease; twenty-six were wounded; 44 were captured; and sixty-seven deserted.
Several Greenwich soldiers were part of the famed 10th Connecticut Regiment Infantry. These men distinguished themselves at the siege of Charleston and even blocked Robert E. Lee's retreat from Richmond. Another soldier, Nicolas Fox, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery at the battle of Fort Hudson, La. He risked his life to bring water to wounded soldiers in the front lines.
The Civil War tested the strength and conviction of our country to remain united. One of the greatest speeches (some consider it a prayer) was written during this time, and we know it as "The Gettysburgh Address". Our economic system and Southern culture was changed forever. Families were torn apart as brother fought brother.
After the end of the war, a monument was erected at the corner of North Maple Street and East Putnam Avenue - across from the Second Congregational Church - to honor those who fought in the Civil War. The names are familiar to many residents and include Mead, Lockwood, Reynolds, Heusted, Mills, Ferris, Peck and Scott. As with all the wars that this country has fought in, Greenwich has always answered the call. The Civil War was no exception.
SOURCES: The History of the Town of Greenwich. Mead, S.; Harbor Hill, NY; 1913.
Other Days in Greenwich. Hubbard, F.; Tapley, NY; 1913
Greenwich Grows Up. HSTG, 1990.