September 25: A Civil War “Dictator” Is Installed at the State Capitol

  The Siege of Petersburg was one of the most significant military campaigns of the final year of the Civil War. From June 1864 to March 1865, Union troops continuously besieged and harassed the Confederate railroad hub city of Petersburg, Virginia and surrounding environs. The goal of the lengthy siege was to deplete the Confederate…

September 17: The Nation’s First Triumphal Arch

  On September 17, 1886 — the 24th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam — thousands of spectators and Civil War veterans gathered in Hartford to partake in the dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Bushnell Park. Hartford’s Memorial Arch was the first permanent triumphal arch memorial in the United States –…

September 13: The Highest-Ranking Union Officer Killed in the Civil War

  One of Connecticut’s most important Civil War figures, Major General John Sedgwick, was born in Cornwall today in 1813. After attending prestigious academies in Sharon and Cheshire, Sedgwick attended West Point and graduated in the Class of 1837 with several other future generals who served on both sides of the Civil War. These included…

August 18: Connecticut Man with a Rifle Enters Lincoln’s Office

  It would be easy to hold up Connecticut inventor Christopher Miner Spencer as an archetype of 19th century Yankee ingenuity: Not only was he a man who spent his whole life tinkering with machinery, filing patents, and aggressively marketing his creations, but as with so many other Connecticut inventors, his innovations changed the course…

August 10: The First Union General to Die in the Civil War

  Today in 1861, Eastford’s Nathaniel Lyon – a little-known figure the day before – instantly became one of the most celebrated figures in the United States when he was shot in the chest at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, making him the first Union General to die in the Civil War. Lyon’s death came as the…

June 8: The Man Whose Songs the Soldiers Sang Dies in Hartford

  Henry Clay Work, one of the most popular songwriters of the Civil War era, died today in 1884 at age 51, while in Hartford visiting his mother. Work, who composed such still-sung songs as “Marching Through Georgia” and “Kingdom Coming” (you know the tune), was born in Middletown in 1832 into an activist family…

May 9: The Rural Roots of the Controversial Abolitionist John Brown.

  Today in 1800, the abolitionist John Brown was born in a humble saltbox house on a farm in Torrington, Connecticut. One of the most controversial figures in United States antebellum history, Brown was, and still is, a polarizing figure. Some see him as a social justice visionary, prepared to do whatever was needed to…

April 25: Oliver Winchester Aims for Success in The Rifle Industry.

  In early 1857, businessman Oliver Winchester bought controlling interest in a struggling Connecticut firearms company from two inventors named Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson. With access to machine tools, raw materials, and a number of valuable patents — especially rights to the Henry Repeating Rifle, the world’s first multiple-round-firing longarm — Winchester formed the…

April 16: Frederick Douglass & Social Media in Hartford, 1864

  Carte-de-visite photographs were the hot social media of the mid-nineteenth century. These small portrait photographs, mounted on cards, were some of the first such images to be commercially reproduced, and they created a craze for collectible photographs. People collected carte-de-visite portraits of family, friends and celebrities and then mounted them in photograph albums. Celebrity…