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 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 was a man who spent his whole life tinkering with machinery, filing patents, aggressively marketing his creations, but like so many other Connecticut inventors, his innovations changed the course of…

June 24: Born to Fame, and Scandal — Celebrity Minister Henry Ward Beecher

  Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most famous and influential — but also controversial — preachers and orators of 19th-century America, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, today in 1813. Henry was one of several literary giants of the extended Beecher family: his father Lyman was also a notable preacher; his sister Harriet found international…

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: A Man Named Winchester Targets The Rifle Industry.

Oliver Fisher Winchester (1810 – 1880)In early 1857, businessman Oliver Winchester bought controlling interest in a struggling Connecticut firearms company from two inventors by the name of 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…

April 1: Litchfield-born Author’s Newspaper Story Takes America By Storm

  On this day in 1852, the final installment of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in The National Era, a weekly abolitionist newspaper. Stowe originally envisioned her story, written in the popular sentimental and melodramatic style of her day, as a brief tale that would “paint a word picture of…

March 17: Connecticut’s Forgotten Civil War Hero, Statesman, and Patriot.

  A Civil War general who served in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Siege of Petersburg, and other notable campaigns, Connecticut’s Joseph R. Hawley was, during his lifetime, one of Connecticut’s most distinguished and celebrated citizens. A graduate of Hamilton College in New York, Hawley had a gift for both writing and public…

March 5: Candidate Abraham Lincoln “Wakes Up” Hartford

  Today in 1860, sectional tensions over slavery and its expansion into the country’s newly formed states and territories was nearing the breaking point. It was a crucial election year, and members of the nation’s political parties were actively trying to decide who would be their standard bearers in the upcoming presidential campaign. For the…