Chapter 8

The Civil War Period

(1861 - 1865)

      The outbreak of the Civil War and the President's call for volunteers in the spring of 1861 met with a prompt response from Second Company. Governor Buckingham was urged to put it in a position to serve outside the state, but its charter restrictions made it impossible for him to grant the request. Accordingly a "War Company" was formed, of which some 20 of the Guard, who signed the articles of enlistment on August 29, formed the nucleus. Others joined later and the Company was brought up to required strength by enlistments from outside secured by the energetic recruiting of the Guard. On September 9th Major Russell W. Norton administered the oath to 52 volunteers and the next day Henry G. Gerrish was elected Captain. Permission for the war company to bear the name of the parent organization was refused and it went out as Company K, 6th Connecticut Volunteers. Numbering 88 officers and men it left for the front on October 22, 1861 and from that time until it was mustered out on August 21, 1865 it took part in 26 battles and skirmishes and sustained a loss of 13 dead, and 11 wounded. Numbered among the dead was Captain Gerrish.

      At home, throughout the conflict, Second Company added to its ranks, purchased equipment, and drilled regularly thus keeping in shape in case the Company was called for duty. Because of this there were few social activities.

In December, 1862, in pursuance of an order of the Governor the Company "paraded with muskets for exercise, inspection and drill on the vacant lot corner of Franklin and Grand Streets and in the afternoon, on the Green, the arms were inspected by Captain Corliss of the 5th Connecticut Volunteers who reported them in good condition and highly creditable to the Company. At noon, the Guards were joined by the Wallingford Brass Band, 14 pieces. A result of this parade was that for the third time in its history the Company acquired a band of its own. The previous band, in 1844, had merged with the New Haven Brass Band and since that time the Company had hired musicians for special occasions. At the conclusion of the exercises on the Green the Company assembled at its armory and voted the Wallingford group into membership as the Second Company Governor's Foot Guard Band. Apparently the organization did not hold together long for in less than two years the Company was again hiring musicians.

      News of Captain Gerrish's death had been announced to the Company on September 4, 1862 and the flag on its armory was ordered at half mast. It was not until the last day of February 1863 that the body reached New Haven. On March 2nd the Company went to East Haven to take part in burial ceremonies. Acting as escort at funerals was a frequent melancholy duty of the Guard during the war period. In June 1863 it turned out for the funeral of Admiral Andrew Foote. The ceremonies, as described in the JOURNAL COURIER were probably the most elaborate of the kind the city had ever seen. After having been viewed by many as it lay in the State House, the body was taken to Center Church. At the conclusion, while bells tolled and minute guns were fired, a procession was formed which included State and City officials, the military organizations of New Haven, Hartford, New London and Norwich, cadets from the Naval Academy, a Marine band, soldiers from nearby hospitals and numerous citizens. It paraded through the principal streets of the city to Grove Street Cemetery, where the burial took place.

      On January 20, 1864, Second Company paraded in honor of the 6th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, who returned from the war, and the following day Second Company welcomed the 7th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers. In both cases the returning soldiers were escorted to Music Hall where a feast had been prepared for them.

      In 1864 there was considerable discussion as to whether the Guard should wear blue or scarlet coats. On April 5 a majority voted to adopt the blue, but those who were opposed did not let the matter rest. Governor Buckingham was consulted and expressed himself in favor of the scarlet. Major Hiram Camp offered to give the Company $500, and former Major Franklin Fish promised $100, if that color was adopted. As a result of that pressure, on June 7, the former vote was rescinded and a motion passed "to adopt the scarlet coat in Continental style."

      For a considerable number of years following the Civil War the activities of the Guard were largely routine. The spring and fall parades were held, with target practice following the latter. A rifle team was formed, which competed with similar organizations. Escort was furnished the Governor's on inauguration days in Hartford, and in New Haven as long as it remained a capitol of the state, and the Company turned out on other public occasions at which its presence was appropriate. Social activities, interrupted by the war, were resumed.

Chapter 9