Reviews of Connecticut in the American Civil War


From the Bristol Press/New Britain Herald

Reprinted by permission.

Book examines Connecticut’s role in the Civil War

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
By Bryan Koenig
staff writer

NEW BRITAIN — The U.S. has been dealing with issues of severe and varied internal divisions for a long time.

April 12 will mark the 150th anniversary of when those divisions reached their most violent climax in the firing on the federally controlled Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, S.C., by confederate forces and the start of the Civil War.

Central Connecticut State University history professor Matthew Warshauer is hoping to shine a little more light on the subject through the eyes of Connecticut residents who experienced it firsthand, told with his newly released book, “Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice and Survival.”

Released at the beginning of March, “Connecticut” is the culmination of two years of research and writing. The book is dedicated to Warshauer’s six graduate students — Jim Brown, Gregg Cerosky, Kristin Duke, Jessica Jenkins, Mark Shafer and Mike Sturges — who took the time to comb through archives, journals and documents to piece together more than 200 pages of history.

“The goal of the book is to explain the story of the Civil War both nationally and more specifically in Connecticut. Each state has its own very distinct history as it relates to the Civil War,” Warshauer said. “We’re trying to tell the Connecticut story, but within the lens of the larger national story.”

The first major theme that runs through the book is race and slavery in Connecticut and the view of residents on abolition.

The second is the state’s internal political divisions for and against fighting the war, with major elements lobbying for peace with the Confederacy.

Another theme is sacrifice, both of the 47 percent of the state’s entire male population between 18 and 50 that went to war, as well as the women who made the herculean effort possible through collecting and shipping supplies of every stripe.

“The federal government when the war starts is completely incapable of sustaining a war of this magnitude,” Warshauer said.

The last theme is of survival, not on the battlefield but afterward, how soldiers and civilians alike dealt with the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history, with 620,000 American casualties between the north and south.

Despite its historical roots “Connecticut” is not about the past, Warshauer said.

Rather it’s about today. “There are lessons here that can be learned,” he said, lessons of the divisive nature of partisanship, the dangers of twisting the constitution and the eternal conflict between states rights and the federal government.

“Connecticut” was timed to come out not just for the anniversary of the Civil War but also for CCSU’s planned commemoration.

On April 12, cannons will ring out in Hartford’s Bushnell Park at 8 a.m. to remember the first in a long line of bloody battles, to be followed at noon with a kick-off lecture by Warshauer at the old state house.

From April 15 to 17 there will be a series of commemoration events including speeches, lectures, exhibits, demonstrations and several re-enactments.

The commemoration is a partnership between CCSU and other schools, including UConn  and Yale University.