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Windham County Connecticut
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"Windham’s Bi-Centennial 1692-1892; A Memorial Volume of the Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Town of Windham, Connecticut, containing the historical addresses, poems, and a description of events connected with the observance of the two hundreth anniversary of the incorporation of the town, as held in the year 1892." Published by the Committee, Hartford, CT, 1893

Windham’s Second Century ­ Windham in War

The war of 1812 was unpopular in Windham as among Federalists generally throughout the north, but quite a number of young Windhamites enlisted nevertheless, attracted by love of adventure and good pay.
Windham sailors had been impressed into British service. That sturdy little coasting frog, “The Windham,” had been seized and confiscated, and these incidents gave the town a special interest in the struggle. Yet the Federalist influence was so strong that comparatively few enlisted at the beginning of the war. A number of young fellows from the Center and from Scotland Parish saw a week’s delightful service in “guarding” New London Harbor, but they saw no fighting. Windham was well represented in the regular army, however, at the time this war broke out, by Major Charles Larrabee, Capt. Adam Larrabee and Col. Staniford. Of the last named I can learn but little, save that
he was a young and popular officer. Major Charles Larrabee was a Windham boy, but had been on the western frontier for a number of years. He served under Gen. Harrison, whom he well knew, and he also had personal association with Gen. Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Capt. Adam Larrabee was a grandson of Timothy Larrabee, of whom we have already heard. He was born and reared in Ledyard, was educated at West Point, and entered the regular army. At the battle of French Mills, near Plattsburg, on the northern frontier under General Wilkinson, his captain was disabled, and young Larrabee was placed in command, but was soon severely wounded, shot through the lung. He was carried from the field as fatally shot, but he rallied. The physician who examined him said, “Well, Larrabee, you’re a queerly made fellow. If your heart were where it ought to be, you’d be dead by this time.” “My heart, doctor,” promptly explained the gallant young officer with a significant twinkle in his eye, “I left at home in Ledyard.” He was taken to the home of the late Reuben H. Walworth (afterwards States Chancellor) at Saratoga and while recuperating there formed a lifelong friendship with the distinguished New Yorker. At the close of the war, young Larrabee, who inherited strong affection for home and family, made up his mind that the army was no place for him, so he threw up the captain’s commission which he had earned by brave service, returned home and claimed the hand of her who had his heart in keeping (Hannah G. Lester) and settled down to farming in old Ledyard, where for forty years his farm was the model of thrift and intelligent agriculture. In later life he removed to Windham, and many now living recall him. His sons, Charles and Henry, are well known residents of Windham.
I do not learn that Windham was especially interested in the Mexican war, but our late distinguished citizen, Col. Rufus L. Baker, was chief
of ordinance during that struggle, though not a resident of Windham until after that date. His son Chas. L. Baker, who lived here, was later
connected with the regular army.
Oh, those days of ’61! How little we to whom they are history, or but the dimmest memory, can realize what they meant to you who were in and of them! Windham was alive at the outset to the country'’ needs. From the fall of Sumter she took keen interest in the struggle and gave
freely of her blood and her substance for the union. Lester E. Braley was the first to enlist, joining the first company of Connecticut
Volunteers, and he afterwards helped to raise and become captain of the “Lyon Guards”, (Co. G. 12th C.V.).
Other well-known Windham boys who went to the front were Chas. D. Bowen, (Capt. Co. H. 18th C.V.) Francis S. Long, first lieutenant, and
captain of Co.D. 21st C.V., who fell at Petersburg in ’64, the gallant officer for whom our local G.A.R. Post is named. At the time he was
killed he was in command of the Brigade sharpshooters.
Henry E. Taintor, now of Hartford, was second lieutenant Co. H. 18th C.V.; Wm. H. Locke, Sergeant and second lieutenant 18th C.V.; the
patriotic Ripley brothers, four of them in the service, of whom Eleazer H. became captain Co. D. 8th C.V., came back with an empty sleeve and is now in the civil service at Washington; Andrew Loomis, lieutenant Co. H. second C.V.; all of whom went out from Willimantic. Samuel J. Miller went to Virginia and enlisted there. Joel R. Arnold received commission as lieutenant and aide on the colonel’s staff of 165th N.Y. Lieutenant Chas. Wood, a popular Willimantic boy, was killed at Petersburg in ’64. Dr. Lathrop of Windham gave his life for the boys in the hospital and was brought to the historic old Windham cemetery. On his shaft erected by the 8th C.V., are the worlds, “Faithful Unto Death.”
In all, 304 enlisted from Windham during the war in twenty-two different regiments, of whom fourteen were killed, twenty-five died,
thirty-nine were wounded and thirty-two, alas, deserted. Benajah E. Smith, now worthy state commander, enlisted from Windsor in 1862, and
Captain Charles Fenton, now of General Alger’s staff, and Captain Jerome B. Baldwin, went out from Mansfield.
John Bolles, the veteran letter carrier, whose stirring drum beats have inspired many a loyal heart, went out from old Ashford, and James
Haggerty of the present Court of Burgesses, was one of the youngest, if not actually the youngest, to enlist from Connecticut. He went out from Willimantic in Co. H, 18th C.V., Jan. 5, 1863, being then fourteen years, one month and eleven days old.
Many things happened to bring the people of Windham into close touch with the war. Troops passed through here frequently by rail, and the
battalions of General Burnside and Governor Sprague of Rhode island aroused special interest. General Wool, one of the veterans of the
Mexican campaign, also passed through here.
But the event which brought the realization of the war to Windham County and all her towns was the death and funeral of our own beloved
General Nathaniel Lyon, who fell in that gallant charge at Wilson’s Creek, Aug. 10th, 1861, at the very outset of the struggle. The body was
brought to his old home in Eastford, and with its distinguished escort, and greeted with signs of sincere popular mourning in its long journey
from Missouri, reached Willimantic on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 4th, by special train. Thousands of people had come together from miles around, the procession was formed and moved to the outskirts, where carriages were in waiting. Samuel J. Miller and John Henney tolled the Methodist bell as the solemn train moved to the north.
The next day came the funeral at Eastford, business was generally suspended, and Willimantic, like all the surrounding towns, was fairly
deserted, so many attended. It was a deeply impressive occasion, and aroused a profoundly patriotic spirit throughout the whole region.
I well remember the closing days of the war. First came the joyous news of the fall of Richmond, when bells rang and cannons boomed. Young and old displayed the national colors. My own special delight was in a tiny flag worn proudly in the hat or carried running in the breeze—we little folks had them, we knew not really why, but we knew and felt that some great joy was at hand.
Then came the sudden plunging into deepest grief, our little flags were trimmed with crepe, and the church bells tolled, and solemn
services were held, men and women wept like children. The great grief hangs even now like a heavy pall over my childhood’s memory, though I knew not what it meant. They said the President was dead, shot by the hand of a traitor, a martyr to the cause of liberty and the Union.
I remember, too, when the “boys in blue” came marching home—boys in faded blue, with garments war-worn, flags tattered and faces haggard. I can see them now, as though it were but yesterday, standing there on Union Street, in front of the Baptist Church, where we children attended lovely Rose Dimock’s private school in the vestry, and though the spectacle was to our childish minds simply one of awe and wonder, we felt that somehow those men had suffered. Another memory, quite as vivid, is that some of the soldiers in mock menace “charged bayonets” upon our ranks, and we fled in terror to the protection of “teacher.”

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