In 1861, Fort Sumter was lost to the Confederates on April 14, Joseph Mansfield was promoted to brigadier general, in charge of the defenses of Washington by President Lincoln on May 14, Union troops were badly defeated at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, and ordinary citizens volunteered to fight to save the Union.
Company G of the 14th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry will bring that calamitous year to life with an encampment in the backyard of General Mansfield’s home on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The day will feature demonstrations of camp life including drilling and firearms demonstrations, cooking, and other skills that kept the soldiers ready for combat. Participants will be able to interact with the reenactors some of whom appeared in the films, “Glory,” “Gettysburg,” and “Gods and Generals.” Members of Company G also travel to Gettysburg twice a year to help maintain monuments to the 14th Connecticut erected there.
The day’s events will also feature the music of the Civil War era at 11 a.m. performed by Connecticut’s first Official State Troubadour, Tom Callinan. Tom has developed a program of diverse songs entitled “Brother Against Brother,” drawing from songs from the Union, the Confederacy, abolitionists, and slaves, as well as original and other contemporary songs about the nation’s turmoil on and off the battlefield.
His repertoire ranges from “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” and “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” to “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” Tom performed at the dedication of the monument to Connecticut’s 29th Colored Volunteer Infantry in the Fair Haven section of New Haven and at the dedication of the monument to Connecticut’s 9th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, “The Irish Regiment,” at Vicksburg.
At 1 p.m., Dean Nelson will present his program, “Connecticut Yankees: Likenesses from the Rebellion.” Dean is the administrator for the Museum of Connecticut History in the State Library in Hartford and is now curating an exhibit titled, “Connecticut for the Union” with a vast array of Connecticut materials drawn from major public and private collections.
His presentation will feature many images drawn from this exhibit and in his words, “tons of the best Connecticut Civil War pictures and accompanying Connecticut sound bytes.” Dean has been a Civil War enthusiast starting from his childhood addiction to the TV show, “The Blue and the Grey” and avid collection of Marx Civil War play sets. He is an expert on Connecticut’s Civil War arms demonstrated in his article, “Connecticut Arms the Union,” appearing in the Spring, 2011 issue of Connecticut Explored.
Admission for this event is $5, with children under 12 free. In the event of heavy rain, the encampment will be cancelled, but the music portion and talk will be held. The Mansfield House, the headquarters of the Middlesex County Historical Society, is located at 151 Main St., Middletown and is handicapped accessible. The society’s exhibits, “Hard & Stirring Times: Middletown and the Civil War and Within These Walls: One House, One Family, Two Centuries” will be available for viewing. For further information call the society at 860-346-0746.