1883 Reunion at Fairfield
17TH REGIMENT C.V.I.,
AUGUST 28TH, 1883.
THE STANDARD ASSOCIATION, PRINTERS.
SEVENTEENTH CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEER ASSOCIATION
RECEPTION BY THE TOWN OF FAIRFIELD
TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 1883.
President of the Day Mr. Samuel Glover
Marshal Major John B. Morehouse
ORDER OF EXERCISES
Command form at Depot,
March to Town Hall,
Word of Welcome,
9:30 A. M.
Mr. William B. Glover.
Until 12 M.
By the Citizens.
Address, “The Battle Story,”
Song, “Marching through Georgia,”
Wheeler & Wilson Band.
Phineas C. Lounsbury.
Mr. William A. Beers.
Rev. James K. Lombard.
Wheeler & Wilson Band.
Rev. G. S. Burroughs.
Mr. John H. Glover.
Wheeler & Wilson Band.
Mr. Frank L. Rogers.
By “The Boys.”
Comrades re-form and march to the Depot at 4:30 P.M.
SEVENTEENTH ANNUAL RE-UNION
The Seventeenth Annual re-union of the Seventeenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Association was held at Fairfield, August 28, 1883.
The comrades met at the depot upon the arrival of the morning trains. Line was formed at 9:30 A. M., when preceded by the Wheeler & Wilson Band, under a mounted escort of the Citizen’s Committee of Fairfield, the Association marched through the principal streets to the Town Hall, where an eloquent speech of welcome was made by the Hon. William B. Glover, Representative of the Town, and Judge of the Probate Court. Many of the residences and buildings along the line of march were beautifully decorated with flags and mottoes of welcome
ADDRESS OF WELCOME
Judge Glover said:
SURVIVORS OF THE SEVENTEENTH:–It becomes, to-day, my pleasant task and duty in behalf of the Town of Fairfield and its citizens, to welcome you to our village.
In friendly greeting, in token of our honor, appreciation and esteem, we extend to you the right hand and warm grasp of brotherhood and affection. In foreign countries there is an ancient custom of presenting to guests, whom it is desired to especially honor, the freedom of the cities which they favor with their presence. With us this is unnecessary; our guess already possess that freedom in as full and ample a degree as is possible, yet, in token of all that the custom implies, let us to-day in spirit offer each one of you the freedom of old Fairfield, and although not inscribed in letters of gilt on lasting parchment nor encased in jewelled box of royal gold, yet let the heartfelt honor, the esteem and the unalloyed good-will of the givers atone in spirit for that which it lacks in outward and costly magnificence.
That you have this year selected our town as the place of your re-union gives us pleasure. We were glad to see you when in ’62 you paid us frequent visits. We are glad to see you when you come again in ’83, to revive old memories.
When, in recollection, our minds go back to the times of twenty years and more ago, when the dark cloud of civil war and fraternal strife hung in pall like blackness over our fair land, to those times when strong men trembled and grew sick at heart, when all were troubled and feared the dire disaster the next day might bring forth; when we go back to those days and recollect what feelings of relief and fair hopes were aroused in patriotic hearts when you, at your country’s call, cast aside your occupations of peace and with strong and martial tread, went out to meet our threatening foes, and, if need be, to offer your heart’s blood a sacrifice upon the altar of your country’s safety. I say, that when our minds go back to those days, it indeed seems that all that we can now do is incommensurate and paltry compared with what we owe you. And when we remember, after you had left us, the joy with which the news of your success was received, and how returning, you brought back to us a peaceful and re-united country which to-day in peace and that strength born of national union and liberty, holds its head in conscious dignity among the strongest and proudest nations of the earth; then I say that our acts sink into insignificance, and we are well nigh ashamed of the poor reception we are able to give you, yet, if we can by our acts today show that we appreciate, and that it is our desire to repay, if such were even in a slight measure possible, the incalculable debt of eternal gratitude which we owe to you, our country’s defenders, we shall consider that the day has been well spent and our efforts amply rewarded.
Occasions, such as these, must be productive of much good. I believe that those men err who say “The war is over, our country re-united and as our object now should be to sink in oblivion all thoughts of the past strife between North and South, therefore Re-Unions, Memorial Days, and others which keep green these memories serve only a mischievous purpose.”
I believe, I say, that those men err, and while we must all be convinced that in their premises they are partly right yet their conclusion is wholly wrong; from my own observation of veterans of both North and South I am certain that among no other class of men will you find more or stronger friendship for the two sections of our country.
Nowhere are the bravery and soldierly qualities of our former foes more admired and respected, nor does there anywhere a stronger feeling of brotherhood with the South of to-day prevail than among the veteran soldiers of the North; among you who having the courage of your convictions went forth at the call of danger and bore the brunt of the battle; you who met them in the fight and who know that your countrymen of the South are made of as brave stuff as their fellows of the North; you who having fulfilled your duty at the time of your country’s need now with the magnanimity of true bravery are ready to clasp hands with foemen whom you found worthy of your steel, and as victors worthy of your victories, to forgive and forget past differences. No, men of the Seventeenth and fellow citizens, it is not among our veterans that you find ill feeling toward the south, or a desire by any act of theirs to fan the dying embers of sectional prejudice. Therefore, let us all to-day, remember that now there is no North, no South, but only one common and magnificent country, offering equal rights for all, and holding out the blessings of freedom to all mankind. Such being your spirit, none but good results can come from your meetings; by them memories of valiant deeds are kept alive; memories of deeds of bravery which the pen of no historian records, and which otherwise would be forgotten; from them the youth of our country receive lessons in devoted patriotism which nowhere else they could obtain, and by them are taught the price and awful cost of preserving to them and their children the magnificent heritage which they have to-day, and knowing this they learn to prize it higher, and, if the necessity ever again occurs (and God grant that it may not,) will be prepared to emulate the illustrious and valiant deeds of their fathers.
Let us not either in honoring the living forget the dead heroes of the regiment, the soldierly Walter, the noble Fowler, beloved by all; the heroic Wilcoxson, the gallant Moore, the brave young Chatfield, the story of whose valor and bravery in the very face of death, thrills the heart of every hearer with feelings of honor and reverence for his unflinching courage and distinguished gallantry, as well as the long list of others who went forth with you never to return. Their memories should be cherished by us as immortal legacies in accepting, which, we take upon ourselves the duty of keeping ever green and fresh.
I mean to use but few words in conveying to you the welcome of our people, as I do not desire to keep you too long standing after your march this morning, and anxious as I know you are to proceed to your meting where you can freely exchange your greetings and recall your former days of comradeship. I, therefore, shall detain you no longer than to assure you that to-day all that our town has she offers freely and cheerfully to the heroes of the Seventeenth, and to express the hope that as your trials and hardships were great during the weary times of our trying war, so now may your lives be unalloyed by troubles and go down in a glorious sunset of honor made more bright and magnificent by the past clouds of suffering and war.
Men of the Seventeenth, we bid you welcome.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This address was responded to by Lieut.-Col. Henry Allen, at the request of Sergt. Selah G. Blakeman, the senior member of the Executive Committee, in command, Capt. James E. Dunham, the president, being absent on account of sickness.
RESPONSE OF LIEUT.-COL. ALLEN.
Mr. Glover:–I wish that some one more competent had been selected to fittingly respond to the very kindly words of welcome spoken by you in behalf of the citizens of Fairfield and vicinity. In reply I can truly say that the members of the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteer Association fully appreciate the honor of such a reception in a town so full of historical reminiscenses, not only in the war of years long ago, but also in the war of the Rebellion. We all remember that upon the organization of our Regiment, there came into camp Company K, which was mostly, if not entirely, composed of citizens of good Old Fairfield; and we also recall the fact that the Company mentioned was raised mainly through the efforts and patriotic munificence of one of your honored citizens who I am pleased to see is with us to-day-I allude to Mr. Samuel Glover. (Cheers). He also visited us after our arrival at “the front,” and our recollections are that he never came empty handed. (Cheers).
We also remember that it was in this town that a poor laboring man’s name was drawn from the box during a draft, and that one of your citizens, Mr. Mallory I think, stepped forward and said, “That man is poor and he has a family and can not go; I will go in his place,” and he did go. That is the kind of stuff of which Fairfield men are made, and we know it. (Cheers). With these pleasant recollections of the patriotism and generosity of your people in the past, we have every reason to anticipate a most delightful time among you to-day.
Again, sir, I thank you, leaving my comrades to personally express their thanks to your citizens during the day.
After which the organization proceeded to the Hall, where the business meeting was held-Comrade Blakeman in the chair.
The following letter from Capt. James E. Dunham, the President stating his inability owing to sickness to be present, was read and ordered on file.
Geneva, N. Y., August 24, 1883.
To the Officers and Members of the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteer Association, Fairfield, Conn.
Dear Comrades:–I regret sincerely, that continuous ill health and disability, prevents my being present with you at the Seventeenth Annual Re-union of our Association in the old town of Fairfield.
I remember very well, the earnestness and patriotism of the citizens of that old historic town when the call was issued for a Fairfield County Regiment, by our late revered Governor Buckingham. One of the first and most patriotic meetings for that purpose was held in the open air in Fairfield, and the citizens without distinction of party or sect went earnestly to work to raise a Company from their vicinity for the coming Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteers of Fairfield County. I was present at that meeting twenty-one years ago this summer, and I regret that I cannot be present and join with you and to thank them once more for their first and this their last effort in favor of our County Regiment. Nor was it alone at the organization of the Regiment that the citizens of Fairfield evinced their interest in our organization and its members; but, all through our long and varied service we had always their kind wishes and their good and beneficent acts fort the Regiment’s benefit.
I congratulate you on your meeting being held there this year, and I know that everything will be done on the part of the citizens to make your meeting pleasant and successful.
With a sincere and deeply regretful word for those of our number who have passed away since our last Annual “Re-union,” and many kind congratulations to you all, and to the citizens of Fairfield, and hoping that our next “Annual” will find our ranks unbroken and harmonious, and thanking you for the honor conferred on me as your President the past year, I remain with the kindest and most fraternal regard very truly,
Your comrade and friend,
James E. Dunham,
The report of the annual meeting of 1882, was read and approved.
The Treasurer’s report showing a balance on hand of $85.45, was read and approved.
The Secretary submitted a consolidated report, Historical Committees, different companies, as follows:
Bridgeport, Conn., August 28, 1883.
COMRADES OF THE SEVENTEENTH CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEER ASSOCIATION:–In accordance with a vote taken at our last annual re-union. I herewith submit for your consideration the following consolidated report from the Historical Committee of this Association:
Total number of comrades to be accounted for, 1153; of which number there are known to be dead, 250; leaving to be accounted for, 903; of which number the residence is known of 564; leaving to be still accounted for, 339 comrades. I think we should congratulate ourselves, this the first year in the success of our efforts in getting at the whereabouts of our members, and if the same interest is taken therein for the next two or three years, there is not doubt but we shall be able to account for every comrade, dead or alive.
In making their report to the Secretary, Company Committees have in cases where comrades have died, reported simply, dead. I am confident that for future reference and to be complete, it would be much better to have the date of death of each comrade recorded, and the place where he died, and I would recommend, that during the coming year, such information be obtained, as far as possible, by the Company Committee, and tr4ansmitted to the Secretary from time to time as obtained.
Geo. w. Keeler,
Report was accepted, recommendations adopted, and ordered on file.
At this point General William H. Noble stepped forward and in a very complimentary speech, presented George W. Keeler, the Secretary of the Association, in behalf of the Association, with a handsome gold badge.
In making the presentation to Secretary Keeler of the badge, Gen. Noble, to increase the surprise, began as if to arraign the Secretary for rudeness, and addressed the Association as follows:
“Mr. president and Comrades:–I regret to mar in any way the jovial greetings of our re-union, but it has become my painful duty to present grave and serious charges of unmilitary conduct against comrade and Secretary, George W. Keeler.
The charge is using language disrespectful to his superior officer.
Specification First. In this, that the said George W. Keeler did, while acting as scribe and registrar in the Adjutant’s office of the Regiment, pretend that he could not read, and therefore could not record, anything written by your Colonel, well-knowing the writing of his superior officer to be plain and legible.
Specification Second. In this, that said George W. Keeler did in said service, and since, say to, and in hearing of many members of the Regiment and others, that said Colonel wrote the worst hand extant.
Specification Third. In this, that the said George W. Keeler declared in the hearing of divers persons, that nobody could read Col. Noble’s hand writing unless equal to heathen Chinese, or able to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics; well knowing the injustice of said declarations, and that the same were unwarranted by the facts.
I deem it my duty, comrades, to place before you these charges, and to appeal to your knowledge of the very legible writing of your Colonel, and for your reproof of such injustice.
But, comrades, though smarting under such wrongs, I have in a mot Christian, loving, and forgiving spirit consented, in behalf of many friends of ur Secretary, who perhaps think he has some slight excuse for his language, to present for them to Secretary Keeler, this badge of gold and enamel, which I hold.
The donors mean by it, to express to you comrade Keeler, their high sense of the faithful duty done by you to the Regiment in its service, and to this Association of the Seventeenth Connecticut, since:
You read, comrade Keeler, and all of you, in this comely gift, a kind of epitome of our service from the Army of the Potomac to the Capes of Florida. I now place it on your breast Secretary Keeler as a testimonial forever to you and yours of our estimate of you, as a man and soldier, and as a memento of dangers faced in our service.
This scarlet crescent, tells you of that lovely little bright colored badge, worn in front of the caps of the Eleventh Corps, a staring mark for the long-distance rifles of the Confederate sharp-shooters. What such a badge was ever devised for, and so placed, passeth all understanding. It never made any difference with the Seventeenth either at Chancellorsville or Gettysburg, whether the enemy shot at this target, or at random.
Then this fort which depends below the crescent, the badge of our Southern service, tells of trials a good deal harder than the strain of fight in line of battle, or in the charge. It tells you, of the taughtened up self-command and endurance, when lying in the trenches of Wagner, with the air full of missiles, from the whizzing mine, to the round shot tumbling down upon us, or “the shell bursting in air,” and scattering death around. It tells you of the splinter-proofs broken down by the weight of heavy shot, and of your comrades killed and crushed beneath the wreck; of the unceasing fire, by night and by day, from Wagner, Sumpter, Moultrie and the James Island batteries; of your facing all this with no inspiration of attack, no busy load-and-fire, no cheers answering the rebel yell; in the chill of night, and the broiling sun by day, with the glare and whirl of the heated sands, in the drench of storms, and in chilly winds loaded with the ocean’s breath.
Keep this in sacred remembrance, comrade Keeler, of our service and of its donors. Tell over to your children, and to them for their children, the story of the teat conflict that lies behind this badge.”
Secretary Keeler was taken by surprise but feelingly replied as follows;
“Mr. president, Comrades and General Noble:–I accept this badge with pride. I am most grateful to its givers for this expression of their esteem. I shall cherish it as a sacred memento of that service some incidents of which Gen. Noble has so vividly put before you.
As in the past, so in the years to come, I hold myself ready to defend the flag, and to serve you.
Wishing you years of happiness, and many recurrences of these re-unions, I place upon my heart this badge of our service, the brilliant epitome of our life under arms.”
Secretary Keeler turning to Gen. Noble, said:
“As to your charges against me, I think I ought not to be very severely blamed for what I may have said about that handwriting, as you General have sometimes, to my knowledge, been unable to read it yourself..”
Gen. Noble in reply, good humoredly said:
“This turn of yours, Secretary Keeler, is only beaten by a story which our last President, Capt. Dunham, gets off. He and Major Brady, while the Regiment was at Fort Marshall, Baltimore, were anxious to get home to take a last look at their dear ones, before going to the bloody field. leaves of absence were very hard to get at that time; I saw no way to help them in their
longing, but to send them, as it were, on recruiting service. So I wrote out a request to General Wool for permission for Major Brady and Captain Dunham to go home on that business. Capt. Dunham says that when he handed the paper to Gen. Wool, that he looked at it right side up, and bottom side, up, and side-wise, but made no headway in reaching its contents, and in his dilemma Gen. Wool asked Capt. Dunham, “What is all this about, any way, Captain?” Capt. Dunham replied, “General, it is a request from Col. Noble for leave of absence for Major Brady and myself to go home on recruiting service.” The General replied, “Oh, yes! I always like to have my troops recruited, the Adjutant will give you leaven.”
I wish you to understand, comrades, that I do not take any stock in this story of Capt. Dunham’s. He draws a very low bow sometimes, and I think takes a great deal of pleasure in deriding the legible hand-writing of your Colonel, but as the Italians say, “If the story is not true, it is very well put.”
Comrade Huss, committee on purchasing Badge Die, reported same could not be purchased, only at a great price; had made arrangements with John F. Luther of New York City to furnish the badge all marked for $3.50; gold, $10; and that the Secretary would take orders for same.
Lieut. Col. Henry Allen at our last annual meeting, having given notice that he would present the following resolution at this meeting, same was read by the Secretary.
“Resolved, That the oldest living male descendant of a deceased member of the Seventeenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, shall be eligible to membership in this Association upon the death of said member.”
Same was discussed pro and con, and on motion of Col. Allen was laid on the table until next annual meeting.
The following resolutions were presented and adopted.
By Lieut. James R. Middlebrook.
Resolved, That every member of this Association, who has any living sons, be requested to present at our next annual re-union, on a slip of paper, his own name, and also the name of his sons, with their address.
By Lieut. R. Lorenzo Ells.
Resolved, That a committee of twelve members of the Seventeenth Regiment Association, to consist of one from the Field and Staff, one from each company of the Regiment, and one honorary member, be appointed by the President to arrange for the erection of a monument upon the battle field of Gettysburg.
Subsequently the following committee was appointed:
Lieut.-Col. Henry Allen.
Lieut. R. Lorenzo Ells.
Sergt. George A. Scofield.
Private George s. Purdy.
Private George W. Keeler.
Capt. Henry P. Burr.
Lieut. W. A. Kellogg.
Private Phineas C. Lounsbury.
Private Levi H. Dixon.
Sergt. William A. Baker.
Sergt. Patrick Wade, Jr.
Hon. A. H. Byington.
Said Committee shall have power to fill any vacancies that may occur in said committee.
By Lieut.-Col. Henry Allen.
Resolved, That the Executive Committee of this Association are hereby instructed to take such action as they may deem proper, to secure a full attendance of the members of the Seventeenth Regiment at the unveiling of the Statute of Ex-Governor Buckingham, in battle-flag rotunda of the Capitol.
The following resolutions on the death of Adjutant George C. Peck, were unanimously adopted:
WHEREAS, The Supreme Commander of the Universe in this wisdom, has summoned from this earthly camping ground, our loved friend and comrade, George C. Peck, late Adjutant, Seventeenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers; thus severing from us the genial presence of our esteemed Secretary, therefore be it
Resolved, That while bowing with humble submission to the Divine decree, we desire to place upon record our admiration for the many noble traits of our deceased comrade, to recognize his sterling worth, inflexible fidelity, and soldierly integrity.
Resolved, That in his loss, we are vividly reminded, that we too are mortal, and that the time is not far distant when we shall be called to answer the final roll call.
Resolved, That while we tender to his aged mother and orphaned children, our deepest sympathy in their bereavement, we also bid them to confide and trust in Him who looks down with infinite compassion upon the widow and fatherless, in their hours of desolation, for it is He who will fold the arms of His love around all who put their trust in Him.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to the family of our deceased comrade, and that they be entered at length upon our records.
William H. Noble,
S. G. Blakeman,
Committee on Resolutions.
The Association now proceeded to election of officers for ensuing year with following result:
President, Private Phineas C. Lounsbury, Co. C.
Secretary, Private George W. Keeler, Co. D.
Treasurer, Sergt. Patrick Wade, Jr., Co. K.
Company A, Sergt. Albert Holly.
” B, Capt. Charles A. Hobbie.
” C, Capt. Henry Quien.
” D, Corp. Frederick Clark.
” E, Capt. Henry P. Burr.
” F, Lieut. Charles E. Doty.
” G, Lieut. Charles G. Smith.
” H, Capt. Enos Kellogg.
” I, Sergt. Henry V. Peck.
” K, Sergt. Samuel Thorp.
General William H. Noble.
Lieut. Col. Henry Allen.
Sergt. Charles F. Loomis, Co. F.
Private Levi H. Dixon, Co. H.
Upon being escorted to the chair, President Lounsbury addressed the Association as follows:
FRIENDS AND COMRADES:–You all know that in some of the ancient Grecian republics the feeling of equality became so intense and the estimate of common citizenship and soldiership came to be so high, that the leader was chosen by lot. In the choice which you have made to-day for president of your Association, you may have been unconsciously and still largely influenced by similar feelings. If the merit of the Seventeenth Connecticut was so high that even the humblest soldier in its ranks is counted worthy, for the time, to be your presiding officer, then I am thankful that I belonged to the Seventeenth Connecticut. If, in your selection of me, there has been anything of personal consideration, I thank you for this mark of esteem and confidence. For the performance of the duties which you have assigned me to-day I bring no genius for presiding, no gift of eloquence, I can only offer the best of intentions and a heart, loyal to you as a regiment, loyal to you as comrades. I am sure that to every one of us has come the thought, even if we have not expressed it in words, that these annual re-unions mean something more than a day’s recreation, something more than the grasp of a comrade’s hand. The sentiment of patriotism is inherent in human nature, yet springs not up spontaneously in the human heart like love of home, or parent, or child; it needs the guiding hand of intellect, the inspiration of country, but when once developed, it feeds upon all the nobler elements of manhood until it grows and overshadows the whole life. These yearly gatherings mean that the lofty sentiment of patriotism is to be mingled with and warmed by those common springs of affection, that well up from the depths of the heart; that we are to view our duty to the government in the light of a common brotherhood, that the altar of our homes is to make more hallowed the altar of our country. This day will be little better than lost, if, in every touch of a brother’s hand, we do not feel our arm grow firmer to battle for our country and the right, if we do not carry to our homes a patriotism made stronger and purer by this re-union. In the festivities and greetings of this occasion, I wish for no note of sadness, and yet our joy will be none the less deep, because it is sobered by the memories of the past and by the responsibilities of the future. Twenty-one years ago, we started out, a regiment more than one thousand strong. I do not now recall just how many yielded up their lives in the agony of the battle, or from wounds and disease died a not less glorious death; but I do know, that in the swamps and prisons of the South, on the fields of Chancellorsville and the hills of Gettysburg the gallantry and bravery of the Seventeenth Connecticut, were attested in heroic suffering and written in letters of blood. It is no vain egotism that we, as a regiment, point to the record of the past. It is rather a laudable pride of one, who traces his lineage through a long unbroken line of noble ancestry. It is a long chain of illustrious deeds without one tarnished link, that connects us the living of to-day with the first heroic dead of the regiment. Not to us as their descendants, but to us as their surviving comrades, has come the heritage of their glory. They died without fear. We shall be worthy of them and the glory which they have given us, if we, as citizens and men, to-day and through all the future, shall live without reproach. Comrades, I accept the position to which you have appointed me. I thank you, and for the transaction of the remaining business of this meeting, I await your pleasure.
General W. A. Aiken of Norwich, Quarter-Master-General of the State of Connecticut in 1862, and after whom our Camp at Bridgeport was named, was introduced by General Noble, and acknowledged the hearty applause with which he was greeted by a short speech to the Association.
The following honorary members were elected:
Gen. W. A. Aiken of Norwich, Conn.
Gen. A. Ames of New York City.
Hon. Samuel Glover of Fairfield, Conn.
Hon. Charles H. Pine of Ansonia, Conn.
There being no further business to be transacted the annual dues were paid; after which the members of the Association, accompanied by their guests and lady friends, proceeded to the lot in the rear of the church near the Merwin House where tables were spread with a collation which is seldom equalled on such an occasion. Clam chowder, cold meats of various kinds, potatoes, pickles, bread, pie, etc., were abundant, but nary a dish of baked beans, and the Danbury members mourned thereat. About two hundred veterans partook of the collation, and there were a number of invited guests. As they retired from the field, such as desired were furnished with material for creating a smoke. There was no opportunity for indulging in that which doth intoxicate as Fairfield is a no-license town and rigidly observes the law.
The dinner done, the usual exercises of our re-union took place from a platform on the village green, surrounded by its Regiment and thousands of citizens. They began with a selection by the Wheeler & Wilson Band, and followed by addresses from President Phineas C. Lounsbury, Hon. William A. Beers, Rev. G. S. Burroughs, Hon. John H. Glover, Frank L. Rogers, Esq., of Fairfield, Hon. Charles H. Pine, of Ansonia (the Drummer Boy of the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery), Gen. William A. Aiken, of Norwich, Hon. J. R. Van Wormer, H. W. Curtis, Esq., of New York City, and Gen. William H. Noble, and a poem by Rev. J. K. Lombard, of Fairfield.
A large concourse of people gathered about the speaker’s stand on the Green when the time arrived for beginning the exercises, and a large array of carriages skirted the throng. Great interest was manifested by the audience in the speeches which followed, and rarely were better or more interesting addresses hard at a regimental re-union. After a selection by the band, the President of the Association opened the literary feast with a ringing speech.
ADDRESS OF PRIVATE P. C. LOUNSBURY.
Ladies and Gentlemen of Fairfield:–I have no doubt that he, who in this town did so much to raise and equip one of the honored companies of our regiment, and whose generous activity has been largely instrumental in bringing about this meeting here to-day, I say I have no doubt that this man, in his munificence and in his loyalty, is a fair representative of the men and women of Fairfield. It matters little whether we thank the one who represents the many or the many who have produced the one. For homes and for that home-work that stands for the basis of all republican institutions, yours is an ideal town. The waters that wash your shore may bring to you little of the world’s commerce. The forces of nature, that ages age on this continent laid out for all coming time the avenues of business and travel, may have forbidden that you should ever become one of the great centers of population and wealth. But these are not the first things to be considered in a republic. Intelligence and patriotism, devotion and unselfishness, that culture of the heart and the soul and the life which comes of purity and freedom, blood that tells, blood that comes only through unbroken generations of noble men and noble women, these are things which may not be reckoned in a census, but they do count largely in history. In a country so wide-spread as this, the control of the government must always remain largely with the rural towns. Many of your children will remove to other places, but they will carry with them the home discipline which you gave them, the same love of homely virtues which marked them here. New England men and their descendents, New England ideas must and will rule the Republic. I am one of the few New Englanders who cannot trace their lineage to Plymouth Rock, but I yield to no one in my admiration of the grand character of the men who came over in the Mayflower. I know that in many quarters it is becoming fashionable to sneer at the Puritans, to parade their trifling faults, to ignore their solid virtues, but where can you find a race of men who have had clearer conceptions of the dignity of human freedom, or who have stamped the love of it more strongly upon their descendants? Sneer at the Puritans! Yes, we may, when we can forget that it was their strong arms that wrought out for England and for us the blessings of constitutional liberty. Many of you remember, when, twenty-one years ago, from yonder camping field, this regiment went to the war. In its ranks were your brothers and sons, and so you followed its march with a keen personal interest. In such a prolonged and bitter war, it was not possible, that every conflict should be a triumph, but the flag that we carried never went down to dishonor. You saw it, when it came back riddled and tattered, but every shot told how gallantly it had been borne aloft. Every shred waved in final victory. In speaking the praises of the Seventeenth Connecticut, I can stop far short of the limit of modesty, for you know better than I can tell you, that you have no reason to be ashamed of your present guests. And you! What shall I say of you? When I think of the history of this grand old town, of its sufferings in the cause of freedom, of its devotion and self-sacrifice to uphold the Union, of its sons and daughters scattered all over the land and everywhere true to the teachings of their honored sires. When I think of all this, I am proud to know that it is such a host as Fairfield that welcomes us here to-day. It is especially fitting that this historic regiment should meet in this historic town. A hundred years ago, your fathers fought for liberty, with an ardor that was never deadened by the ashes of their burning homes. It was personal liberty for which they struggled. Like all true unselfish men, whose sense of personal rights has been deepened and intensified by the feeling of responsibility to their Maker, they “builded better than they knew.” Doubtless in their minds, there was some dim conception of the grandeur of the building which they were rearing, for to every eye not dazed by the gloss and glitter of earth but bright with the light of duty, however short may be its vision, there come faint glimpses of the Great Beyond. But at the most your fathers could only have dimly realized how firmly they were laying the foundation of liberty on the eternal rock of the Union. It is the silent, subtle forces of nature that control the material universe. The course of the stream may be somewhat changed by the hand of man, but the truth remains that the river rolls on to the sea. The deep underlying principles of human nature must be at the basis of all earthly governments. Hence, the Union of the States began not in 1787, but in 1775. It had its origin not in the wisdom of Madison, but in that keen sense of human rights, which years before had begun to spread all over this continent. A common sense of a common danger had ordained the existence of the Union, a generation before the genius of Hamilton had removed the obstacles and smoothed the way. And then after the contest had begun, how this wonderful power of common suffering transformed and harmonized all conflicting elements. The Union was cemented not by logic but in blood. It was welded not in the sunlight of prosperity but in the flames of a hundred burning Fairfields. Your fathers, a hundred years ago, yearned and struggled for personal freedom, and, in its acquirement, established a National Union wider and grander than they ever conceived. Without this Union, personal liberty would have been exposed to all the dangers of local jealousy, and would have existed only by the sufferance of some foreign power. We, your sons and brothers, twenty-one years ago marched to defend the Union and, in its restoration, personal liberty was established through the length and the breadth of the land. Without this universal liberty, the National Union would have been only a splendid cheat. Even for you, that of thirty years ago, was not liberty. Then, there was not a place south of Mason and Dixon’s line, where you could have safely stood, taking for your text the Declaration of Independence, and preached the teachings of Washington and Jefferson. But now, thanks to God and to the war for the Union, the gospel of liberty can be proclaimed, not only from the top of Bunker Hill, but even from the spot where once Toombs called the roll of his slaves in Georgia. And the crowning glory of this triumph is that in this truth the South rejoices as well as the North. It is the question of the hour, it will be the problem of the ages, how this union of Liberty and Union can be kept unimpaired and be handed down through the generations to come. Whether in those conflicts which are the inevitable result of selfishness and corruption, this bond shall be broken never to be renewed, or whether it shall stand forever, strong in its purity and pure in its strength, God alone can tell. If the masses of the people remain intelligent and pure, if they are keen to see their own rights and unselfish to acknowledge the rights of others, if the leaders are held to a strict account, if they are taught that he who would be greatest in a republic must be the servant and not the master of the people, if the government is centralized only so far as to become strong to protect in all his rights the humblest citizen within its borders, in a word, if the common voters remain intelligent and honest, then I trust and believe that personal liberty and this National Union will endure until “the great Archangel shall stand, one foot upon the sea and the other upon the land, and declare that time shall be no more.”
ADDRESS OF WILLIAM A. BEERS, Esq.
After a stirring piece by the band, Mr. Beers spoke substantially, as follows:
SOLDIERS OF THE SEVENTEENTH REGIMENT:–Called upon to address you in behalf of the community that tenders you its hospitalities to-day, it is my privilege to say that in holding your re-union here you confer rather than receive honor. By the far-reaching importance of your services, you have placed this town, the county, the State, under obligations that no public ovation or emolument can requite; the country, the whole liberty-loving race owe you a debt that can never be paid this side of Heaven.
But it is also my privilege to remind you that you already have a compensation, that every true soldier and patriot should hold as inestimable; you are the distinguished creditors of a mighty nation; fifty millions of people with boundless wealth are yet too poor to repay the humblest private in your war-worn ranks who offered life to maintain the root principle of our government, that the United States is not a league but a Union. And you have, what is infinitely more precious, the approbation of your own hearts, and as we are bound to believe, the approval of the All-Rewarding. In view of such high compensation, is there one among you who regrets his struggles and sufferings; who is not proud to have his name on the immortal roster of the nation’s saviors? For one, I whose war experience did not extend beyond shouldering a musket against the draft rioters in New York City, confess to a certain envy of such distinction and reward, as the burning story of your battle life comes up before me.
The story of your battle life! How its memories crowd the mind and swell the heart. You will never tire of its recapitulation. In briefest outline, permit me to tell it over again. Your organization had its beginning in the summer of 1862, when disaster in the East, disaster in the West, ominous secession murmurs and treacherous acts in our very midst, and Confederate victory almost everywhere-abroad as well as at home-was the heart-sickening burden of the war news. Undaunted, even buoyant, however, the young men of Fairfield County banded together to form the gallant regiment which you to-day represent. One of your companies was recruited in this town; and the citizens by whose indomitable work and liberal purse its ranks were largely filled, shares your re-union,–“the father of Company K,” Mr. Samuel Glover! (Applause). Your Colonel, William H. Noble, was commissioned July 23, 1862, just as Lee and McClellan crossed swords at Seven Pines, and when, oh, the humiliation of that hour, the old flag was borne, dripping with blood, away from, not towards, the Confederate capitol. But the reverses of the national arms only spurred our people to redoubled action. One patriot in particular, a citizen of wealth and importance, marched through the streets of Bridgeport with drum and fife, and by voice and example, aroused enthusiasm and swelled your ranks. He thought it high honor to enroll himself a private in your ranks; his heart and purse were yours; he was your friend indeed who stood by you from first to last in every need. Interlocked with your annals, revered in your heart of hearts is the name and memory of that grand American patriot, Elias Howe, Jr. (Applause).
So rapid and efficient was your organization that in thirty day(s) from the date of your Colonel’s commission, you could have marched 1,000 strong to the front. On the 28th of Aug. twenty-one years ago, while news of the Union defeat at the second Bull Run was throbbing the wires, you officially renewed your fealty to your country, and six days after your muster in, were hurried by rail to confront Lee and Jackson, who had then crossed the Potomac, and, swelling the chorus “Maryland, my Maryland,” were menacing Pennsylvania. Cheers and tears were the fitful accompaniments of your departure; pride and solicitude followed your every movement.
At Baltimore, after enduring many indignities and making early acquaintance with the ubiquitous army-worm-red-tape, you are ordered to the entrenchment (Fort Kearny) at Washington; but the fact that you could handle the musket better than the spade, being forced upon the attention of the controlling powers, you receive welcome orders to take the field, and advance with swinging step and cheery song towards Gainesville, Va. You halt at Alexandria, you will pleasantly remember, to taste the sweets of good comradeship in the shape of a very acceptable collation offered by the boys of the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery. You then push vigorously ahead, and November 8th finds you on the Culpeper road at a present arms to salute your corps commander, and ready to “fight mit Sigel.” A fortnight later you sleep in the deserted rebel winter quarters at Chantilly and move thence in a walking match with Ohio boys, to divert the enemy’s attention from Burnside’s operations; winning easily in the friendly encounter, you treat the foot-sore and hungry competitors to a hearty meal, and while engaged in the good cheer hear the thunder of ineffectual Union guns against the rocks of Fredericksburg, but are happily ignorant of the fearful slaughter there.
Campaign exigencies now compel you to fall back to Stafford Court House where, December 16th, in a picturesque opening of pine forest you prepare a winter camp; cutting out streets, building log huts and rearing in the Southern wilds a sort of monument to New England thrift and neatness. Here is read to you President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, (cheers) which added at once 50,000 free fighting men to the Union ranks and removed a foul spot from the national escutcheon. All of you will, doubtless, have lively recollections of this winter camp. In the cheerful blaze of your camp fires, when, for the time being: “grim visaged war smoothed her wrinkled front” you retold the humorous episodes of the campaign. An ever mirth-provoking story was that of the deer (?) which Sergt. Keeler and Ed. Nichols shot at Gainesville; (laughter) they had, contrary to orders, been out foraging and bagged some game, which, ingeniously cutting up to resemble venison, they brought to headquarters where a critical examination disclosed the fact that the steaks and tenderloins had been carved from a prime Virginia hog. another, was that in which Moses Jennings of Company D, figured. Moses was a kind and brave but not very marital-appearing fellow, who, one day at Camp Tennallytown, while the dignified Col. Noble was instructing a party to rig halliards on a tall flag staff, interjected the remark: “Colonel, I’ll bet you six are cents I ken squirm up that are pole and fix that are string skyographic.” It was fortunate, perhaps, that the bet was not taken, for Moses might have come to grief in the dizzy attempt, and so lost the country a good soldier and us another anecdote. Going in swimming one day, he was seized with a cramp, and barely escaped drowning. On being rescued by Capt. John McCarthy, of Company K, and congratulated on his escape, he sputtered out, “I wouldn’t a ‘kearred a darn if I’d had my descriptive list along.” Of course Erin’s proverbial humor had its ready exponent; and Paddy Ford’s “toime o’day, half-past five in the avening’,” was an abiding joke that Company A will best appreciate. They will also recall with mingled pathos and merriment, a battle incident in which Paddy was a hero. He volunteered in the heat of a fight, to go to a distant stream covered by a rebel battery, and fill a dozen canteens, to allay the burning thirst of comrades. He returned in triumph, but no before provoking a laugh by making the jingling canteens do a sort of iron-clad duty to protect his rear from Confederate sharpshooters.
In February, 1863, you break camp and double-quick toward Belle Plain to aid Burnside in a second contemplated attack upon the heights of Fredericksburg, but this reckless assault being fortunately abandoned, you fall back to shovel snow, fell trees, build huts-again forcing the Virginia wilderness to take on a New England appearance. April 1st finds you still in your winter camp, and with commendable spirits varying the monotony of drill and picket duty by diversions that the season invited. A very little fooling was, on those days enough to stir up considerable fun, and all hands enjoyed the false alarm that hustled Sergt. Blakeman out of his snug bed. Aroused by a well-imitated “Fall in,” he appeared with bare feet and naked sword, only to learn that he was to face not a rebel surprise but an “April foot,” and that he was to “fall in,” not for an ambuscade but a pair of stockings-a much needed supply of which having opportunely arrived. The Sergeant took the joke and the hose in good part, remarking that he was glad to be so comfortably fooled, and to observe that the stockings had white toes.
But these seasonable pleasantries give way to serious business when, a few days after, being commanded to move with “fighting Joe Hooker,” you put seven days’ rations in haversacks and strip to lighting marching order. At daybreak, April 26th, in high spirits and with the familiar swinging step you advanced to confront the war-scarred veterans of Lee and Jackson, Hill and Stuart. Your comrade, Sergt. P. Wade, Jr., of Company K, (who has the remarkable record of having served through the entire term of enlistment without missing a drill or battle, and who was never missing or wounded,) has related tome many incidents of this march to get to Lee’s rear, which though of intense interest, must be omitted in this brief recital.
One reminiscence, however, asks for a moment’s revival. Resting a short hour before crossing the Rapidan, your slumber was broken at midnight by Col. Noble, in person, who, with characteristic vim and briskness, cried out: “Fall in men! Fall in! Cook your coff! Cook your coff! Fall in rapidly! First one up, first one over! Rapidly, Rapidly!”
By the light of huge bonfires on the precipitous bluffs of the river, you pass over on pontoons and press on toward the battle ground at Chancellorsville, which you reach after marching thirty-seven miles over rough ground, in two days. Here you are drawn in line to receive Gen. Hooker and his orders to go at once into action. With the Eleventh Corps-the corps of the crescent-of which you formed a part, you are posted in a dense thicket of stunted oaks and tangled underbrush. Here, in the supposition that Lee has been flanked, you are left without support; and in this exposed position,, Stonewall Jackson bursts suddenly down upon you with 25,000 men. In the wild rout that followed this surprise, you contested every inch of vantage with fixed bayonets. It was your first fight, but like veterans you stood your ground, and were the last regiment to fall back. It was in this disastrous engagement that the intrepid Col. Noble received a serious wound, and the gallant Lieut.-Col. Walter (while laughing in the faces of the enemy) was shot dead. One hundred and twenty killed, wounded, or missing, was the loss of the Seventeenth Connecticut,–a large proportion in the aggregate loss.
In the following June, having recuperated to some extent your shattered ranks, you move under Lieut.-Col. Fowler (Col. Noble being in hospital with his wound,) towards Gettysburg on parallel lines with the Army of the Potomac. On the 1st of July, you begin your share of the bloody work on that memorable field; and it must ever remain the most lustrous of your annals that you largely helped defeat Lee’s favorite project to dictate terms in a conquered city-Philadelphia, or, perhaps, New York, It was on this field, which “the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated beyond our power to add or detract,” that the soldierly Col. Fowler drew his sword for the last time, and where fearless Capt. Moore uttered his last thrilling “forward.” Here Orderly Edwin D. Pickett was shot down while grasping the regimental colors, being the third bearer, who had carried them to the death. Here, posted at a stone fence that has become historic, the Fairfield Company successfully resisted a fierce rebel attack, and here its Captain, John McCarthy, gained the title, “that little fighting Irish captain.” Here-but why go on? A thousand acts of valor, scores of noble deaths cannot have record in this hasty sketch. Your roll-call, when the torn and bleeding Seventeenth was ordered back from the pursuit of Lee’s beaten columns, epitomized with fatal emphasis the part taken by the Regiment of which you are to-day the distinguished survivors, one hundred and ninety-eight names being told off as killed, wounded, or missing. In summing up the conduct of Connecticut troops on this, the most decisive battle-field of the war, the conspicuous bravery of your Regiment called forth the admiration of Gen. Ames, and in like summary, the Confederate Gen. Gordon made the manly confession that, in his retreat, “the Seventeenth Connecticut was the hardest federal regiment to get away from.”
From Gettysburg I trace you to Folly Island where, in the siege trenches that approached Fort Wagner, you witnessed the first fire of Gilmore’s retributive guns against Sumter. Here, exposed to shells of Forts James and Moultrie, more wounds and deaths attested your enduring patriotism; and here says Gen. Noble, “without the excitement of attack and real conflict, your work was the most trying you ever did.” After the fall of Wagner you are called upon to repel a threatened attack, and your prompt response draws another good word from Gen. Ames, who officially said “you were under arms and in line twenty minutes in advance of the other forces.”
You are next found at St. John’s Island, and thence move, respectively, to Jacksonville, the Fort of San Marco in St. Augustine, Volusia, McGirit’s Creek, Magnolia, and other points in Florida-ever on the alert, always reliable. Of your many contests with rebel raiders in this section I must only touch upon the most important. Near St. Augustine, a squad of your regiment while seeking a little terpsichorean diversion, was were gobbled up after a stern resistance; and, in disastrous sequence, your Col. Noble was captured and forced to add to his war experiences that of a sojourn in Libby prison. It was near this point too, that Lieut.-Col. Wilcoxson and Adjut. Chatfield, while attempting to cut their way through Dixon’s rebel troopers, fell like heroes. It was in Florida, also, where two of your captains and fifty men were outnumbered, captured and sent to augment the ghastly horrors of Andersonville.
Through all the vicissitudes of this cruel war you bore your part so staunchly as to receive these “plain, unvarnished words from Gen. Noble: “From the time of your muster in to your muster out at Hilton Head, S.C., July 29, 1865, your gallant service honored Connecticut, and you never flinched from a military duty.” Added to this must be the commendation of the State Adjutant-General, who said: “Thus ended the honorable service of a regiment, the superior of which in intelligence, morale, courage, and endurance was not found in the army; the Commonwealth of Connecticut cherish the memory of its dead and honor its living.”
And thus ends, soldier guests, my outline of your battle story. The citizens of Fairfield also claim right to cherish the memory of your dead, to honor, as best they may, those that survive.
It is with eminent fitness, too, that honor should be accorded you in the ancient town that not only gives name to the county that furnished your bone and muscle, but has been for two and a half centuries a kind of military headquarters. As far away as 1639, its founder Ludlowe, whose code was the model of the national laws you fought to sustain, gathered his followers to subdue the savage or punish the intruding Dutch. Further on the French war, and the war of 1812 made the drum-tap a familiar sound here; and later on in the war for Independence, the military importance of the town attracted the fire-brand of the British.
It was on this Green that your Company K received some of its initial lessons before joining in the grand movement upon the enemy’s works to the tune “Tramp, tramp, tramp the boys are marching;” it is therefore, as I have said, eminently fitting that, those works taken and magnanimous quarter given, you should make the marital old town the place of your restful, social, re-union. And as we pay homage to your patriotic devotion, and your unbending fortitude on the red field of strife, let us at the same time rejoice that on this pleasant Green, with its elms arching as if in triumph, and the old flag floating in gladness above us, that we meet in peace and good will toward the conquered; that, in recognition of the generous motive that strews flowers on the blue as well as gray, accepts your soldierly hospitalities and returns your captured battle colors; you come without weapons, with badges of peace on your breasts, and in your hearts “malice toward none, charity for all.”
At our town centennial commemoration four years ago, our citizens crossed the British and Colonial flags in token of amity towards those of our own kin who had inflicted upon the town its direst calamity; so here to-day, in the same manly spirit, let the word of peace and brotherhood go forth to our countrymen of the South, that now and hereafter the gray and the blue shall mingle in harmony, in an indissoluble Re-union. At each recurring anniversary of your Association, let this sentiment reassure the noble people against whom you fought, that for all time to come these mingled colors shall, in the words of Fairfield’s poet:
“In glorious rivalry lead the oppressed,
Flags of union and liberty proudly unfurled,
Together float on o’er the East and West
And march with the drum-beat that circles the world.”
So will your re-union be true to its name in a National sense, and best show that you have not fought in vain. So will you link yourselves to a grateful posterity that reaping the substantial fruits of your victories, shall with pride and reverence turn to the story of your battle-life and say: the soldiers of the Seventeenth Regiment were mighty in war but mightier in peace.
This speaker happily found the way to the hearts of the veterans, who responded with spontaneous applause and cheers.
THE SEVENTEENTH CONNECTICUT
August 28, 1862-1883.
By Rev. J. K. Lombard
Ho! from the reaches of ripening corn,
From the ridges that front the sea,
Who comes to swell, on this autumn morn,
The host of the loyal free?
Who leaps at the sound of the trumpet word
When the faithless falter and fail?
Who flings, like the Roman, his belted sword
In the weight of the trembling scale?
Quick beat the heart-throbs, strong and high,
In time to the rattling drum,
And swift the voices that make reply-
“To the rescue! We come! We come!”
From ringing forge and from hillside farm,
From the swing of hammer and flail,
We bring the might of a good right arm,
And a trust that is triple mail.
With gift of our choicest in sacrifice
Crowned with surrender complete,
See, Fatherland, the full sum of the price
Here we lay down at thy feet!
Sweet the embraces of children and wife,
Dear are the homes by the sea!
Sweeter and dearer is Country than life,
All we have given to thee!
You by the shore is a goodly sight
Where the mustered bayonets shine;
Far stretch the tents with their lanes of white,
And full is the gleaming line.
Aye, full to-day! there will rents be made,
Ask not of the future “When?”
While “Here!” comes the answer prompt on parade
To the roll of a thousand men.
Whispered the partings and hidden the tears,
Proud sweeps the regiment by,
Fervent the blessings that wafted in cheers
Rain down from the echoing sky.
Weary the lagging in fortress and camp,
Dull in its scabbard the blade,
Sweeter than rest is the toilsome tramp,
Better the gun than the spade.
On with the tide that is swept to the front
Where the crimsoned banners wave,
Where the loyal hosts bear the battle-brunt
And earth quaffs the wine of the brave.
Melting away by the roadside then,
Scarred in the deadly fight,
Starved in the noisome prison-pen,
Blanched with its ghastly blight,
Grouped on the cliffs where the storm-clouds meet,
Breasting the madd’ning gale,
Pelted and blinded by iron sleet,
Thinned by the murderous hail,
Borne on the torrent of wild retreat,
Rallied in swift pursuit,
With tattered garments and bleeding feet
Plucking the battle’s fruit,
Still through the sickness of hope deferred,
Through the night of doubts and fears,
Those faithful hearts at their leader’s word
March on with the lengthening years.
Late breaks the morning on wakeful eyes,
Slow drift the smoke-wreaths away,
Earth, chant of peace to the answering skies,
Night, yield the sceptre to day!
Home! with the banner ye rallied to save,
Bearing it proudly as then,
But what shall respond to the roll of the brave,
From the wreck of a thousand men?
Ours to speak only cheap words of praise,
Yours both to dare and to do,
Take at our hands these poor withering bays,
Yet green with a welcome to you!
Thanks, and a welcome! ’tis little to give,
But what shall our gratitude spend
For love yielding all that the Nation may live,
That gave life for the life of a friend!
ADDRESS OF G. STOCKTON BURROUGHS.
The Rev. G. Stockton Burroughs then eloquently addressed the assemblage. (Mr. Burroughs’ address was not written. The following is its substance):
MR. PRESIDENT, VETERANS OF THE CONNECTICUT SEVENTEENTH REGIMENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:–This is a day of re-union and remembrance. You are recalling your struggles together in that great conflict which is now so rapidly receding into the past of history. Well, therefore, has it been for us to welcome you, on this occasion, to a town rich in memories, one whose history includes all the struggles of the past. It was first settled after the strife with the red man. It was interested and concerned in the early Colonial contests. The great struggle for Independence found it an old and influential town, and in that struggle it severely suffered, rising again, phoenix-like, from its ashes. It has been a witness to every national conflict since that day until the present.
I make these remarks not to glorify our town, not to glorify our welcome to you to-day, but that standing on such soil, we may recall to our own minds this great fact, the character of all American struggles, a character common to all, but especially seen in that great struggle in which you were engaged. America’s conflicts have never been wars of conquest. Unlike the struggles of Greece and Rome, they have not been for the love of war. Nor have they been wars for territory, as the struggles past, and yet to come, of the great European powers. They have been struggles for principles, struggles which came from convictions of conscience, struggles which the power of circumstances brought upon us and which the cause of true progress required us to pass through. Such was the struggle in which you were engaged, a struggle for convictions, I think we may rightly say as we look back upon it, on the part of those engaged on both sides. This made it so long, so terrible, so desperate.
The character of your memories to-day is determined by this character of your struggle. True, there are casual remembrances, incidents of friendship in the camp and in the field; there are recollections of many chance events. But your great remembrance is a remembrance of a common struggle for principle. This is the great link which binds you together. And I ask, is it not ever the great, the lasting link by which men are bound to one another. View the various organizations of men. You will find organizations for pleasure to be but short-lived, their memories fleeting. But organizations for duty’s sake, for convictions’ sake, these are abiding.
There comes to us, therefore, this thought; what can make such organizations as is yours lasting, their memories ever-enduring? What can arouse, call into being such fellowships? Must we not say a struggle for principle? and does not such a struggle still remain for you, for all, for our united country? The perpetuity of our nation-life demands such a struggle. Struggles are to-day necessary that true convictions may conquer. Men of convictions must always struggle, come into conflict. Would that we had, to-day, in our land more men of conviction, who must needs, from their very nature, be strugglers! Then would our political life rise to that true level which it ought to occupy. Then would our party conflicts be worthy of our nation’s history. They would be no longer scrambles for booty or position, but the earnest outcome of real conviction, of sterling principle.
Before us there lie evident, in our coming national history, the consideration of great problems, the grappling with great social issues. These problems, these issues are as important as were those of State’s rights or slavery. Their settlement, their true, right settlement is as essential to our continual national life. We must go forth to meet these with the soldier-spirit. The same conditions, the same qualities of character, which gave you success in the great struggle of the civil war, will give you, will give all, true success in the coming conflicts.
In war the individual is sunk in the thought of the general good. This is essential in every struggle for principle. The martial spirit of self-sacrifice is a leading condition of success for the future. it will bring to us that true civil service reform, which shall enable us, as civilian soldiers, to serve our country in all reform, as question after question presents itself. In war the educated soldier is the victorious soldier. It was our New England soldiery, educated in the common schools of our hills and valleys, that went forth to victory in our late struggle, that went forth with intelligent conviction of what the conflict was and what its issues must be. They were strong through their intelligence. And thus, as a nation, must we face the future. With national education, secured for all, South and North, must we strengthen ourselves for the struggles yet to come. In war the self-restrained, virtuous soldier is the victorious soldier. From our New England homes of virtue and self-restraint went forth to our great civil struggle those who were able, in the strength of self-possession and self-conquest, to endure the hardships of the march and the camp, and to stand in the thick of the battle. Even so, as a soldierly nation, must we meet all coming conflict. If we can but have for ourselves national freedom from vice, true national temperance, in the broadest sense of that broad word; if we may be characterized by national self-possession and self-conquest, we shall be able to endure the hardship which is the only road unto victory.
The true soldier is such not because he wears the uniform. he is a soldier not simply on days of parade, nor even in the battle alone. He is a soldier in spirit, in heart. He is a soldier in the very character of his inward life. For the true soldier there is ever sounding forth his country’s and humanity’s call. Such may we all be!
ADDRESS OF GEN. NOBLE.
CITIZENS OF FAIRFIELD:–Your welcome to my regiment has been signally graceful and most generous; it tells us that the same patriotic feeling still glows, that helped swell its ranks. This accords well with the grand record of your historic town. It has been memorable since it came into the history of Connecticut, for its patriotism and its distinguished public men. The early founders of any community seem to seed its soil with their virtues or their vices. There is an inheritance of morals as well as of form or features, that clings to the generations, and bears fruit along the track of years.
It was fitting that this goodly town, which sent one hundred men to the Seventeenth Connecticut, should have so heartily fallen into line with that round of welcomes, which this regiment has received from the towns of Fairfield county. It was emphatically your County Regiment: ninety-five per cent of its force were sons of your soil. If, in the time to come, those of them who were saved from the dread ordeal of march, and camp, and conflict, are as good citizens as they proved gallant soldiers, well may Fairfield County say with the Roman Matron of her sons, these are my jewels.
Let me here pay tribute to that gallant company of my regiment, the Glover Guard, which bore itself through every trial of danger and exposure with patience and courage. No more gallant officer ever led a company than your brave Captain McCarty. The flag presented to the guard by the matron whose name it bore, that daring officer carried through two severe conflicts, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and the siege of Fort Wagner.
But, fellow citizens of Fairfield, though hardships patiently borne, and dangers faced, and wounds are honorable, yet the soldiers of this regiment and of Connecticut, made a more glorious record when they came home, as they went out, loving and honoring the sovereignty of the people. They thus disappointed all the prophecies, and perhaps the hopes of many in the old word. It was thought that the Republic would vanish before such a host of disbanded soldiery. They looked to see them following the lead of belligerant chieftains, ambitious of power. But no commander was to those who saved the flag any more than an honored leader. The head of our armies knew and felt this just as much as those in the ranks. When the cruel war was over the soldiery and officers had no other thought or longing, but for home, and to renew their toil of life. The implements of husbandry, the plow left in the furrow, the pen in the counting-house, the work among the busy mill-wheels, were taken up as if laid aside but for a day. This conduct was in obedience to no command, was prompted by no awe of rulers. It was the outcome of that instinct of the American citizen which looks upon the will of the majority as his law. His sovereign is the sovereign people of whom each man and soldier forms a part. The self-reliance, and the dignity which the soldier feels from his duty done, makes broader and safer the foundations of the Republic. it rests not on crowns or titles, but on the solid granite of the people. It is the mass of men who rule with us, and not ranks and classes. The sentiment is oft repeated that the pen is mightier than the sword, but the ballot is master of both. It may be carelessly handled for a time, prejudice and political clap-trap may briefly shape its edicts, but sooner r later the tiny paper speaks its decrees in a voice before which all cower and surrender. With freedom everywhere, so long as the people keep their self-respect, and uphold the purity of the ballot, the country is safe. “Men may come, and men may go,” but the stream of liberty “will roll on forever.”
ADDRESS BY HON. JOHN H. GLOVER.
SURVIVORS OF THE SEVENTEENTH CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS:–We have assembled to drop a tear over the graves of your departed comrades, and to renew the memories of the noble deeds, well-fought battles, and deadly strife in which your regiment has been engaged, to secure for us the priceless boon of a free and united country.
We have listened with interest to an account of your contests and your victories, and rejoice that as the Trojans found a Homer to record their deeds of bravery, the Seventeenth, Fairfield County Regiment, has secured a faithful record of its prowess from the pen of Mr. Beers.
Allow me, my friends, to give utterance to a few thoughts suggested by the time, the place, and the circumstances in which we are situated to-day.
While looking over the large assembly before me, I seem to be carried back more than a score of years when a gathering similar to this had met to take counsel as to our country’s needs, and to unite our efforts in aid of the noble men who were struggling under McClellan before Richmond, in the swamps of the Chickahominy. All then was anxiety, distress, perplexity, but now how changed? The snows of more than twenty winters have fallen on these trees, since, Gen. Noble, you, and I, stood on this platform, and though they have left their whitened traces on your head and mine, the warmth of God’s sunshine has clothed the trees with new verdure, and the blessing of God’s smile has caused our country to exchange the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise. The atmosphere, of the place on which we stand, suggests patriotic inspiration.
When Gen. Silliman was captured during he war of the Revolution, Fairfield County boys secured a prominent Tory on Long island, and Silliman came back. When the towns along the Sound were threatened by British men-of-war, the whale boats manned by Fairfield boys, took up their attention and caused their departure. One of the houses that face our village Green bears to this day traces of a fire set by Hessian hands, and by the church behind us, a Hessian met his death and was buried where e fell. The traces of the fort, built during the war of 1812, existed but till yesterday at the foot of our beach lane, and the memories of the expressions at the “sudden partings, such as rend the lives from out young hearts,” are still fresh in the minds of the living. We cannot wonder then brave men that you snatched from the ashes of your sires the embers of their former fires.
The English, acting under the idea of the poet that “the brave abroad fight for the wise at home,” sent hireling soldiers to do their work-they were met an conquered by freemen inspired by words like those uttered by Stark at Bennington: “Soldiers! those German gentlemen are bought for four pounds eight and seven pence per man by Englands’ king, a bargain as is thought. Are we worth more? Let’s prove it now, we can; for we must beat them, boys, ere set of sun or Molly Stark’s a widow.” It was done!
You, soldiers of the Seventeenth, had the more difficult task of fighting not hireling soldiers of a foreign land but brothers contending for what they believed the right. The difference between you lay in this; they fought to destroy, you to maintain, the union of your common fathers, and the God of battles has given you the victory.
My duty would be but half done, did I not utter in your name words of encouragement and advice to the coming generation, that I see around me. I would say to them, for you, we fought to restore the Union in its benignity, and the Constitution in its integrity and rely on you, representatives of our country’s future, to see to it that our work and labor has not been in vain.
And yet one word to you, young friends, in the name of our fellow citizens of Fairfield. In the Legislature of the State, to which I was elected by the Constitutional Union party of the town I was appointed one of a committee to receive the sword of General Lyon, who had fallen after deeds of bravery, on the battle field of the West. The resolution reported by us, was in these words, “Resolved, That the State of Connecticut receive from the family of General Lyon his sword with grateful thanks, and as with fondest pride she places it by the side of the sword of Putnam would bid her surviving children emulate their deeds and share with them their country’s gratitude.” So my young friends, my fellow citizens would say to you looking on these brave men, resolve to imitate their patriotic zeal and thus merit your country” well deserved praise.
ADDRESS OF GEN. WILLIAM A. AIKEN.
MR. PRESIDENT AND FELLOW COMRADES:–As I meet you here to-day under circumstances so attractive and in the midst of a hospitality as delightful as to me unexpected; here in a town f fair aspect and historic fame, I congratulate myself and extend to you my hearty thanks for your mot courteous invitation.
At your meeting in yonder hall this morning, at your succeeding banquet, as I witnessed the fervor of your mutual greetings I fairly envied you. Next to the unspeakable love of woman ranks in fineness of texture and delicacy of flavor the friendships begun and cemented in the vicissitudes of war.
While my relations with our regiments during the war were necessarily less intimate than yours with each other, it was my good fortune to know well, many of the officers and men in each.
I need not say how precious these friendships, begun in mere official intercourse, are to me now. This present scene brings vividly before me events of twenty-one years ago when this gallant regiment of Fairfield County boys passed from inception to complete organic development, as it were, in a day. The “call” coming in July; the Seventeenth with full ranks by the middle of August; on the 3d of September, 1862, off for the front! A record unsurpassed.
I remember the last day in that camp which you did me the honor to name for me; the Governor’s fervid words of parting and of cheer, the confident faces of your gallant commander and his officers, the firm tramp of the men. They seem as of yesterday.
Just now I see generous private Howe shorn for the fight. That same Howe who, by-and-by, when the pay came slow, put hand in pocket and drew forth fifteen thousand dollars, as an advance, that the boys might not be in present stress.
The events of your notable history filled my memory, as in clear succession they have been recounted by the historian of the day, from this platform.
Baltimore, Fort Marshall, the shovel practice about Fort Kearney, the winter camp at Brooks’ Station, in which you learned these lessons of patience and obedience which lie at the root of true soldierly virtue.
Soon followed the baptism of fire at Chancellorsville where your noble Colonel was wounded and your Lieutenant-Colonel killed.
Then came the great and terrible days of Gettysburg, the fame of which you are about to signalize in imperishable stone.
The heroes of that occasion did not all wear sword or musket. On this platform sits the man who, upon the wires of his improvised telegraph was able to furnish the War Department with its first intelligence of the fate of that day, while he insured to the great newspaper which he represented the first and freshest instal[l]ments of the momentous news. His hair, to-day, is a little grayer, and perhaps his faculty of ubiquity has somewhat diminished. But his eye, as of old, is in every place and its twinkle is as merry as when he performed the miracle of the loaves among the boys. As, on that day, there was but one Meade and one Lee, so, there was but one Byington.
The statistics of your killed and wounded make us sad as we have heard them read. There are the second Lieutenant-Colonel of your regiment, brave Douglas Fowler, went to his death. One hundred and ninety-seven others killed, wounded, or missing.
Next came your Carolina life. The terrible strain of the trenches before Fort Wagner. Its brilliant capture, followed by a needed rest. The regiment clad in new clothes, the luxurious bathing on these beaches so wide and smooth, and all capped by the climax of that merry Christmas of 1863.
Then the long yet not uneventful months in Florida. While your historian mentioned this part of your history I remembered that Fourth of July at St. Augustine where Lieut.-Col. Wilcoxson read to you the “Declaration” as Old Fort Marion-the more ancient castle of St. Mark-thundered forth its grand response.
Col. Noble’s short but impressive sojourn at Andersonville; the brave fight and fall of that accomplished scholar and soldier, Lieut.-Col. Wilcoxson, were among the episodes of those days.
By-and-by came the end, when the gallant Seventeenth was in its turn, called back to the State from which it went. Its honored Colonel decorated with the brevet of a Brigadier-a decoration, by the way, well deserved. Its Lieut.-Col. Henry Allen, a contribution to Connecticut from the ranks of that nursery of good soldiers, the dainty yet most gallant “Seventy-First” of New York City, and to-day one of the animating spirits of this happy occasion.
After these marches a long line of brave men, some with shoulder-straps and some without, but all wending their way to hear the “Well done” from the lips of that Governor who, with a full heart had bid them God Speed nearly three years before.
To-day his body rests quietly as do those of many of your number to whom he had bidden farewell and again welcomed home. But his enduring effigy in bronze will, ere many months, be placed in that sacred vestibule of our beautiful capitol where are encased the emblems of your faith and heroism-and there, in that “Battle Flag Vestibule” they shall together remain, silent but eloquent witnesses to the glorious history of the regiments he loved so well.
Mr. President in closing these remarks permit me to quote words from his last Proclamation:
“I call upon the citizens of this Commonwealth, to manifest by expressions of gratitude and by acts of kindness, both to the living and to the families of the honored dead, their high appreciation of the sacrifices made by each of the fifty-three thousand three hundred and thirty men who, from this State, have entered the military service of the nation during our recent struggle with rebellion; and to impress upon their children and children’s children the duty of holding such patriotic services in honor and perpetual remembrance and thus prove the enduring gratitude of the Republic.”
The following resolution by comrade HENRY HUSS was unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That the thanks of this Association are hereby tendered to the citizens of Fairfield, for the kind and splended manner in which this organization has been welcomed and entertained; that the name of Fairfield is dear to every member of the old Regiment, for well do they remember, that in the dark days of 1862 the Town of Fairfield was ever ready to respond to any movement that would add comfort to the boys in the field, and especially have the ladies of this place at all times been the true friends of the soldier: to them and all we extend our heartfelt gratitude for the many acts of kindness received this day and in the past.
It is a pleasure to every old soldier after twenty years have rolled by, that such an acknowledgment for their services has been extended to them by the good citizens here to-day; and as every annual re-union adds one more page to the history of this Association: so will this Seventeenth Anniversary, held at Fairfield, shine forth as one of the brightest pages in that record.
It was then announced that the next re-union of the Regiment would be held in Ridgefield, August 28th, 1884.
Letters of regret were read from Ex-Postmaster General James of New York; Maj. T. L. Watson, of Bridgeport, Conn.; Maj. J. C. Kinney, Hartford, Conn.; Capt. Alfred B. Beers, Sixth Connecticut Volunteers, Bridgeport, Conn.; Charles H. Williams, Mount Vernon, N.Y.; Gen. J. R. Hawley, Hartford, Conn.; Col. H. M. R. Hoyt, Greenwich, Conn.; Capt. F. P. Earle, Maj. A. G. Brady, His Excellency Governor Thomas Waller; also a telegram from Gen. A. Ames, stating he was unable to be present.
Time having arrived when the members must depart for their homes, “Marching through Georgia” was sung by all hands; line was formed, and the Association marched to the depot where a good-bye was said, and the promise made, if living; to be at the next Annual Re-union, and, as stated in the Bridgeport STANDARD of August 29, 1883, “The departing trains bore them to their respective homes, cherishing one of the best, and most enjoyed of the seventeen re-unions held by the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteers, as a bright memory of the past.”
Attest, George W. Keeler,