OXFORD CITIZENS IN THE
WAR OF THE REBELLION
By Gordon Markiewicz
Welcome to this site! Here you will find a roster of Oxford citizens that fought for the Union in the Civil War. I do not claim that this list is entirely accurate, as there may be errors and omissions. My main sources have been the “Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the Army and Navy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion,” published by the state in 1889, along with Blaikie Hines’ “Civil War Volunteer Sons of Connecticut,” published in 2002. The separate regimental histories and tid-bits found in the official records of the war add some color, too.
Naturally, people will wonder how this compares to Litchfield and Hoyt’s “History of the Town of Oxford Connecticut.” Litchfield and Hoyt acknowledge that their data came from Orcutt’s earlier “History of the Old Town of Derby.” Orcutt’s list has seven additional names, and is missing eight others found in the state register. Checking the additional seven, they are not listed by the state as either from Oxford or Derby. (A list of these names is found HERE), and we hope to learn more about these people who may have enlisted from another state and later moved to Oxford.)
If you notice errors, please bring them to my attention, and I will be delighted to make the corrections. Also, if you have anything else to add, please contact me. Just a note of caution! Please have some documentation handy if you want to see something corrected. You might have a story in the family that “granddad said that great-granddad said,” but without some kind of proof, that is all it is: just a good story.
On the other hand, this site will be updated as the opportunity allows, so we would LOVE to add any primary documents (diaries, letters, and pension records) to the collection here. History is alive, and so were these men. They were not made of marble, like we see in statues. They were somebody’s husband, father, son, brother, or uncle. The more we can find about them, the more human they become (again). Hines credits Oxford with supplying 107 men to the army for the war effort. (According to the 1860 census there were about 310 families -- and a total of 1269 persons of all ages -- living in Oxford at the time, so the number who served was a high percentage of the male population. -- EDITOR's NOTE)
You might have noticed that the title of this section does not refer to the “Civil War.” This seems to be a relatively modern term, though President Lincoln called it just that in his Gettysburg Address. Another tongue-in-cheek term is the “Late Unpleasantness.” Down South, people still refer to it today as the “War of Northern Aggression.” Looking at documents and statues on town greens up here, you can see that veterans were not ambivalent about their feelings: it was the “War of the Rebellion.”
The actual listing is by unit and the date it was organized, not necessarily by the unit’s chronological number. There were training camps scattered throughout the state, and sometimes a higher numbered regiment filled its quota before a lower numbered unit.
NOTES ON UNITS:
Like other northern states, Connecticut’s response to Lincoln’s call for troops in April of 1861 to serve for three months was very enthusiastic. The government wanted Connecticut to furnish one infantry regiment; Governor Buckingham sent three. These fought at Bull Run in July of 1861. No Oxford resident served in them. A fourth regiment was ready to go, but it was held back, and re-organized as heavy artillery. Later, another call for troops came in May. These were to serve for three years, and many units not ready for the first call started to re-organize now. These three-year regiments mustered into service from July of 1861 to September of 1862.
Many of these three-year regiments became known as “veteran volunteer” regiments. The soldiers serving in them were proud of this, because in order to earn the title, a soldier had to re-enlist at the end of his term, and agree to serve until the war’s end. Many did so out of a grim determination developed while in service. They read and heard of the “slackers” and “Copperheads” back home, which were not as solid of conviction as those already serving. The Veteran Volunteers felt that the only way the war would be won, was by having those already there finish the job. Unfortunately, some of them never came home to enjoy the fruits of victory.
In August of 1862, the president once again called for more troops. These men were to serve for nine months. The reasoning was that many men might be willing to volunteer after the haying season, serve their time, and be home before the next year’s harvest was due. Connecticut responded with seven infantry regiments. Either all willing Oxford men were already serving, or the idea was not popular. Only one Oxford man volunteered during this time.
Finally, beginning in early 1864, Connecticut sent one complete regiment, and two partial units composed of black soldiers. Led by white officers, these “colored” units contained free black men and escaped slaves. Company B of the 29th (Colored) Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry listed two men from Oxford. We are conducting research to verify that these men were Oxford residents. Some men, white or black, would list the town they happened to be passing through on their enlistment papers.
NOTES ON MEN:
Hines asserts that 107 men listed Oxford as their hometown. I verified 106. We have the names, and now we are trying to confirm that they were citizens, for however long it might have been. The men are listed here by unit, and then alphabetically by company. You might see men with the same surname listed apart, as they might have been in different companies.
The 1889 register lists, in shorthand, the significant events of a soldier’s career. The laconic descriptions often beg further explanation; those of you with good imaginations, a quick eye for detail, and a little knowledge of the Civil War can probably piece together a thumbnail sketch of some soldiers’ enlistments. “MO” (mustered out) is probably the happiest remark about a soldier. It means that he served to the end of his term and was free to go whither he may. Others were less fortunate, and “DISC. DIS.” Means they were discharged because of disability. Either they got sick, or received some injury, and could not complete their terms. Some men were “PRO” (promoted in rank); others were “TRANS” (transferred) to another unit. There were those who were “WD” (wounded), and others paid the ultimate sacrifice in battle, denoted by “KILLED.”
Sadly, there were men that did not come home because they died in service, but were not killed in battle. Again, their fates scream for explanation. “DIED” could mean a man perished from disease, by accident, or murder. Another battlefield fate was being “CAP’D” (captured). Many of these men were subsequently “PAR” (paroled), meaning that they probably were transferred to a holding camp, awaiting release because of exchange. A small number of men did not enlist at the first call, but came in later as a “SUB/DRAFTEE” (substitute or draftee). A substitute was hired to take someone’s place, and being a draftee is self-explanatory. The veteran soldiers usually held these men in contempt. Arguably, the ultimate disgrace was to be listed as “DES” (deserted). A close look shows that many SUB/DRAFTEE soldiers quickly became “DES.” They were among those who decided to leave the army on their own will; perhaps research will show if they got bad news from home, saw enough horror on the battlefield, or were just bored by army life!
USING THE DATA:
Be a detective as you scan through the listings! Use your imagination to bring these men to life again. Consider Parker Ramsdell, George Riggs, and Edwin Stuart of Co. B, 20th Connecticut. These three were among the many to have fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Along with Sherman, they went “Marching through Georgia,” whipped the Rebels through the Carolinas, and finally marched in triumph in the Grand Review in Washington D.C. before they went home. What sights did they see? What hardships did they endure? Emile Le Roy of Company C, 11th Connecticut, was one of two Oxford men who died in the notorious Andersonville Prison in Georgia. How was he captured? What were his final days like in captivity? Did he have friends near? Were his last thoughts of family left behind? George Martin of Company I, 6th Connecticut, decided not to re-enlist as a veteran volunteer. Instead, he took his well-deserved discharge in September 1864. Did he have enough of the army? Was home a stronger draw than his friends in Company I? What about John Smith of the 11th Connecticut, Company F? A draftee who joined the unit in November of 1864, he deserted in April of 1865. Was “John Smith” his real name? Where did he go? Better still, why did he desert? The amount of time between his enlistment and desertion suggests that he was not a “bounty jumper.” Did he regret it?
If you possess diaries, letters, pictures, or papers belonging to men from Oxford who served during the Civil War, contact us! Help us to fill gaps in our town’s history. If any of these men are your family members, please share them with the rest of us. What happened to them after the war? How did they feel about it?
History is alive, and these men live in books and memory. For some of these men, it will be impossible, but others might emerge from obscurity and join other proud examples of our town’s citizens.