The Civil War Period


From Miles of Millstreams by Margaret Weaver, Geraldine A. Wood, Raymond H. Wood

An Official Bicentennial History (1976)

The outbreak of the Civil War in the 1860's greatly affected the manufacturing establishments in Killingly. Cotton mills began running on shortened time, due to a shortage of cotton. Sabin and Sayles in Dayville, and Dexter on the Whetstone, had previously opened woolen factories that continued to operate. Despite the War, other industries in the town were stimulated, so Danielsonville, at least, felt no general depression.

Danielsonville, the largest community within Killingly, had a population of about two thousand during the Civil War. Most of the inhabitants were of New England stock; there were some French Canadians, Irish, and Lancashire English who had come to work in the mills.

During the War the railroad depot became increasingly busy. Freight traffic increased and, in a short time, the company had seven hundred forty-one freight and coal cars. In addition, regiments formed from men in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and northern Massachusetts passed through Danielsonville on long trains of passenger coaches. They usually came in the evening before the boat train. The train halted at the station for about ten minutes while it took on water and fuel. This became one of the main events of the day. People gathered on the platform to talk with the soldiers through the open car windows.

Residents in the town prepared for the War following Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The two town "War" meetings were held on April 27, 1861, and May 2, 1861, and provisions were made for raising and equipping troops. A small company was raised and equipped in this part of the State. The town voted to pay each resident enlistee $10 per month over and above the government pay; to reimburse the wife of each volunteer $6 per month, and each child under fourteen, $2 per month, to be paid semi-monthly. Each volunteer was also provided with an India rubber blanket.

For a while, these volunteers were quartered in Union Hall. After a period of drilling and lounging, it was discovered that the services of all the recruits would not be required to fill the quota. The company, in part, disbanded. Those left behind afterwards re-enlisted and joined other regiments.

During the summer of 1862, additional recruits were mustered into the Fourteenth Regiment, Companies A, B, and E. Killingly resident, Edward Hill, was wounded September 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam. The majority of Killingly's men enlisted in the Eighteenth Regiment of Infantry, Company K, under Captain Ephraim Keech, Jr., of Killingly, or Company B under Captain Thomas Bates of Brooklyn. Most of these men were from the area shops and mills; many were heads of families but in a few cases, both father and son served.

The middle room of Union Hall was used as a recruiting office. Toward the middle of August, there was a final gathering of volunteers at Railroad Square, and after the usual number of speeches, they took the train for Norwich. There they camped about two miles outside the city on the Fair Grounds. By the end of August, the regiment was ordered to Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, for garrison duty.

In 1863, the Eighteenth Connecticut Infantry was transferred from Fort McHenry to Martinsburg, Virginia, to join General Milroy's division that was holding Shenandoah Valley.

Federal troops were attacked by an overwhelming Confederate army commanded by General Ewell. Many men from Killingly were among those headed off from the main regiment and captured about four miles from Winchester. By July, most of the captured had been paroled and rejoined their regiment. The Eighteenth Regiment also participated in numerous engagements in Virginia during the summer of 1864. Most of Killingly's soldiers were mustered out of that regiment by July 17, 1865, following the end of the War.

By 1864, the scarcity of cotton made it necessary for the Quinebaug Mill and other cotton factories to cease operations completely. The mills of the Danielson’s and Nelson Whitemore never reopened under their ownership. A general business depression followed, pending the election of 1864.

An influx of factory workers brought forth additional religious advances. In 1862, the Reverend Samuel Hall conducted the first Episcopal services in Killingly. In 1865, the members purchased the former Westfield Academy, renovated the building, and conducted the first services on Christmas Eve. In 1864, Reverend James Quinn purchased the old Second Advent Chapel on Winter Street and converted it to the first Catholic Church in Killingly.