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Stratford Native Explores Connecticut's Civil War Monuments

Dave Pelland wants you to come along as he takes a trip to Connecticut's Civil War monuments in photos and text.

Dave Pelland says his interest in history has always led him to visit historical monuments to see what is inscribed on them.

Several years ago, he began collecting photographs and notes on monuments all over Connecticut, which he displayed on his CT Monuments blog. That ultimately led to the publication in November of his new book, "Civil War Monuments of Connecticut."

The book features 135 Civil War monuments with pictures of each, descriptions of the information and names that appear on them, information about the artist that designed them and a discussion of the broader historical context they fit into.

Pelland, who now lives in Milford, says it took him more than two years to compile the book and have it published. He notes it might benefit from the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which is now being observed.

Battlefield Connections

As Pelland sees it, what the monuments show is the local connection to battlefields hundreds of miles away.

"In general, people think of the Civil War as something that happened far away from Connecticut, but there were many people from Connecticut who died in the Civil War," he says.

Twenty-eight men from Milford are among the war's dead, including six who died in combat. The rest died from sickness or wounds.

Pelland says he has seen names on battlefield monuments to Connecticut regiments, and then came home to find those same names listed on Civil War monuments on town greens.

Monumental Monuments

Not all of Connecticut's historical markers and monuments are for the Civil War, however. Pelland says some are for the American Revolution and other conflicts, and others recognize historical figures and noteworthy historical events.

One interesting case is the monument in Windsor to the town's founder, John Mason. Pelland says the monument originally stood in Groton at the site of the Mystic Massacre, an incident in 1637 when a militia of English settlers and rival Indians attacked and massacred about 600 Pequot Indians, mostly women, children and old men.

In the 1990s, after the Pequot tribe objected to the monument, it was moved to Windsor and fitted with new plaques changing its historical context.

"That was interesting, because historical events don't change, but the way we think about them can evolve," Pelland noted.

Evolution in Design

Also interesting to Pelland is how the design of monuments has evolved. He says Civil War monuments built in the 1860s and 1870s tended to have simple designs, often just a plain obelisk with an inscription. They were often built and designed by cemetery gravestone makers, which accounts for their simplicity.

That changed in the 1880s, when the designs became more heroic, including figures of infantrymen or flag bearers.

Pelland says they evolved further in the 1890s when they include allegorical figures, such as classical Greek and Roman goddesses that represent peace or unity. A monument in Salisbury depicts a goddess figure holding a shield. Another in Stafford Springs is a classical female figure in mourning.

He says these design changes show the shifts in artistic tastes, but also the desire to have a monument that is different from the one in the next town.

Second Book in the Making

Pelland, 46, works as a self-employed business-to-business copywriter developing print and Internet content for local businesses.

He says he has started work on a new book to focus on Connecticut infantry regiment monuments at the Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields.

Kent M. Miller January 03, 2012 at 02:15 PM
We should also remember the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 which included a monumental attack against Stonington, Connecticut, on August 10, 1814. The memorial for this attack can be found here: http://ctmonuments.net/2010/08/war-of-1812-monument-stonington/
David Hammill January 04, 2012 at 02:04 AM
What is the monument at Acadamey Hill in Stratford? We were taught that there was a battle on the hill and in that area at St James School. Was it fro the revolution or civilwar. I am still going to buy the book ,but was intrested in that monument since as a kid I hung around that area and went to school at St James so I saw it everyday . Thanks for your replys David Hammill Hollywood Fl. dhi69@aol.com
Anthony Karge January 04, 2012 at 03:10 PM
This is what Dave told me in an email. "That's the Civil War monument. It was dedicated in 1889, and, in a unique Stratford twist, is the only Civil War monument in CT made of zinc. http://ctmonuments.net/2009/10/soldiers’-and-sailors’-monument-stratford/ As far as a battle taking place on the site, I haven't read that. I believe (dangerous without checking) the early settlers had a fort on the hill, but I don't think any battles took place there. (If one had, you'd think it would be mentioned on the Civil War monument). "
Common Sense Moderate January 04, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I'm working on a long-term Civil War project for the 150th anniversary. Also a copywriter like Dave - would love to hear more about the project. And to answer question - there was a fort on the hill - it being the high ground in the area. But any battle would have been with Native Americans. No battle here during the Revolution other than some minor affairs in the Sound - and certainly no Civil War battles in Stratford - those dirty rebels didn't get anywhere near CT. BUT, an interesting story about CT in the Civil War is the arms and textile industries - as well as the Peace Movement early in the war. They were fighting in the streets over peace flags in BPT and elsewhere throughout the state.

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