According to census figures, there were 1547 residents of East Lyme in 1860, occupying 278 households. Of those listing an occupation, over half were farmers or farm laborers and another quarter were fisherman or sailors. The remaining occupations ranged from clergyman and physician to stone cutter and weaver.
The attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861 inspired a wave of patriotism throughout the northern states. Citizens enthusiastically donated time and money to help the war effort. When President Lincoln requested each state to supply one regiment, Connecticut quickly filled three, leading some men to head for other states in order to join the war. Women gathered in churches, public halls, and private homes to sew the uniforms and other necessities for the new soldiers.
It should be no surprise, then, that nearly 100 men from East Lyme would enlist before the war was over. Their names, along with another 36 men who either made East Lyme their home after the war, or were buried in town with relatives, are listed here by regiment. A short review of each regiment’s service is included. Also listed are two women, Anne and Mary Gorton, who served as nurses during the war.
Many histories have been written of this time. This website is merely intended to supplement them.
ERECTED BY THE LATE FLORA M. SMITH
IN MEMORY OF HER FATHER
CO. C 26TH REGIMENT CV INFANTRY
AND THE FOLLOWING CITIZENS OF THE
TOWN OF EAST LYME
WHO ALSO VOLUNTEERED FOR SERVICE IN
THE CIVIL WAR
THE MEN OF EAST LYME WHO OFFERED
THEIR LIVES TO PRESERVE THE UNION
THE WOUNDED SOLDIERS
The wounded from the battle-field of Fair Oaks, and other Virginia fields, are now arriving here daily. Six hundred came in last evening, and were sent to the different places previously chosen for the purpose in this City. These wounded and sick men will all be taken care of by the Government, aided by the Sanitary Commission, and by the efforts of professional and other benevolent persons in the City. Still there is much that private beneficence and attention can do for them. They need comforts, delicacies, attentions, underclothing, and a thousand other things. Any one who has had sickness in the house, and knows those things that the sick and suffering need, can do daily a little work that will relieve much suffering. Any woman, any lady, with a little leisure, a needle, and a kind heart, can make herself of service. If she has no other time, let her work for the suffering soldiers on Sundays. It is no harm, but rather a positive virtue, to ply the needle or kindle the fire on the holy day for such a purpose. Most of these private benefactions had better reach the soldiers through the Sanitary commission, which is in need of constant renewals of labor, supplies, and money. It depends upon private contributions for the means of carrying on its great work. The public have well supported it hitherto; but it needs much more at present, when such large numbers of sick and wounded are daily thrown upon its care. Let no woman waste any time while this war lasts. The sex cannot fight, (not in regiments, we mean,) but they can serve their country equally effectively, otherwise.
The benevolent also should have an eye upon the families of those of the soldiers who need aid. Many of them are in want, and no man who has offered his life for his country should ever be allowed to suffer, either in his person or his family, because he has done so.
June 8, 1862
New York Times
It should be noted that at least one man with family in East Lyme served the Confederacy. Samuel Henderson grew up in New Orleans, the son of the Reverend John Henderson and Elizabeth Avery Henderson. Elizabeth was raised in what would become East Lyme, on the farm of her father, Abraham Avery. In 1846, the Widow Henderson returned to her family’s land, by now owned by her brother Thomas. Thomas had built a new Greek Revival house on the site of his father’s home, but retained some of the original building, including the kitchen. This back portion of the house he deeded to Elizabeth and two unmarried sisters. Elizabeth remained there through the war, and to the end of her life. (This house is now known as the Smith-Harris House, and is operated by the Town of East Lyme as a museum.)
Samuel remained in New Orleans, where he was a steamboat pilot before the war broke out. On June 15, 1863, the blockade runner Planter, of which Henderson was a steersman, was captured. Henderson refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Union for fear of having his property confiscated, although he was willing to take a neutrality oath. He was imprisoned in Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor, until the war ended. He returned to New Orleans upon his release, where he spent the remainder of his life.