Immediately after the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Sixth Corps was moved to Burkesville, some distance from Appomattox in the direction of Richmond, and there it remained for about ten days awaiting events. On April 22nd it was ordered southward to Danville, with a view to joining Sherman’s army then confronting Johnston in North Carolina, a movement which again necessitated some fatiguing marches, the one hundred and five miles being covered in less than five days. News was received, however, that Johnston had followed the example of Lee and surrendered, and the corps thereupon faced about once more. On its leisurely progress to the north it was joined by crowds of the newly freed negroes, who attached themselves to every regiment in droves, and the lately hostile inhabitants came also at every stopping place, “with baskets and two-wheeled carts” for supplies to relieve their dire necessities.
Near Richmond the regiment remained several days, and the men were allowed passes to visit the late Confederate capital, so long the goal of their strenuous efforts. “The burnt district was still smoking with the remains of the great fire of April 2nd, and the city was full of officers and soldiers of the ex-Confederate army. The blue and the gray mingled on the streets and public squares, and were seen side by side in the Sabbath congregations. The war was over.”
The consciousness of this last great fact was now becoming insistent in the minds of these citizen soldiers. The great purpose for which they had offered themselves was carried out, and their eagerness to have done with all the circumstances of military life was increasingly strong, and grew so intense as to render the final weeks of their term of service extremely trying.
The tremendous task of disbanding the armies of the Union was occupying the entire energies of the War Department, but to the men it seemed as if their longed for turn would never come. Back in the well-known fortifications around Washington they waited, taking part in the Grand Review on June 8th, in all the misery of full dress, and in a temper that would have carried them against the thousands of acclaiming spectators with savage joy, had it been a host of enemies in arms.
But their turn came at last, and on July 7th, one hundred and eighty-three men, all that were left of the original enlisted men of the “old Nineteenth,” were mustered out; two days later they departed for New Haven and were welcomed there, like all the returning troops, with patriotic rejoicing.
The remainder of the regiment, some four hundred in number, was mustered out in its turn on August 18th, reached New Haven on the 20th, and “passed up Chapel Street amid welcoming crowds of people, the clangor of bells, and a shower of rockets and red lights that made the field-and-staff horses prance with the belief that battle had come again. After partaking of a bounteous entertainment prepared in the basement of the State House, the regiment proceeded to Grapevine Point, where, on the 5th of September, they received their pay and discharge, and the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery vanished from sight and passed into History.”
In Litchfield County the return of the various contingents to their homes was made the occasion of great rejoicing. Chief among these celebrations was a grand reception at the county seat on August 1st, when the first detachment to be discharged had arrived; they were fêted with dinner and speeches, illuminations and a triumphal arch. There were also other organized demonstrations in other towns, and everywhere the strongest manifestations of pride in these warrior sons of the county, and joy at their return.
But all who went had not returned. The terrible significance of the cold and formal columns and tables of the regiment’s casualties was felt in every town, and to their tale was added in succeeding years a long list of the many who had indeed come back, but broken with wounds and disease, and just as truly devoted to death through their service as those who fell upon the field of battle.
What the Second Connecticut suffered is shown, so far as official statistics go, in the tables published by the Adjutant-General of the state, as follows:
Killed 147 Missing in action, probably killed 11 Fatally wounded 95 Wounded 427 Captured 72 Died in prison 21 Died of disease or accident 154 Discharged for disability 285 Unaccounted for at muster out 35
The officers of the regiment as mustered out were: Colonel, James Hubbard, Salisbury; lieutenant-colonel, Jeffrey Skinner, Winchester; majors, Edward W. Jones, New Hartford; Augustus H. Fenn, Plymouth; Chester D. Cleveland, Barkhamsted; adjutant, Theodore F. Vaill, Litchfield; quartermaster, Edward C. Huxley, Goshen; surgeon, Henry Plumb, New Milford; assistant surgeons, Robert G. Hazzard, New Haven; Judson B. Andrews, New Haven; chaplain, Winthrop H. Phelps, Barkhamsted.
Any body of men–a college class, a legislature, a regiment–is in character what its component members make it; in this case there was the material, which, furnished with worthy leadership–and it unquestionably had that–made up the organization whose not uneventful existence has been described. That they were better men, or worse, braver men, or more patriotic, than their descendants and successors would prove under similar conditions, or than the hundreds of thousands of their contemporaries who devoted themselves to the same service, is not to be believed; yet to have passed through such experiences as have been recounted, which became for them for a time the commonplaces of every-day life, is enough to place them apart from ordinary men in the eyes of our peace knowing generation. In fact, to have passed the tests of so fierce a course of education gives them a title to a place thus apart. The university man of to-day, as the burden of the baccalaureate sermons so frequently testifies, is consigned to a special place of responsibility in life because of his training; these men surely earned one of special honor by reason of theirs, which was, too, not like the other, preparation alone, but also fulfillment. The realization of how typical it all was of that generation and that time, brings the clearest understanding of the real scope of the Civil War.