Symposium 2012:

"Then We Talk of Home" A Soldier's Letters Introduce the Civil War

A simple collection, less than one hundred letters, provides a remarkable foundation for understanding Litchfield’s Civil War experience. Alva A. Stone, a soldier who enlisted in the 8th Connecticut, wrote regularly to his wife and young daughter. He included illustrations of his tent (shown at right), a sketch of the camp he was sent to on Long Island, and colorful descriptions of the actions of his regiment from camp in Annapolis to the capture of Fort Macon. Like many soldiers, Stone experienced health problems. Unlike many, he survived. He was discharged for chronic diarrhea prior to the 8th’s participation in the Battle of Antietam. Stone described burials of fellow soldiers, uniforms, food, unfamiliar Southern customs, and the bad reputation of army hospitals.

Stone’s prolific descriptions of life during this era provide a starting point for stimulating discussion about Civil War medicine, textiles, and the variety of techniques one can employ to make Connecticut’s history accessible to a wide audience. From them, we participate in significant battles of the Burnside expedition and relive the mundane repetition of camp life. Join us as we explore ways to bring his words, and those of his fellow soldiers, off the page.

A printable PDF with complete registration instructions and directions is available here.


9:00 am Coffee and Registration

9:15 am Welcome and Introductions

9:30 am Keynote speaker: Dr. Matthew Warshauer Presenting the Civil War: The Ultimate How to Guide
Dr. Matthew Warshauer, professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and co-chair of the CT Civil War CommemorationCommission, will discuss a variety of themes that historical societies and museums might
use to depict the human stories that continue to captivate visitors. The focus of the talk will be to discuss big picture ideas and fit them within the actual objects that are available.

“Now keep the fugitives in motion & give them no rest- or time to fortify and the next 30 days may finish the rebellion- Drum beats for Roll Call ‘fall in’ that over we sit down & go thro America & the Star Spangled Banner we are too joyful even to sing- so we spread out ‘outspread’ and talk ourselves to sleep.” Alva Stone

10:30 am Break

10:45 am Dr. Ira Spar Health Care Delivery in Connecticut during the Civil War
Dr. Ira Spar is a practicing orthopedic and hand surgeon and a member of the Society of Civil War Surgeons. He will present a discussion of nineteenth-century medicine, diseases and injuries encountered, and treatments available. Who the health care providers were and how they functioned will round out the talk.
“…you see if a man is reported sick at roll call in the morning he must go to the hospital, when the surgeon’s call beats at 7.30 or else go on duty. Now I want you to understand they don’t get me into the Castor Oil Shop as long as I can crawl, that is settled.” Alva Stone

12:00 pm Lunch

1:00 pm Lynne Zacek Bassett “Outfitting our Gallant Soldiers” Civil War Textiles from the Connecticut Home Front
The production and supply of textiles during the Civil War speak to the period’s newly discovered patriotism, to manufacturing and economic challenges, and especially to the herculean efforts of women on the homefront. Join Lynne Zacek Bassett as she explores Connecticut’s role in the Civil War through the textiles that the citizens of the
state created and used, from the first call to defend the Union to the post-war ceremonies that helped veterans to make sense of their experience.

“What a fine thing the War is for some of those men who manufacture clothing and equipment for the “poor soldier.” If some of them should happen to die you need not look for us to put on mourning.” Alva Stone

2:15–3:30 pm Concurring Sessions (choose one)

Session 1: Interpreters Panel: Developing a Civil War Character for First Person Interpretation featuring Tammy Denease, Kent Sinram
Tammy Denease has developed performances and workshops appealing to a wide variety of audiences as she teaches history based on factual research. She will discuss how she recreates the life of Elizabeth Keckly, an enslaved woman, struggling to purchase her freedom as well as her body to become confidante to the First Lady at Lincoln’s White House. Lizzy was president of the Contra Band Relief Association after the Civil War and changed the name to to Freedmen and Soldiers Relief Association.
Kent Sinram became a Civil War reenactor in 1990. After fourteen years in the field, he began work to recreate the life of Robert E. Lee. He presents his character to schools and introduces pupils to various Civil War artifacts.

Session 2: Use Your Words:
Litchfield Historical Society Staff Jessica Jenkins, Linda Hocking, Kate Baldwin
The Society’s curators faced an uphill battle when they decided to do a Civil War exhibit and accompanying program as the collection contains relatively few artifacts from the War. They explain how they are developing an interactive, interpretive exhibit and engaging public programming based on archival collections using reproductions, loans, and large scale reprints of documentary sources.

“Our Litchfield men area a long stride ahead of most of the reg’t both as Men and Soldiers. Our tent crew can’t be beat – all quiet – less profanity and more cleanliness.” Alva Stone

3:30 pm Walking Tour led by Peter Vermilyea
Bundle up for a fascinating look at some of Litchfield’s Civil War monuments and landmarks with WCSU history professor and high school history teacher Peter Vermilyea. Return to the museum for warm cider and cocoa.

To register, please print out the registration form and mail it with a check to P.O. Box 385, Litchfield, CT 06759. If you prefer to pay by credit card, you may mail the form, fax it to 860-567-4501, or e-mail it to Liz O'Grady.