Abramham Lincoln Memorial Ribbon, 1865.
(Collection of Cornwall Historical Society)

Although the Civil War was fought in locations far removed from Cornwall and Connecticut, it left its mark on the people and military system here. An unknown number of Cornwall soldiers suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others were incapacitated by debilitating diseases and injuries. Widows, orphans, and even the mothers of soldiers killed during the war struggled to survive on government pensions. A home for war orphans was started by Cornwall’s Theodore Sedgwick Gold. Annual commemorations and gatherings of veterans helped ease some of the suffering felt by so many.

At least two Cornwall marriages disintegrated during the war, leading to one murder and one divorce. Corporal Charles H. Frink, who served with the 11th C.V.I., returned home on furlough in January 1864 and found that his wife had left him for another man. When Frink confronted the couple, he was killed by his wife’s lover. Corporal Nelson Clark fared better when his wife left him for another man during the war; his marriage ended in divorce.

The militia system, which proved woefully inadequate during the Civil War, underwent massive changes, the first of which was being reorganized as state-level national guards. Connecticut’s Legislature renamed its militia the Connecticut National Guard on July 9, 1865, one of the first states to do so. The maintenance of the former militia was increasingly regulated to improve their level of skill and training. Instead of an annual drill, the militia regiments spent six days training at encampments held at various locations within their districts. In 1883, Connecticut purchased a permanent location at Niantic for regimental encampments.