William H. Cogswell was a member of the Schaghticoke tribe and was Connecticut’s first Native American to enlist during the war. He originally attempted to enlist at Winsted when the first companies were being formed. After Cogswell enlisted and was sworn into service, his fellow soldiers demanded that he be kicked out, on the grounds that he was not white. Cogswell’s enlistment was canceled and his name was erased from the muster rolls.
On June 22, 1861, Cogswell once more tried to enlist, this time at Cornwall. Cogswell grew up in Cornwall, where he was well-known as the town’s fastest runner, easily winning any race held at local fairs. He had no difficulty joining a regiment at his hometown, enlisting as a Sergeant with Company I of the 5th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. During a skirmish at Harrisburg on May 3, 1862, Cogswell was taken prisoner by the Confederates. He was paroled and discharged on May 21, 1862, returning home for two months.