Historical society website to chronical Westport's role in Civil War
Published 5:00 pm, Thursday, April 14, 2011
On the day 150 years ago when the first shots were fired in the Civil War, the Westport Historical Society launched a new website to commemorate the American battle.
The historical society is searching to see how Westport reacted April 12, 1861, when Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. The war raged for five years.
On Tuesday, the historical society marked the anniversary with the start of a five-year-long documentary web journal project. Curated by WHS exhibits historian Brian O'Leary and Westport Civil War historian Dave Press, the website's goal will be to trace the Civil War experience as if it were breaking news in Westport, using local artifacts and documents.
The initial focus will be April 12, 1861. Events and local profiles for the days, weeks and months that follow will be published as those anniversaries occur at www.westporthistory.org/CivilWar.
"Through the content of this website," said Dorothy E. Curran, WHS president, "and through related speakers and programs over the next five years, our goal will be to encourage learning and reflection on the hometown impact of the bloodiest war in U.S. history.
"Two hundred and twenty-five Westport men answered the call to serve in the Union Army," Curran said, "and we will follow their experience, but no battles were fought in Connecticut, and we plan no re-enactments. Instead, we seek to explore the political, social and economic fabric of Westport in 1861, and how the townspeople responded and adapted to the war, right through to the assassination of Lincoln in April 1865."
Press added, "Initial response from Westport was slow. Only 27 of the 225 Westporters who enlisted did so in 1861. Some of the homes where they lived are still standing, and our local cemeteries have gravestones marking the Civil War service."
O'Leary said, "The launch of our Westport Civil War website is timely and anticipates the opening of our summer-long `Back to Our Roots' farm history exhibit on Memorial Day weekend.
"Perhaps Westport's great contribution to the war was as a major supplier of onions to General Grant's army. It's said that Grant would not move his army without his onions."
To support the project, the WHS welcomes any Westport Civil War-era letters, maps, journals, logs, images, documents, garments, tools, weapons -- or photographs of them -- to spotlight the lives of the town's families from 1861 to 1865.
For information, call 203-222-1424.