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Passing in Review

Connecticut Soldier Stories are Freshly Mined Nuggets of History

George Marsh stares at the camera with an expression that suggests a contemplative person, who, perhaps, also possesses a dash of the mischievous, with an oversize bowtie framing his clean-shaven face. His portrait photograph resembles countless others inserted into fashionable carte de visite albums during the war. What makes this image quite unique is a newspaper clipping pasted below his likeness. It reads, in part, “He was lying on the ground when a ball entered the ground in front of him and came out of the earth a few feet from where he lay. The concussion caused his death, as he was not hit by any thing.”

The narrative that accompanies the photo details how Marsh, a sergeant in the 8th Connecticut Infantry, became caught in Confederate artillery fire at Antietam. The concussion of one round killed Marsh, who may have been the first Connecticut soldier to fall on the bloodiest day in American history.

This is one of the many poignant stories in Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers by John Banks. A longtime journalist and blogger, Banks maximizes his skill as a reporter and writer to tell representative stories of Connecticut’s citizen soldiers. The volume is organized in chapters that capture the range of soldier experiences: Remembering, Brothers, Heroes, Villains, Tragedies and Survivors. The individual stories are not simple statements of military service, but compelling narratives that better our appreciation of the human cost of war for soldiers and families.

Banks notes in his acknowledgments that, “thousands of nuggets of history are waiting to be mined” at his state library and historical society. And so it is true at repositories large and small across the rest of the country. The stories that Banks mined are a wonderful addition to our understanding of Connecticut Yankees. They are also worthy of study by anyone interested in the experience of enlisted men and officers who participated in our Civil War.

Hidden History of Connecticut Union SoldiersBy John BanksSoftcover, 208 pagesArcadia Publishing$21.99

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