By Cornel Garfman, MS
Writer and Historian
Information in this article was originally published as part of a semester-long graduate student project at Central Connecticut State University that examined Civil War monuments and their histories in and around the State Capitol in Hartford. Portions were extracted for use in the 29th Connecticut Colored Regiment history.
During the Civil War, battle flags were so important to soldiers, men would routinely risk their lives so that their unit banner would not be captured by the enemy. Because they represented a unit’s home state, soldiers took great pride in regimental battle flags and treated them with great reverence. Flags, which were carried by a designated team known as the color guard, also marked the position of the regiment on the battlefield. A typical regimental color guard would consist of two color bearers, one carrying a US or Confederate flag, often referred to as a unit’s “national” colors, and one carrying the state, or “regimental,” flag.
Considered a great honor, being in a color guard required a soldier to be extraordinarily brave, as the enemy often aimed their guns at an opposing army’s regimental flags. Consequently, the mortality rate of color bearers was quite high and there are countless stories of them being wounded or killed. After the war, most state governments put a great deal of effort into collecting and maintaining their battle flags, and although they were looked upon with great veneration well into the 20th century, these collections have been largely forgotten in modern times. Yet, state battle flag collections still exist, and with 110 flags, Connecticut owns one of the grandest assortments of military banners in the nation. Among them is a particularly unique flag display dedicated to the state’s first black military unit.
Of the nearly 200,000 black soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War, most were assigned to a portion of the US Army created to oversee all African American regiments, known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Four black regiments (three in Massachusetts, including the famed 54th immortalized in the film Glory, and Connecticut’s 29th (Colored) Volunteer Infantry (CVI)) retained their original state designations throughout the war.
Comprised of ten companies totaling approximately 1,000 men, the 29th CVI (Colored Volunteer Infantry) was presented with its first battle flag, a 33-star US banner, by a local minister, the Reverend Dr. Mott, on March 8, 1864, in the Fair Haven section of New Haven. The men made no show of emotion during the formal ceremony, recalled Isaac J. Hill in his book, A Sketch of the 29th Regiment of the Connecticut Colored Troops, “on account of the Regiment not receiving the $75 which was promised to them at their enlistment.” A little over a week later, on March 19, the New Haven Daily Palladium reported that a local black woman presented to the unit its second battle flag—its regimental colors. As the dark blue silk flag was handed over to the unit’s new commander, Colonel William B. Wooster of Derby, the father of one of the unit’s officers, the Reverend Dr. Leonard Bacon, gave a long and passionate speech in which he told the soldiers, “We give you this flag to march under which tells you that you are a Connecticut regiment, and it is our confident expectation that you as a regiment will do honor to the State of Connecticut, as well as to the stars and stripes. And in order to do this, you must bring back this flag when you return, without any dishonor.” Bacon concluded by reminding the 1,005 soldiers that as men of color, they would need to prove “worthy of the respect of fellow men,” in particular, whites. Immediately following the ceremony, as the regiment marched towards the wharf where the steamship Warrior was waiting to take them to the front, the soldiers could be heard shouting, “We’ll show you we can fight! We’ll show you that we are men!”
According to unit biographer Diana Ross McCain, during its course of service, the 29th suffered nearly 500 casualties in a half-dozen battles in Virginia.
Throughout the war, in addition to the two flags presented in March of 1864, the regiment also carried two small, white triangular flags, each displaying the unit’s number. These flags, known as guidons, were carried into battle on hand-carved wooden staffs on the left and right flanks of the regiment. It is unknown how or when the unit came into possession of these two flags, but when they were discovered in the mid-1980s, a small piece of black mourning cloth was found tied to one of the banners and is believed to have been placed there either in honor of men of the 29th killed in action or for President Abraham Lincoln.
The 29th (Colored) Regiment CVI 35-star US “National” flag was presented to the unit when it became part of the 25th Army Corps in March of 1865 – Courtesy of the Connecticut Office of Legislative Management, from the book Qui Transtulit Sustinet by Geraldine Caughman In March of 1865, just a few weeks before the end of the war, the regiment became part of the 25th Army Corps and received a second US flag, this time with 35 stars. At the ceremony, Colonel Ulysses Doubleday, 2nd Brigade Commander, praised the bravery of the 29th in his presentation speech, and according to unit historian Reverend Henry G. Marshall in History of the Twenty- ninth (Colored) Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry; In Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the Army and Navy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion, companies C and G of the 29th became the first union infantry soldiers to enter the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, when it fell on April 3, 1865. Later that same day, according to A. H. Newton in his book, Out of the Briars – An Autobiography and Sketch of the Twenty-Ninth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, President Abraham Lincoln himself must have laid eyes on the 29th’s battle flags as he made a “triumphant entry into the city” to survey the scene, a mere twelve days before the commander in chief was killed by an assassin’s bullet.
After the Confederacy surrendered, the unit was shipped to Texas for several months to perform guard duty. Upon returning to Connecticut, the soldiers of the 29th were given a hearty welcome by Hartford Mayor Allyn S. Stillman, Connecticut Governor William A. Buckingham, and the state’s most celebrated Civil War soldier, General Joseph Roswell Hawley. The Hartford Courant reported that on November 25, 1865, the day the unit was discharged, Hawley applauded the soldiers (who were described as “slouching and weary- looking”) in particular, for their performance the year before while he served as their commander at the Battle of Darbytown Road, Virginia. Hawley closed his speech by saying that the men of the regiment deserved all rights and privileges afforded citizens of the country (although full citizenship for black Americans would not be realized for another three years with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment).
Local Woman’s Clothing Designs Come to Life
by Tiffany Johnson
Twitter- TILAJO 20
Tiffany Johnson always had a love for clothing and fashion since she was a little girl. However, she took a more serious interest in it when I was 12 years old. “I simply love clothes and the way they make me feel”.
A graduate of Frank Scott Bunnell High School (and currently attending Eastern Connecticut State University as a General Psychology major), Her clothing line, TILAJO, LLC, is a Unisex Luxe Streetwear line that targets millennials. The items sold are generally fitted for XS thru 4XL.
“I have no formal training in clothing design, but I have a passion for clothing styles and looks that celebrate individuality. Although the idea of having my own clothing line was conceptualized as a preteen, the birth of TILAJO, LLC came about in April 2020.
“My Goal for the brand is to continue to grow and expand its following worldwide. Also, provide offerings to include but not limited to travel, food and entertainment services. I want to be a household name. I would also love to collaborate with other companies to create a line of products that promotes and supports self-love, women empowerment and gender equality.”
“It’s important for my brand to reflect a new age of design that tells a very realistic story about the day and time we live in. The use of bold primary color displayed in my logo design as well as my signature products defines a primary mindset. Primary because it serves as a constant reminder that we are original and what makes us who we are is not derived from, caused by or based on anything else.
We all have a bigger purpose in life and finding out what that is synonymous with our ability to TRUST LIFES JOURNEY.
The inspiration for the brand came when she discovered her need for clarity with who she is as a person and what makes her unique in spite of my connection to others. “Losing yourself in the midst of trying to find your place in the lives of others is a hard pill to swallow. Maintaining who you are has to be in the forefront of your mind and always a safe place that keeps you grounded. Choosing you is okay every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Self-love is by far the greatest gift you can give yourself. It is my hope that you always find what makes you great and stop at nothing to be present in every moment, showing up for yourself time and time again unapologetically!!!!”
“Time wouldn’t be able to tell my story. I am an idea that most dream up but few dare to get to experience. I love all things genuine yet fun, like a genuine smile or a heartfelt hello. I marvel at those who can keep it real even under the extremist of circumstances.
To address the fun part, I am a true sucker for fun; but clean fun, the kind that makes you want to get on a swing and swing so high in an effort to touch the outer skirts of heaven.” “I can be anal but for the cause of perfecting that which can be perfected. I trust way more than I should and I always give the benefit of the doubt. So much uncertainty I have experienced in life, I owe to the people I let take up residency in my heart. I have learned to be cautious and give pause to things that don’t feed my soul. I can be immature at times and yet I find no fault in preserving not wanting to grow up too fast.
TILAJO is me and I am her. A power source of hope, a beacon of light and a never ending by product of self-love. The brand inspires to eradicate self-hate and promote all things that make you look and feel BEAUTIFUL!!!” For further information about Tiffany Johnson and TILAJO, LLC, go to: https://www.facebook.com/tilajo20/
New Signs Added to Anti-Racism Display
by Tom Holehan
Public Relations & Programming at the Stratford Library
The Stratford Library, 2203 Main Street in Stratford has extended the viewing period of its lawn sign exhibit Entitled “The Power of Diverse Voices: In Their Words“, which debuted last November, through February 2021.
The exhibit is a project of the Library Board’s newly formed Anti-Racism committee and features select quotations from people of color on over 50 lawn signs gracing the Library’s Main Street and rear entrances. The words of Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Harriet Tubman, Caesar Chavez and many others have now been joined by 30 more signs that include quotes by Frederick Douglass, Beyonce, Michael Jordan, James Baldwin, Kamala Harris, Stevie Wonder and Alice Walker.
The project is the first of several programs dealing with racism and implicit bias planned by the Library in conjunction with CARE (Citizens Addressing Racial Equity), Sterling House Community Center, the Town of Stratford and the Arts Alliance of Stratford. There is also a lobby display providing brief biographies about all the authors. Those seeking further information can also visit the Library’s website at: http://stratfordlibrary.org/anti-racism-reading-list-resources/.
In conjunction with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the Stratford Library Teen Department is inviting friends and families to come to the lawn exhibit and take a selfie next to their favorite sign. The ASALH theme for “Black History Month” is The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity which runs February 1 thru March 1. Photos should be submitted to the Teen Department (firstname.lastname@example.org) which is creating a collage of faces to augment the exhibit.
Stratford Library Board Anti-Racism Statement
Stratford is a town with a growing minority population. We unequivocally condemn all forms of violence against Black, Latinos, Indigenous, and all people of color. The library believes it is important to come forward and publicly state that we believe Black lives matter. Libraries are often considered neutral spaces but the Stratford Library is far from neutral on the issue of racism. We can proudly say that the mission of the library “…to empower and enrich our diverse community by providing access to innovative services, information, and ideas” is one that seeks to directly combat divisiveness, ignorance, hate, and racism in our community.
Adopted by the Stratford Library Board, September 17, 2020
For further information, call: 203.385.4162.
Brought to you by Stratford Forward, a 501(3)c nonprofit dedicated to building the Stratford community.