One of the great things a town can do is create memories for its residents. Torrington does a good job of this with concerts at Coe Park, Main Street Marketplace, The Fourth of July fireworks, the Memorial Day Parade and Christmas Village just a few of the memories available to Torrington residents. However, every once in a while even more unusual, possibly once in a life time memories can be made. Such appears to be the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Civil War Encampment and Parade that was held in Torrington on May 26th 2009. I say appears as I hate to admit I not only missed attending, but was completely oblivious to it. Sometimes personal events completely obliterate the world around you and that period was one of those for me.
In researching ideas for my Torrington Memory page I came upon a group of pictures for the Encampment and various events from that day and I was completely taken with how much fun that day must have been and how I regret not having shared in its memories. Fortunately writing these pages I do get to share in the memories, albeit from a 5 years distance and only via articles and photos.
In 2008 Governor Jodi Rell established a 15-member commission to plan and organize events for a two-year celebration surrounding the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Torrington’s participation in that celebration was a Civil War encampment and parade, which lasted from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM.
The event started at 9: 30 AM at the Church Street railroad crossing where President Abraham Lincoln , portrayed by historical re-enactor Howard Write arrived on a train donated by the Railroad Museum of New England. He was accompanied by then-Gov. William Buckingham and a Pinkerton bodyguard.
After being greeted by Mayor Bingham and the St. Peter’s Drum Corp, President Lincoln was driven to the Torrington Historical Society by a horse-drawn carriage provided by Loon Meadow Farm. There he reviewed the troops and addressed the crowd.
After Lincoln’s address to the crowd, the days activities begun in earnest including demonstrations outside of the historical society with over 100 re-enactors. Included in the group were 75 people in Union uniforms, historical characters such as Mark Twain, John Wilkes Booth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Ann Lewis Bronson and Pryce Lewis, a Union spy who is buried in Torrington, along with military portrayals of Col. Griffin Stedman, O.R. Fyler and Joseph Pierce of the 14th Connecticut.
At noon, the president dined with Gov. Buckingham and military officers. Other activities included a gun salesman demonstrating a “new” repeating rifle for the president, the troops drilled twice more for the president, who reviewed them, and twice more Lincoln addressed the crowd, several authors, including Tom Craughwell, author of Stealing Lincoln’s Body were available to sign copies of their books about this period in American history.