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Home » ARTS AND CULTURE in CT » CONNECTICUT (all topics) » Letters from the Battlefield: Stories of Washington's Civil War Soldiers
Samuel Jay Nettleton
Letters from the Battlefield: Stories of Washington's Civil War Soldiers

Exhibit Preview - The Gunn Historical Museum, Washington, Connecticut

By Mark B. Oliver | April 26, 2011

Once again the Gunn Historical Museum excels with its latest exhibit.

The 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War is being marked throughout the country, with numerous reenactments, museum exhibits and remembrance services.   So how does the latest exhibit, Letters from the Battlefield: Stories of Washington’s Civil War Soldiers, at the Gunn Historical Museum, differ from those you might find elsewhere?

Lenoard Van-Cott (August 1862) who was Killed in Action

Washington was a tight knit community that had evolved from being a slave-supporting community to being strongly in favor of abolitionist forces.   Eight men, friends and neighbors, from the small town left to fight in the war, and tragically not all of them returned.

“The exhibit tells their individual stories through their words essentially, by taking the letters they wrote, giving us a unique insight into the conflict,” museum curator, Stephen Bartkus explains.

How did the museum obtain the letters? “We are lucky to have numerous letters in our archive that have been donated to us over the years.   Then, using research tools such as the Internet and genealogical services that weren’t available twenty years ago, we traced descendent's of the men who now lived as far afield as Utah, Ohio and Virginia, obtaining additional letters and personal artifacts.”

The letters trace the thread of each soldier’s individual experiences which weave together to provide a deeply personal, intimate, view of the war, and is very powerful as a result.

The exhibit opens on May 1, 2010, and to coincide with this a Civil War Encampment will be held in the grounds of the museum that day from 10AM until 4PM.

Re-enactors will depict both civilians (from Abraham Lincoln to prominent Washington resident Frederick Gunn) and soldiers.   They day will include military drills, wartime medical practices and blacksmithing demonstrations.

There is a Civil War Church Service at the First Congregational Church on the Washington Green, from 10.30AM to 11.30AM, followed by a Remembrance Ceremony at noon at the museum.   Edith Nettleton, the 102 year old granddaughter of Washington Civil War soldier Samuel Jay Nettleton, will be the guest of honor.

Further details are available at the museum’s website.   This moving exhibit will be on display from May 1, 2011 through October 30, 2011.   A full review will feature on ONE after the exhibit opens.


The Gunn Historical Museum

5 Wykeham Road, Washington, CT 06793

(860) 868-7756


Opening Hours:

Thu - Sat: 10AM - 4PM

Sun: 12PM - 4 PM

Entry to the museum, and the day's events, are free but donations are of course welcome.

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