Local writer to Speak on Civil War
MILFORD - City resident Sharon B. Smith will discuss her latest book, Connecticut’s Civil War: A Guide for Travelers, at a meeting of the Orange Historical Society Wednesday, Nov. 18, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Case Memorial Library in Orange.
The writer will also answer questions and sign copies of the 250-page guidebook, which describes places that still exist in Connecticut related to the Civil War, with a focus on the abolition movement in the state.
A life-long interest in the Civil War led Smith to research and write the book, she said. "I spent a lot of time at the New Haven Historical Society and Museum, reading through city histories, town by town, specifically, chapters about the Civil War. "
Smith especially liked tracking down information that led to hard-to-find places that contributed to history, she said. For instance, she will talk about Prudence Crandall, a Quaker-educated teacher who stirred controversy by opening a school for young Black women in Canterbury.
"The Prudence Crandall House is where she ran her school, but I was curious about a little Baptist church that gave her moral support and whose minister allowed her to take her students to attend services there, when other churches would not," said Smith.
The Packerville Baptist Church was located between Plainfield and Canterbury. The original structure is no longer there, but a rebuilt church stands in its place, said Smith. "It’s in an isolated spot, in what was a former mill town and you can feel history there.
The pastor who welcomed the Black students into his church was the Rev. Levi Kneeland, who died at a very young age and when you’re at the church, you feel you’re in the presence of a person that did such good," she said.
The Borden Condensed Milk Factory in Burr Pond State Park, just north of Torrington, is one such place. It supplied condensed milk to the troops and although the remnants of the factory are all that’s left, it’s in a beautiful area of the park, she said.
Reading about the sites is interesting, but visiting them is even better, according to Smith. "When you visit these areas, you can close your eyes and imagine what it was like then. You realize that history is all around you," she said.
Smith is a former broadcaster with ESPN and WTNH. She has published five other books, all on horses. As a sportscaster with ESPN, horse racing was Smith’s specialty.
Another topic Smith will discuss is how Connecticut factories aided the war effort. "There were factories across the state that provided the Union Army with uniforms, guns, ammunition and food," said Smith. "The factories themselves may now be gone but the rivers that powered them are still there, some in state parks."