The other day, “06880” celebrated the end of WestportREADS — this year’s book explored World War I — and the 100th anniversary of the “Great War” armistice with a story on military contributions of Westport artists a century ago.
This photo did not make it into the story. But it provides a fascinating peek into a local link between two wars that, today, we think of as completely distinct from each other.
As the caption notes, the photo above shows “soldiers, sailors and veterans from World War I and the Civil War.” They posed together on “Welcome Home Day.”
Three Westport Civil War veterans were there: James H. Sowle, Christopher Tripp and Edwin Davis. Sowle — in the 2nd full row, 2nd from right — presented medals to the newest veterans.
Three things strike me as noteworthy.
First, for a small town, the number of men serving seems remarkable.
Second, though Westport was still a small town in 1918, much had changed in the more than half century since the War Between the States.
Third, 50 years after this photo was taken, American would have fought — and helped win — World War II. We fought to a standstill in Korea. And then got mired in Vietnam.
There would be no more “Welcome Home Day” ceremonies then.
While many Westporters have been deeply moved by Steven Spielberg’s epic “Lincoln” movie, the 16th president wasn’t always the most popular guy in town.
In 1860 , not the most popular guy in town.
In 1860, he got only 48 percent of the vote in Westport. Lees’ twine manufacturing company — which relied on Southern cotton, and at the time one of Westport’s major manufacturers — apparently was more important to local voters than any abolitionist fervor or save-the-nation ideals.
That fascinating tidbit comes from Brian O’Leary. A historian who loves poring over old newspaper clippings, he’ll talk tomorrow (Sunday, April 28, 7 p.m., Unitarian Church) about Westport and that 1860 election, held just before the Civil War. He’ll also discuss the 60 Westport men who volunteered to fight in Fairfield’s 17th Regiment.
O’Leary’s talk is just part of tomorrow’s event. Baritone Jose Andrade will perform Civil War songs, including “Aura Lee” (the melody Elvis Presley used 100 years later for “Love Me Tender”), “Dixie,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and more.
The concert and talk is co-sponsored by the Unitarian Church and Westport Historical Society. One of the beneficiaries is the church’s Steinway piano. It’s gotten a lot of use over the years, and must be restrung.
Though presumably not with twine made in Westport, from Southern cotton.
(Tickets are $15, at the door. For more information click here, or call 203-227-7205.)
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