Men from all over the state responded in droves to a proclamation by Gov. William A. Buckingham. In a matter of weeks, the state had filled three infantry regiments with 2,394 soldiers.
An article in the Hartford Daily Courant on April 23 detailed an enthusiastic response from all over the state.
Four companies, "two Irish, one American and one German," had formed in Meriden. The New London Bank offered $2,500 to Buckingham for the war, and "the town is wide awake and full of enthusiasm," the article said.
In Norwich, "The beating of drums, marching and drilling of military companies, the display of flags and fluttering of bunting, the presence of unusual crowds in all the streets, the hum of labor where the uniforms of volunteers were being made, the earnestness and enthusiasm that seemed to animate the multitude, all combined to make such a sabbath that will long be remembered," read the article, titled "The War Feeling In The State."
On April 23, the first regiment of the Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was mustered for three months of service. By May 14, the second and third regiments were set.
Joseph R. Hawley, an editor at the Hartford Evening Press, was arguably the very first volunteer in the state, said Matthew Warshauer, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University and author of "Connecticut in the Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice and Survival."
"When Hawley hears the word of Fort Sumter being fired upon, he literally puts down what he's doing and says, 'I'm going to help raise a regiment,' " Warshauer said.
Hawley helped recruit volunteers for the 1st Connecticut Regiment, and started as the first lieutenant of Rifle Company A of Hartford. At the end of three months, Hawley re-enlisted with the 7th Connecticut Regiment, eventually becoming a major general.
Hawley served through the entire war, Warshauer said, and the staunch Republican became governor in 1866. He was later elected to Congress and served as a U.S. senator from 1881 until his death in 1905.
At first, most people believed the war would be a quick one.
"[The first few regiments] are only mustered in for three months," Warshauer said. "That really gives you a great indication of how long people think this is going to be — that it's going to be this quickie thing".
Of course, they were wrong. The war lasted until 1865 and about 620,000 soldiers were killed.
"On the eve of the Civil War, neither the North nor the South could anticipate that this would be such a long war and that there would be such a demand for weapons and that the nature of warfare was going to change," Powell said.
The early troops were not well-prepared to fight. The combination of colonial-era battle tactics and new, powerful weapons made this conflict "the last of the old wars and the first of the new ones," Powell said.
"Initially there are all kinds of issues in the camps," Warshauer said. "[The volunteers] have to be organized and put into uniforms and taught how to fire their weapons. It becomes a real challenge because these are civilians and they're expected to be soldiers."
In early May, the Connecticut regiments boarded steamships and headed for the nation's capital.
"The big emergency is to get troops down to Washington because they're worried that the confederacy is going to march on Washington," Warshauer said. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Connecticut regiments were all stationed around Washington, D.C.