I’m familiar with a few Civil War state governors, but William A. Buckingham’s name was new to me. Funny how venerable men can fade from history as the years pass.
The story goes that President Abraham Lincoln was at work in the White House executive office one day when he was interrupted by a visitor from Connecticut.
Rising from his chair, the lanky, care-worn president clamped his hand down on the man’s shoulder and exclaimed: “From Connecticut? Do you know what a good governor you have got?”
Lincoln knew well what Connecticut today has largely forgotten: Its Civil War governor, William Alfred Buckingham, was one of the greatest leaders in the state’s long history.
One of only four Union governors to serve throughout the entire Civil War, Buckingham proved an able, energetic administrator, a staunch and often eloquent opponent of slavery and a vital supporter of the Lincoln administration. His decisiveness and political courage in the days immediately following Fort Sumter assured that Connecticut was among the first states to answer Lincoln’s call for volunteers to put down the Southern rebellion.
When the crisis refused to die quickly, Buckingham’s administration worked tirelessly over the next four years to raise and supply troops…
For years afterward, Buckingham Day observances were held. But today, Buckingham’s legacy has been largely forgotten.