As the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry gathered at Camp Buckingham in Hartford in late September of 1861, the Connecticut Governor William A. Buckingham selected Edward Harland of Norwich to serve as the regimental commander. Captain Harland, now appointed to the rank of Colonel, had just returned from a stint in the 3rd Connecticut one of the three-month regiments raised at the beginning of the war. Edward Harland was an 1853 graduate of Yale University who studied for the Connecticut bar in the law offices of John Turner Wait, father of the future Lieutenant Marvin Wait of the 8th Connecticut. Harland’s first combat experience had come during his time as a Captain in the 3rd Connecticut where he commanded Company D, a unit he recruited in Norwich. During the recent Union loss at the Battle of Bull Run, Harland had proven himself as an able combat leader. Since the 3rd Connecticut was at the end of its three month term, the 29-year old Harland soon found himself without a unit to command. His desire for continued service coupled with his reputation as a component leader of troops and his pre-war standing as a bright young lawyer brought him an appointment as the new Colonel of the 8th CVI. In testament to Edward Harland’s status and character, he was presented with an expensive sword by the New-London County bar upon his commissioning as the Colonel of the 8th Connecticut.
Edward Harland would serve as the commander of the 8th Connecticut throughout the North Carolina campaign as part of the Burnside Expedition before winning an appointment to the command of a Brigade that included three Connecticut regiments (8th, 11th and 16th) as well as the 4th Rhode Island for the Maryland Campaign. Commanding the Second Brigade of Isaac Rodman’s Division at the Battle of Antietam, Harland would find his regiments dangerously separated as they moved to meet the Confederate defenders on hills outside Sharpsburg on September 17, 1862. As Harland and General Rodman attempted to hurry along the other three regiments trailing behind the 8th Connecticut, Rodman was mortally wounded and Harland’s horse was shot from under him. Edward Harland would assume temporary command of the division until after the battle. In November of 1862, Harland was promoted to Brigadier General of volunteers before commanding the brigade at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December. Harland would never again see major combat operations as his brigade was transferred to the Department of Virginia and later the Department of North Carolina spending most of the time in garrison-type duty. He resigned from the Army on June 22, 1865 returning to his native Norwich, Connecticut.
Back home, Harland resumed his law practice and made a foray into politics serving several terms in the Connecticut state legislature and as a judge of probate court. The former officer continued his ties to the military with his appointment as the adjutant general for the state militia of Connecticut. Known as “a man of great executive ability and boundless energy,” Harland delved into the banking industry working as the president of the Chelsea Savings Bank and helped to establish the W.W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.
Edward Harland never married and he died of emphysema on March 9, 1915 at his home in Norwich at the ripe old age of eighty-two where he was buried in the Yantic Cemetery.