Edward Harland: A man of great executive ability and boundless energy

Edward Harland2

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 “Ned” Harland of Norwich to serve as the regimental commander. Captain Harland, now appointed to the rank of Colonel by the Governor, had just returned from serving in the 3rd Connecticut Infantry Regiment, one of the three-month regiments raised at the beginning of the war. Ned Harland, an 1853 graduate of Yale University, was already a prominent citizen of his home state. Upon graduation from Yale, he studied for the Connecticut bar in the law offices of John Turner Wait, father of the future Lieutenant Marvin Wait of the 8th Connecticut and, in 1855, Harland was elected as secretary of the Connecticut State Democratic Convention. By 1860, Ned Harland’s political involvement had transitioned to the new Republican party as he served as one of the floor managers for the Lincoln-Hamlin Ball.

Within a few short months, Harland made another transition that would define the remainder of his full life. In April 1861, Edward Harland joined the 3rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment in response to President Lincoln’s call for volunteers to put down the rebellion in the southern states. Harland threw himself into the work of recruiting a company of volunteers in his hometown of Norwich attaining a commission as a captain of volunteers commanding Company D of the 3rd Connecticut. On Monday, April 29, 1861, Captain Harland marched his company through the streets of Norwich enroute to the training grounds in the state capital of Hartford. He halted his company long enough for a ceremony to present the new captain a sword.  The beautiful sword was described as “a handsome piece of steel…with gold hilt in an eagle design” with an inscription on the scabbard that read:

We commit you to good hands, we know you will be true. Capt. Edward Harland from his personal friends of Norwich, Ct., Apr. 29, 1861[1]   

In July of 1861, Harland would carry that sword into his first combat experience as he commanded Company D of the 3rd Connecticut in the Battle of Bull Run. Despite the disastrous Union loss at the hands of the Confederate army, Captain Harland proved himself to be an able combat leader. One of the soldiers of the 3rd Connecticut described the scene as Union forces broke and ran from the field:

…Col. Chatfield [regimental commander] ordered his men, broken by the woods and almost dead with exhaustion, to form in such order as they could and cover the retreat. The majority of the regiment were now moving toward Centreville in some confusion, too worn out to do anything else; but Tyler and Keyes, with Col. Chatfield, Captains Harland and Lewis…formed a line of fifty or seventy-five men, in the extreme rear, to resist the enemy’s cavalry, which now swept down the road to harass them. Five or six times the horse charged upon that handful of brave men, and each time were repulsed by a determined fire, which emptied many a saddle.[2]

By the following month, the 29-year old Harland found himself without a unit to command since the 3rd Connecticut was at the end of its three-month term of service. However, Edward Harland was not done with his career as a soldier. His desire for continued service coupled with his reputation as a competent leader of troops and his pre-war standing as a bright young lawyer and budding politician brought him multiple opportunities to lead soldiers. On September 3, 1861, the Hartford Daily Courant announced his appointment as the Lieutenant Colonel of the 6th Connecticut Infantry Regiment serving under Colonel John Chatfield, previously the commander of the 3rd Connecticut.[3]

Harland’s assignment as the second in command of the 6th Connecticut was extremely short. Within two days of his appointment, the Hartford Daily Courant would again announce a new position for the Norwich lawyer as Colonel of the newly forming 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment.[1] 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.[2] One month later, Harland received another useful gift, this time from his alma mater. In early October of 1861, Ned Harland was “presented with an elegant field glass by members of the Yale Class of 1853, who were associated with him in the ‘Owl Club’” at the school.[4]

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 two 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.[5]

Edward Harland never married, but lived a long and productive life, dying 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.



[1] Norwich Morning Bulletin, October 19, 1915.

[2] From an article written by an unnamed private in the Third Connecticut recounting the Battle of Bull Run, New London Daily Chronicle, Tuesday, Aug 13, 1861.

[3] Hartford Daily Courant, September 3, 1861.

[4] Hartford Daily Courant, September 5, 1861; Morris, W. C. (1869). The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865. New York: Ledyard Bill; Columbian Register, October 5, 1861, New Haven, CT.

[5] Cutter, W. R. (1913). New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: Volume 3. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s