George H. Harris was a resident of Mansfield on August 11, 1862 when he enlisted as a Private in Co. D of the 21st Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry; he was mustered out June 16, 1865.
The descriptive muster roll of the 21st Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry lists his age as 34 and his occupation as farmer. He is described as 5’ 6” tall with a fair complexion and brown hair and hazel eyes.
He was born about 1827 in Mansfield to Daniel Parker and Anna (Bettis) Harris. In the 1860 U.S. census in Mansfield, he is a 33 year old head of household who is both a farmer and an overseer of the poor. There are 18 individuals listed as paupers living in his household. George Harris married Eunice M. Reynolds between 1850 and 1855. Children include: Marianna F. Harris, born about 1855 and John C. F. Harris, born about 1857. George Harris married second, Lydia E. (_____) Bentley on July 10, 1887 in Mansfield.
Following the war, George Harris returned to Mansfield and resumed farming. In 1876, he purchased an old gristmill located near the Gurley Cemetery in Mansfield. He repurposed it as a bone mill for manufacturing fertilizer. Bone Mill Road owes its name to this enterprise.
On March 15, 1882, he applied for an invalid pension, No. 442,881 that was granted under certificate No. 587,621. His widow applied for a pension.
George H. Harris died on November 16, 1897 in Mansfield and is buried at the Gurley Cemetery in Mansfield.
The Letters of George Harris
Bruce John owns over thirty letters written by his great-great-grandfather George H. Harris to his family in Eagleville. He graciously allowed the Mansfield Historical Society to transcribe them. These letters are of special interest for they not only recount the soldier’s experiences but also reveal much about life at home. His letters are filled with concerns for his family’s well being and his yearning to be home with them. A selection of the transcribed letters are presented here.
When George Harris left for war in September of 1862, he left behind his wife Eunice and two young children, Mary Anna and Johney. His brother William helped maintain the farm in his absence while his sister Amy helped Eunice with the housework and caring for the children. Everyone pitched in to do the chores.
“I suppose that you and Amy and the chrildren will git so used to work out of dowars [doors] that when I come home that I shant have to hire aney help for one of you can do the house work and the other go in to the field with me.”George to his wife
The government was erratic in paying its soldiers so the Harris family struggled to pay its taxes and mortgage, coming close to losing the family farm. In one letter, George complained that he had not been paid for five months. Eunice wished that the Eagleville mill would reopen so that she could earn some money working there. The family finally resorted to selling livestock and farm equipment in an attempt to make ends meet. When the cotton mill finally reopened in January 1864, Eunice found a new source of income in boarding mill workers.
The last of the surviving letters was written in March 1864, but we can assume that the family was successful in its efforts to keep the farm. The house, located at 852 Stafford Road, still remains in the family. Happily, George Harris survived the war and returned to his loved ones in June of 1865.
Click here to see a selection of the letter transcriptions: Harris Letters