William B. Wooster
Derby and the surrounding Valley towns sent more than their fair share of men off to fight in the "War of the Rebellion" as it was known at the time. Many of them distinguished themselves as did William Burr Wooster while others never returned home. The monument of the Derby Green pays homage to the men of Derby and Huntington for their sacrifices and lists some of the battles in which they fought.
Wooster was a direct descendant of Derby's first permanent settler and a local attorney when the war broke out, but he soon became a Lt. Col in the 20th Connecticut with many other brave Derby men and won a brevet colonelcy for meritorious conduct. He commanded a regiment and was captured at Chancellorsville and sent to Libby Prison, but was exchanged for southern prisoners and fought at Gettysburg. He is best remembered as the Colonel of the 29th Regiment, C.V., Colored - the states first black regiment which was formed in 1864 with white officers in charge. They distinguished themselves in several battles before the end of the war and proudly marched into Richmond as the first Federal infantry to do so when it fell. They were later transferred to Texas and were ordered home and mustered out of service in Hartford in November, 1865.
Following the war, he returned to his very successful law practice in Derby. Prior to the war, he had represented Derby in the state legislature in 1858 and in the state senate in 1859. He was back in the House in 1861. After the war, he served as Paymaster General for the State of Connecticut. He was very active in Derby and was the First President of the Derby Gas & Electric Company and first clerk and one of the directors of the Birmingham Water Company.
He was born in Oxford on October 22, 1821 and graduated from the Yale Law School in 1846, the year that he moved to Derby. He was married to Jay Wallace the daughter of the prominent industrialist Thomas Wallace. At the time of his death on September 20, 1900, the Hartford Courant wrote, "His name has stood for many years on Connecticut's roll of honor. He was a patriot and a gentleman. He was Derby's first citizen." He had a home on Clifton Avenue, and he is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery.
Col. Wm. B. Wooster (L) with three members of his impressive Derby law firm who went on to become judges - William H. Williams, Chief Justice David Torrance, and Edwin B. Gager.
Picture courtesy of the Derby Historical Society