United States Volunteers
3d Battalion
Antietam 140th Anniversary Reenactment
The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

From the Letters of Wolcott P. Marsh
Capt., Co.F, Eighth Conn. Vols.

(with permission from the private collection of
and upcoming book by
Jerry and descendent Sandra Mercer,
all rights reserved)

In Bivouac Near Shepards Town
On Potomac
September 21, 1862
Sunday Afternoon
I am going to commence back and give you a detailed account as near as I can remember of our doings and marches since leaving Washington. We left there Sunday September 7th early in morning but on account of the roads being blocked up with troops and baggage wagons it was 10 A.M. ere we got under way and then we had pick our way among waggons, artillery, cavalry and c and c. Which raised such a cloud of dust as to all most smother us and the sun pounded down in scorching rays on us which added to our sufferings, but we lived it through and halted for night at Leesboro 10 miles from Washington.

Tuesday, fine and warm marched at day light with short rests at Brookville where halted couple hours then moved on to little village of Drainsville where bivouacked having marched 20 miles that day. We thus far had seen but few sighs of rebels though citizens said, that their cavalry had left day before. Thus far from Washington our road lay along a kind of ridge and the country is hilly but very fertile as every where might be seen large quantities of wheat and corn. We lay quiet in bivouac till in afternoon of Wednesday when were again ordered to move were soon on road, had trudged along 3 or 4 miles when a mounted orderly came rushing by in great haste in few moments order was given to about face and march we retraced our step and bivouacked in same place as night before. On inquiry i learned that the reason of this back ward movement was that we were ahead of time. That is other portions of army on different roads had not been able to keep up with us.

Thursday Morning 11th September.
We started on again at 7 a.m. reached little dirty village of Damascus 1O miles distant about noon after short rest moved on several miles to town called Ridgeville which lies near B. and 0. R. R. when had halted again for night soon after dark rain commenced pouring down and continued so to do most of night. T got wet completely through but that is one of the variety of soldiers life. I was fortunate enough to get an excellent supper at a rich old Dutch farmers. They were strong union and hid their flag while rebels were around.

Friday Morning
We started on again through mud and rain and soon struck Baltimore and Ohio R.R. crossed it and followed on near it some distance. We were now on good pike and the clouds breaking away we felt in better spirits, but it was slow work getting along such numbers of baggage wagons filling road that would be hours going very little ways. We finally reached New Market quite a village where halted short time. 2500 cavalry retreated from there the night before, The country was now quite hilly. Having rested column moved on again a few miles farther when after climbing quite a mountain a beautiful sight was before our eyes. A short distance on lay the pretty little City of Frederick and back of it the Blue Ridge and between us and city the little Monocacy River wound it's way among the hills. We filed off into lots to left of main road and the bragged forming in line of battle marched down through lots toward city already skirmishing had commenced with cavalry and artillery and it seemed that a battle was near at hand we kept a firm front and pushed on skirmishers a head through the corn fields and almost before we knew it with our opposition we were over a fence into hospital. Where such demonstrations of joy were made at our coming as I never witnessed. Women came rushing up to us screaming and clapping hands and acting as if crazy. One woman seemed determined to throw her arms around my neck and several of officers were kissed by fair ones. The yard and hospital were full of sick rebels 600 of them and 150 of ours left when city was evacuated. The Surgeon came up to our colors and kissed them tears of joy dropping from his eyes. We halted and regit bivouacked in hospital yard for night. I took a walk down through city with Capt. Smith to try and get something eat but at all hotels they were eat out and seemed to be every where by rebels. We inquired at one hotel where got same answer as before "nothing to eat" a gentleman standing by beckoned us to follow him. We did. So when were taken to a fine residence a few streets distance and told to walk in where found table set. Were taken up stairs to wash room where got off some dirt, Then took seats to table and had an excellent supper. Very fine people.

Saturday Morning.
Were ordered on once more, were cheered every where in city after going 3 miles out on main road came to foot of mount where artillery firing had been going on since daylight. We halted a few moments for orders. One of rebs. shot came bounding into our brigade and took off a leg for 3 men in 11th regit. We now filed off to right of road and followed around the foot of mount till came to another road which would take us over it and place us in their rear. Skirmishers were thrown out and we commenced ascending the mountain but up it we went and wound around to left again and down into another valley where came to another village called Middle Town but were not in time to get any rebel. Excepting stragglers as they discovering our movement skedadled. Middle town is but 8 miles from Frederick but the round about road we came was 13 miles. We were received with joy by citizens and before rebels were out the Stars and Stripes were flying to the bridge. We had not rested more than hour before were marched out side town and formed in line of battle not knowing but enemy intended to attack us as they had driver in our cavalry but the night pass with out an alarm. At day light next morning Sunday abut 4 mile in front of us on the mountain (South Mountain) the fight commenced with artillery the rebs. seeming determined to hold there we lay quiet till about noon when the order came to move on.

In Bivouac Near Sharpsburg
September 23, 1862
we were ordered to march from Middle Town to the support of Gen. Hooker who was engaging the enemy who held a strong position on South Mountain (a portion of Blue Ridge) we were ordered forward about noon (of Sunday) the boys hurried forward in high glee at the prospect of an engagement. We soon crossed a little stream then began to climb the mountain we had not proceeded far ere shells burst around us but our Fort Macon experience had learned us to care but little for them in a short time we reached a battery which was shelling the rebels and were ordered to lie down and support it the battle was now at its height the roar of artillery and musketry was terrific as the sound reverberated through the deep mountain gorges. The wounded the dyeing and dead lay around in every direction. We had been in present position but a short time before ordered forward in line of battle through a thick piece of woods but no enemy appeared we went down a steep hill or mountain to wards main pike till finally it was impossible to proceed farther but we were near enough to support another battery which had been posted near road. Night was coming on but no abatement of the battle. Bullets were drooping quite fast around us but doing no damage as were spent. Darkness came and with it, it seemed as if the struggle was only the more terrible. At last by 9 O'clock suddenly all was silence but how the day had gone could not tell we were not whipped but had we succeeded in driving the enemy for their chosen position. But we could not hear any thing different in regard to it till next morning as we had to lie where we were all night. Col. not deeming it safe to try to get out of there in night.

Monday morning
we came out of our hideing place and we marched across road to left into another piece of woods and there waited 2 or 3 hours see attack but they did not make any. Then we marched back and on over mountain and such sights I never saw. Hundreds of dead rebels laid piled up in a small narrow lane and behind on rd stone wall. The victory was ours. ...

In Bivouac Near Sharpsburg
September 24, 1862

Wednesday Evening
In my last I spoke of our following up the retreating rebels Monday Morning and how we passed by hundreds of dead sccesh lying beside stone walls in narrow lanes and scattered through the woods, we marched quite a number of miles that day and night to the little village called Keedysville (or some such name) where by midnight we got a chance to lie down for night. Tuesday Morning bright and early cannonadeing commenced in front but short distance a head many of enemies shell bursting near us. Large number of baggage wagons which had come up during night were soon sent skedadling to the rear two or three mules were killed and a wagon or two were smashed up and a few soldiers killed and wounded, thus the artillery fight was kept up most of day the two army's being in plain sight of each other on opposite hill. We remained in our position till near night when orders came for our division to move, we were pushed forward to the line of hills on which our artillery was posted when filed off to left and kept on undercover of hills as much as possible for mile or more but not unobserved by our foe for they shelled us continually but doing no damage.

We finally halted for the night in line of battle within speaking distance of the rebels, were allowed to lie down in place ready to fall in at moments notice (I should have mentioned that the 16th Connecticut Volunteers were with us having overtaken the brigade the day before.) This was evidently the last night before a great battle and many were enjoying their last nights rest on earth for the two great armies were face to face and the conflict could not be delayed but a few hours longer. The night was dark and misty. The camp fires of our foe shone upon the clouds for miles around. We were not allowed to even light a match or to allow anything white to show. Ere it was light on Wednesday we were aroused blankets rolled up and every man in his accustomed place. Objects had scarcely become distant around us. Before the flash of a gun was seen a short distance in front of us on a little hill and in a moment a shell burst over our heads, then another and another now they came thick and fast but not a man stirred, but there was no reply from our side we wondered at this thus it went on they using their artillery on us continually sometimes throwing shell then solid shot and railroad iron. In a little while they had succeeded in getting excellent range on us one of my men was wounded in head and sent to rear, and a few moments later a solid shot struck in the ranks of Co. A. and killed Srgt. Marsh and 3 privates of Co. K. and wounded two others. Yet not a man in regit. stirred excepting ambulance corps who attended to wounded. About same time shot struck among 4th R.I. and killed two others, The 16th and 11th Connecticut Volunteers were farther to right and fortunate enough not to have any shot strike very near. From 8 to 9 O'clock the division was ordered to move still farther on by the left flank which would take us farther to enemies right (our left) but no farther forward or to front. We moved on and finally got into a ravine where their shells could not reach us but quite a number were wounded in different regit. of division in accomplishing this movement. We lay here perhaps an hour when were moved forward over hills in line of battle by the way our guns had got to work and compelled rebels to retire to rear and to new positions after reaching a high hill we halted. We halted in front of us perhaps 12 or 14 hundred yds. ran winding around through a deep ravine.

The now famous Antietam Creek a little to our right was the celebrated stone bridge some Ohio and Pen. troops were engaging the rebels. There but did not seem to drive them, soon the 11th Connecticut Volunteers was ordered to their support they went into the brush and galley in fine style and sharp firing was kept up skirmishers were now sent out from our line and from first brigade (9th N.Y. 89th, and 113 N.Y.) on our left to feel the enemy and to find a ford one was soon found on left. While our skirmishers were advancing and we lay quiet on this high hill I had the privilege of witnessing the Grandest sight of my life. A great battle all around me almost with out for moment being personally engaged. All along the right for miles the cannon and musketry kept up a deafening roar while the air was thick with great clouds of smoke and almost in fact exactly in front of us was a rebel battery on hill across creek shelling our troops at bridge and one of our battery's replying the rebel battery was after short time compelled to leave.

We were now ordered to the left and towards the ford leaving the troops still fighting at bridge. As we drew near the crossing place our regit. was ordered still farther to left on the other hill to support two or 3 pieces of Hawkins battery (the same we saw when we went to see the dress parade of 9th N.Y. at Fredericksburg) who were going to "feel the enemy" we immediately in their rear. The rebels replied with guns of much longer range their shot and shell again flying all around us. Our battery seeing they could do nothing against such long range guns drew their pieces to the ford and we followed crossing in water up to knees. Our division was now on the opposite side of creek and we learned that bridge had been taken and our division had crossed thus we filed now back to right along the sides of steep banks and up top hill, after resting short time pushed forward to front again. We soon got with an range of enemy's cannon again when of course they tossed shell at us again. We lay down and let them work. Finally our battery's got into position and replied when shot and shell flew like hail all around us and among us wounding and killing some of different regit. but a few moments and the word forward was again given and over the hill we went in front of our battery's to the next hollow we were now up with our skirmishers who were then engaging enemy closely we here halted a few moments when the first brigade was ordered forward again over the next hill they went when a terrible fire was given and received. It was now 4 O'clock or more and hardly had the first brigade gone over the hills before the order came for us to go forward which we did on a double quick as we came to the brow of hill and over it a terrible fire was concentrated upon our little band but on we pushed down the hill and up the top of next bullets came in terrible showers and from all sides of us. We now returned their fire and the men went to their work as cooly as if on drill. But we were in trapped on our left flank was a large corn field and it was full of rebels on our right was a high hill where they were pouring in a gatling upon us and all this beside those in our front. Where was our support. Where was the first brigade none of them to be seen on the right where they had gone. Where was the 16th and 4th regit. who were on left and were to engage the rebels in corn field.

Alas! They had been repulsed. It was death to remain in this advanced position longer. The Lt. Colonel was wounded and taken to rear 6 out of my little company of 39 men lay dead at my feet and some 15 had been wounded and gone to rear. My Lt. also wounded. Capt. Hoyts company was as bad off and on right they were suffering terribly but not a man faltered a steady and continual fire was returned against 6 times or more of our numbers but a few minutes had gone and it seemed as if the regit. must be entirely annihilated. The Major seeing that it was more than folly to remain ordered us to fall back. But many of the men seemed determined not to leave and would yell you to each other "Boys Lets Never Retreat. No Never." The major yelled at top of his voice in a pleading tone "Boys will you follow your colors" rally around them and follow me the Word "Colors" brought the men to their senses and the devoted little band rallied around them down the hill we came the men continually facing about and firing in a little distance we came to a board fence over which we climbed and there halted exchanged shots with them again for 20 or 25 minutes keeping the rebels back in their first position but the firing to our right and almost in rear.

It was exactly in rear now as we were in line facing the corn field which was on left when went forward up hill so the rebels which were on our right were exactly behind us. So we marched along down hill to kind of ravine which screened us from rebels behind us when halted and blazed away at them again for while till it seemed as if there was no one left and there was but a little handful around or less. We now kept on to rear of some hay stacks all this time remember exposed not only to an awful fire of musketry but grape and canister behind the hay stacks we halted and formed. I had but 7 men left of my company (4 having gone with Lt. Maine.) and so it was through regit. though on right had not suffered as bad after forming we marched down to creek, it was now night dark, our rations were on opposite side and we had been engaged from day light and as fresh troops had come across to hold this side we crossed and encamped on bivouacked near. A sad exhausted little company. Soon Col. Harland came around we were glad to see him for supposed he was killed or wounded but he was unharmed his house only being killed under him. He went back to our train and ordered up rations but men were so completely exhausted that they did not wait for them to come up and so ate nothing till morning. ...

In Bivouac near Sharpsburg Md.
September 26, 1862
Friday Morn.
Wednesday night we as I said, in letter before lay down on arms and slept soundly with out anything to eat or drink the remnants of4th R. I. Ilth W. V. and 16th joined us soon. Thursday morning at daylight we were up when plenty of hot coffee meat and hard bread was placed before us. Col. Harland having gone back to baggage train night before and ordered it forward and cooks were kept busy all night getting rations cooked. As soon as had partially satisfied my hunger I began to hunt around among the different barns and old houses about for my wounded and missing. I found quite a number among them. Lt. Maine who wound was very painful but not dangerous. I soon returned to regit. When brigade was again ordered to move, we were marched down to stone bridge where had been such terrible fight day before and filed off to right and on top of bands over looking it and completely commanding it. After forming in line were allowed to rest in place, in afternoon a terrible shower came up and completely drenched every thing, but it must have been a great relief to our wounded men many of whom were still lying on field which was now neutral ground. Our pickets not allowing them on it or theirs ours. We remained all night in same place sleeping again in line and on our arms. Friday Morning was pleasant.

Well to go on with my story. About 9 O'clock A.M. Friday we were ordered across the bridge and on to the field where the battle of Wednesday was. The rebels having skedadled the night before and our forces were then following them up capturing many of their rear guard.. We stacked arms and details were sent from different to pick up the dead so that could be buried together. I went up where our regit. was engaged and there what a sight. 30 men from our regit. alone lay dead in a little field and near by was 42 Zouaves (9th N. Y.) and many more from other regit. The first man I came to of my company was Charles E. Louis my acting orderly. Then Corp. Truck my color corporal and close by them lay Dwight Carry, Herbert Nee, Horace Rouse and Mr. Sweet all of my company then passing on to Co. A. were the body's of Olive Case, Orton Lord, Martin Wadhams and Lucius Wheeler then to Co. K. saw Jack Simons body the only one whose name remember had all body's brought from hill down by several straw stacks.

As I followed back towards right I saw many more bodys from campanys on our right and we followed on where the regit. fell back over fence and formed and gave it to them again. Saw Lt. Waits body then Sergt. Wilcoxs body Co. A. (the tall big whiskered segt.) a little way below Harvey Elmores body of Co. C. (you will remember him he was the man I pointed out to you at Fredericksburg as the man who was orderly of Co. C. In Lt. Jones place, but had just been reduced by Col. for getting drunk) ...

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