Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Burnside Bridge and Torch Light Tour
Antietam National Battlefield
E-Mail Us for More Information!
September 17-19, 1999
east of Sharpsburg, Maryland
September 19th, 1862
I now take pen in hand to script you a few lines that I hope you may find acceptable. This is the first chance for me to write since the great battles that we have had here. I must tell you that my health is good, save for being quite jaded, and gripped by a hard cold. Many blessings have been bestowed on us still, as many more have been less fortunate.
After the great battle on the heights north and east of Frederick on the 14th and 15th, our noble band proceeded here to this place. We arrived from Boonsboro near a creek with a name of Antietam. It runs east of the small town of Sharpsburg. The rebels had set their army on the hill approaching the town, and the battle commenced at dawn on Wednesday. The battle raged on our right most of the day, and we believe we won that fight. But the battle here with us on the left was at best a draw. We advanced over the creek and up the hills in the late afternoon, only to be checked and flanked, forcing our withdrawal back to the vicinity of the Lower Bridge, where our camp is now situated.
After the musket fight on the hills, we reformed the regiment, minus about half our number, near the Otto farm, and recrossed the bridge. Our baggage came up, so we put up our shelters on Friday evening on the east bank of the stream, our color line at the abutment of the bridge. The weather began to clear, and we paid our respects to the fallen with a short but powerful memorial service of song, scripture, and sermon by our Peter. Cor. Rossberg posted the guard for the night, and the rest of us went to sleep. It was a cold and chilly damp night, with the creek running high. Many slept by the cook fire to try to combat the cold feet. It was about the 3 oclock guard when a very loud and as yet unexplained kersplash in the creek right next to my tent occurred, that awoke everyone with a start. It occurred twice more during the night at the far end of the street. But the guards being diligent protected us from all harm.
In the morning, just at dawn, we were gotten up, and put in line as usual for the roll call. The roll was read, and many many names went unanswered again. The entire effective of our Co. A is now at seventeen. We had no one answer the sick call as they all knew the surgeons were quite busy attending to more pressing matters. We had our breakfast of hardtack, salt pork, and coffee once more, and relished it even though it was drawn over three days ago.
The forenoon was occupied with the usual company drill. Today it consisted of right and left flank drills to a fault, and also devolved into the manual of arms in detail. The Lieut. was trying to build us back into an effective fighting company, and pointed out the degree of undress of our NCOs. It was time to stop licking our wounds, and get ready to fight again. The boys took that to heart, and vowed to do so for the honor of the fallen.The drill was conducted in the open field hard by the bridge, but the grass was long and the dew was thick. It seemed almost foolish to complain, but our bootees were soaked through still, and the cold feet from the night before only looked forward to being wet feet for most of the day to come. My soles finally gave, and peeled back. The upper took a cast that is now gouging into my arches, and making the marching hard. Still I do not complain, as I know that I can soon draw a new pair if we stay here long. I would have borrowed a fallen comrades shoes if possible, but it is certain that the rebels have beaten us to it.
About 3.00 in the afternoon, we were marched some miles to the right of the army, and joined with the rest of the brigade to demonstrate for review our fighting status. We were with the 119th NY and another Penna. regiment from Vincents brigade. We operated to perfection for the review, and there was complete satisfaction on the part of the command.
After the review, we rested some, and determined to spend our time on that end of the field, looking after our acquaintances among the troops on that end of the battlefield. We were offered a small supper from the various commissions working at the battlefield, which was enjoyed quite well. We began our efforts around the West Woods.
There we passed a staff head quarters where we could hear a newspaper reporter interviewing the staff officers there. The discussion lead to the reports on Lee's lost orders, and the men who found them and little Mac's response to their discovery. The discussion was supposed to be off the record, but when the reporter tried to clarify a quote, the guards set off after him.
Next along the way, there was a correspondent camp, where the reporters were perplexed as to how to report all the names of the thousands that were casualties in this most bloody battle in history. They were clearly at a loss as to the best way to cover the story as a victory, yet serve the facts of some 20,000 or more wounded and killed.
We proceeded over the way towards the focal point of the battle on the right, the Dunker church. There the horrible scene of the severely wounded being tended to appeared. There was a large lot of wounded rebel prisoners under guard, and waiting for medical help. There were many men in Blue there also, some being tended to by the US Sanitary Commission, and others tended by volunteers from the community. There were citizens coming through looking for their loved ones, some calm, some disturbed, and even some hysterical with panic at the fate of their loved ones. There was one drummer of only 12 who passed away before he could be helped, as a Christian Commission minister was praying with him. He was an orphan, and will be buried by his regiment.
Inside the church, the scene was ghastly of the surgeons working at a feverish pace, the moans of the wounded, and the amount of amputations staggers the mind. There was blood every where, and outside the windows, the limbs piled higher.
Over on the Smoketown road, there was a hospital established for the less severely wounded where they could gain their strength before being sent home. The scene there was ominous, since some of the poor fellows here would turn bad, and have to go back to the surgeons. The burial parties were still active, and many a citizen was finding the news of their family members on a headboard.
The provost headquarters was still busy at the hour we passed it. There the local farmers were applying for compensation for their losses. The losses ranged from a few chickens and fence rails, to the loss of barn and home. The urgency could be heard in their voices, as they needed the funds to rebuild before the winter came. The provost would not pay their market rates, only the government rate, and only if they could prove the damage was done by the Union army. Needless to say, nothing was being resolved quickly, except that as tempers flared, the provost guard would remove the applicant.
We headed back towards the woods, where we saw the burial details of one regiment exhausted from the work, but almost done, when the orders came that there were ten more dead of their regiment found just down the hill. They would have to keep working until those were buried too.
Just ahead, a group of rebel prisoners were reading each other the letters they had written hoping to post them home. Many showed the utter failure of the invasion, and the lack of support from the Marylanders, others showed the conviction to the cause and the desire to see it through.
We returned to our camp at the Lower Bridge late, without finding the news of friends in the 14th, but unable to search further. Our night was passed, only slightly less cold than the one before. Dawn came, and we were up once more to the roll call. The company formed, and under the flags of the regiment, marched out onto the left of battlefield. We advanced across the same ground as a few days ago, only without the attendant risks and accompanying sounds. We slowly impressed the sight of the hallowed ground in our minds forever. We visited the sight of the 16CV's furthest advance, and then continued up and over the hills, rising and dipping into the swales as we advanced towards the Harpers Ferry road. We arrived at the sight of the Eighth's furthest advance, and most hallowed ground, where half our friends, and all our color guard fell, where Our commanding officer was struck down, where we stood and fought nobly. There, Nate and Scott laid a wreath to our fallen, and Dan posted the colors. We read a prayer of dedication that will surely inspire the hearts of men a hundred years from now. After a few moments of private and personal silence, the service was concluded, and we marched through Sharpsburg, and back to the camp at the bridge.
We prepared our breakfasts late, and at that time there was a wonderful mail. It seems that the mails did follow us from Washington to Frederick, and had found us here. In a very singular manner, everyone here present for duty had some mail, and the men were overjoyed for news from home. Many letters were shared and read aloud, and the spirits soared high almost instantly.
Once more, the forenoon was spent at the company drill, and just about the same disposition as the day before, with the addition of the principles of wheeling and turning. It seems that the drills will never end, and that the accomplishments of the men one day at drill are not considered the next. It is all drilled over and over, from the beginning, every day, rain, or shine.
We once again were formed in brigade in the afternoon for another review. We were commanded to fire by battalion, by company, by file, and so on. While not much powder was consumed, it was to the satisfaction of the commanders once more that we were still ready to continue the fight. While we are stagnant here, it seems that the rebels are getting farther and farther away, but it is not my place to judge the actions of the army. We returned to our bridge head camp, and were ordered to pull up stakes, and march away. Before we formed, a small squad of boys set off down stream to visit the place of the crossing of Rodman's brigade in the battle. Our boys were not afraid to splash across with their gear, and took no time in doing so. If only the whole of the Ninth Corps had set off in that direction early last Wednesday, we would probably be guarding Gen. Lee as a prisoner here today.
It now seems that we are to set off in the direction of the Pleasant Valley. I will write more from what point I find myself next. Please write as often as you can, as the mails will still follow us. Direct as usual to Washington. More word of our trials here will follow from me. Send my prayers and wishes to the stricken families at home. We pray every day here for those friends not with us, and also for the righteous victory we fight for. Please do not worry yourselves about us here. We are prepared to do the same many more times, and we do not worry. We are strong on the belief that this war will be won, no matter the cost.
Love to you all,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.