Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

119th NY Homecoming Event Report

Bethpage Village
Long Island, NY
July 17-18, 1999
Dear friends,
I write to you from the lovely village of Bethpage in New York. I had the pleasure of falling in with the ranks of the 119th New York Infantry, Company H. Two companies of the regiment, "H" and "K", arrived two nights ago. It was dark when we erected our tents in an open field between two large buildings. I must admit, I had been a straggler, so it was in the early morning hours of the next day that I set my tent in the company street and finally fell asleep. That morning, when I awoke, I was greeted by the other members of the unit. They were all quite hospitable. And who should I meet but two old friends and David Payne, a true member of the Eighth Connecticut, like myself!

With the sun up I observed the surroundings. On the edge of the field a dirt road led into the village, where some of the rooftops could be seen. The regiment itself had two company streets adjacent to each other. It was also hot - extremely hot. A stiff breeze eventually picked up, fortunately, which offered some degree of comfort.

After breakfast was cooked, Company K immediately went off to drill. We in Company H were not scheduled for drill until some time later on, so we did not eat our breakfast with as much haste. Most of that morning was spent lying around in the shade, drinking water to keep ourselves hydrated. Some played cards, others talked with some civilians who came to see us, but I spent most of my time that morning writing to my sweetheart back home.

Early in the afternoon, after our lunch of saltpork, hardtack, and other fruits available to us through the generous civilians, both companies formed on the dirt road and marched, with the tattered yet gallant flags, in the lead. The village was absolutely beautiful. Men, women, and children residing in Bethpage came out to see the grand spectacle. We halted at a small green where our colonel spoke to the citizens, telling of the bravery the 119th showed at battles such as Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. The next day we were to be mustered out. After the short speech we marched back to the field, where we were then given permission to wander wherever we liked. Because of the intense heat and the fact that we were being released from the army the following day, everything was very relaxed. Nearly everyone went into town during some part of the day. There were many stores, a church, several sutlers, a bar-room, private houses, and a few farms. A man was even offering to take ferrotypes or ambriotypes. There was much to do and see.

After dinner there was a dance which I had not been informed of! It took place in a large, barn-like structure with musicians from New Hampshire. As warm as it was, we all had an outstanding time. I might add, there were a number of young ladies in marvelous gowns with whom I made my acquaintance! The dance ended rather late, so as I arrived back at camp, hardly a minute had passed before I had fallen asleep, thoroughly exhausted yet with a smile upon my lips.

The next morning offered no chance of cooler weather, so the first part of the day was similar to the day before. I went into town for a church service at 10:00, and then to obtain one final ferrotype of myself in military uniform. When I arrived at the man's stand, I found I was not the only one desiring to have their likeness taken! It seemed as though at least a full company had reserved spaces on a list!

Company H formed after lunch to drill some, and then both companies formed to begin the procedure for mustering out. Nearly every person of the 119th New York who was present had endured at least three hard years of war, and this was finally the end. After our muskets were inspected and stacked, the colonel addressed us for the last time. Through tearful eyes and a choked voice, he praised us for our gallantry and heroism. He then took a deep breath and bellowed the command to break ranks. A mighty cheer arose from the men, and hats were thrown in the air. Many wept with gladness, and everyone danced around embracing one another, shouting and laughing. Some took off their traps, throwing them to the ground while others gazed fondly and with a heavy heart at their equipment now being returned to the government. Jubilation reigned; it was a wonderful sight to behold. A line from Shakespeare's "Henry V" came immediately to mind, although somewhat altered: "And Gentlemen in America, now abed, Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here."

Almost all the men have departed now, preparing to go home to their families. I went back into town briefly to bid farewell to the civilians (especially the young ladies) with whom I had the pleasure to meet, and also to thank them for their hospitality.

The postmaster has arrived to take any messages, so I shall bid you farewell. I thank the Lord I was a witness to this wonderful celebration and to the magnificent town. My only regret is that I did not find, besides David Payne and myself, any other members of the beloved Eighth Connecticut at Bethpage in the ranks.

Give my regards to everyone at home. I shall be there soon. Until then, I shall remain,

Your most humble and obedient servant,
Pvt. Nathan Bayreuther

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