Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
119th NY Homecoming Event Report
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Long Island, NY
July 17-18, 1999
I write to you from the lovely village of Bethpage in New York. I
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
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.
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
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
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
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.