Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Smith-Harris House Living History
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East Lyme, Conn.
October 2-3, 1999
in front of Petersburg,
October 3d, 1864
I take my pen in hand to post you some word that you might find acceptable. I hope that this letter finds you at home all in good health. We all here in special detail are well. We have been detailed to garrison this private home to keep the vultures of both armies from violating the private property of this small farm. There are many kinds of citizens about the premises, and much activity surrounding the harvest.
It is also very singular that a small band of rebels are about, and remain unmolested in some sort of arranged truce. They are also here guarding the private properties, and we do not fear them, although the truce is tenuous, and the tension is high. There are international observers and negotiators about whom broker our cease fire.
Our small camp is in the rear of the barn, a fine new barn, quite large and well built. It has large doors on all sides, and they are swung open most of the time, forming something of a meeting house for all the citizens visiting the place. There are baskets of apples, and doughnuts, and pies plenty for the having. There are many children's games going on, almost like a small church fair. Our guards even have been allowed to relax a bit between reliefs, and pitch some horseshoes to pass the hours.
Saturday morning, we arrived in the town via the cars from City Point, and assembled at a fine house on the river. We were ordered in to column, and proceeded to the north along the turnpike road. We marched with our gear, our colors, some of the Marylanders, and a small band from Alabama. They played mostly seccesh music, but it was still enjoyable to the feet and ears. After over an hour, we turned in near a stale pond to this place, called the Smith-Harris place, and established our camps. We arrived in time to be present at the flag raising ceremony, and some patriotic music from the local school children. We were also honored to be part of the dedication of a new artillery piece acquired by the 1st Maryland. They were indeed proud to name the piece Barker in honor of one of their fallen comrades, one Charlie Barker. We formed with the piece in the middle, the 1st Maryland on the right, and the 8CV on the left. After a prayer, and a hymn, the three shot volley was made, the 1st Md. infantry, then the 8CV, then Barker himself. A prayer ended the ceremony, which was quite moving.
We posted a guard, and later in the afternoon, we had the corporals drill the men some, which worked quite well. There were chickens foraged on the spit, so that the cookie was excused from the drill. In the mid afternoon, the call went out that the soldiers were to play a game of townball as long as the truce was established. We assembled on the field east of the house, and were pleased to see that a trophy bell engraved with the names of the 1st. Md. and the 8th Conn. Vols. was presented. This will be the prize, and the winner of the game will always hold the bell until the next game. So we squared off for the match, but we were not blessed with luck or skill enough to win. The Marylanders took the prize with a score of 20 tallies to 2. We will miss the bell, but we will prevail at the next meeting.
That evening, after dinner, a drama started to unfold around the farm. It seemed that the daughter of the widow owner was to be betrothed to a southern businessman. She was quite nervous, due to the older age of the man, and the questions of his character. It seems that the marriage was arranged to bring some value to the widow in the form of a deed for some property. There was also some issue surrounding the truce, the British officer, and the security of some military maps. A certain map had disappeared, and the Federal and Confederate officers were called to account. The obvious denials came from both sides, and the tempers started to heat up. The situation was not resolved. As the time came for the wedding, the folks assembled in the parlor. The widow begged the groom for the deed before the ceremony, which he refused. As the reverend started, he was asked to hurry, so that the gentleman and his new wife could make their train south. Suddenly, a provost officer entered the house with a warrant for the arrest of the groom for spying, he was suspected of stealing the map. Suddenly, the groom and his business associate best man made for the door, and spirited away the bride at gun point. Outside, and guards fired some shots to stop the rascals, but soon the report was that they had escaped, and that the unwed bride had been killed. The scene turned quickly from a celebration to a grave tragedy.
The rest of the evening was spent quietly in camp about the fire, talking, joking, and relaxing. The evening was interrupted by some night firing of the artillery, but with no effect or alarm. We turned in late and spent a pleasant night with very comfortable temperatures.
In the morning, we rose, fixed some breakfast, and formed to attend the morning flag raising once more, then proceeded off to the local cemetery. There, a local man of the cloth delivered a strong anti war sermon, and we acknowledged the fallen soldiers with a wreath laid on one of the graves. Hymns were sung, prayers said, and the troops marched back to camp. The day was passed doing light garrison duties, and resulted in a call from the citizens for a game of townball, the soldiers against the citizens. Of course we obliged them and the result was the Bouchers' 14 tallies and the Jones' 8 tallies. Great fun was had by all. Once we returned to camp, the orders came to pull stakes, and be prepared to move on. While we were doing so, a large brass band was brought up and entertained the soldiers and citizens alike for some time. When the concert was finished, we formed and marched off for destination unknown, but our direction was to the south.
When I can post you again, I certainly will. Please send me some postage stamps, perhaps a dozen of them if you please. I am out of them presently, and have franked this missive as a result. Direct yours to me via Washington as usual. The mails are following us where ever we go, and are coming through in good time. I received an Enquirer from Mark last week, and letters from Betsy and Jane. I do so look forward to hearing from you all, even the smallest details of home.
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.