Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Devil's Den 2000
Borderland State Park
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August 28-30, 2000
July 6th, 1863
A long march took us well north of our last position into the area around and north of the state line. We could tell by all the activity, the dusty roads, and the activity ahead that the army was converging in this environs. As our boys started closing up, and arriving, we were placed in the middle of the bivouac off on the right side of the line, and in a field, against a tree line. There some posted their meager shalters, built a fire in the dark, cooked some new reations, talked of the coming campaign, and finally turned in late for the evening.
Upon the morning, it was clear that more had come up in the night, adn that the command, under the 28th Mass., was assembling for a reconnaisance. We were put into line, and marched off by the right flank along wood roads further to the north. We passed quiet ponds, and across a bridge where the road split in both directions, a rise and rock outcroppings to the front. The first two companies were sent off to the left, and proceeded out of sight, the artillery were placed at the head of a narrow field to the left of the left fork, and we were detailed down the right, to picket and report activity of the enemy on that flank of the force. We deployed our men in sight and sound of each other and covered probably 500 yards of the road, and hills to the left of that. We looked and listened attentively, and waited for further instructions. After a time, the sound of some scrap came to us from the left, and we were more diligent, but did not observe any enemy on our post.
A runner was sent from the captain, and we were instructed to pull back, and proceed back to the bridge where we were deployed in skirmish order on the left of the artillery in their support. But the skirmish seemed to be growing about a quarter mile to our front, and we were instructed to advance through the woods to our left, and we cacme out on the wood road. We proceeded down the road a the double quick, and past a large hill off the road to the right where all the commotion seemed to be occurring. The calvary were in the road there, and told us to pass the hill, and come in from the left, that the rebels were being surrounded, and that we could get in on their finishing. We went into the woods and up the hill in line of battle, and blasted into the rebels on the hilltop, as did our other companies from the other three sides. We had them dead to rights, and while they endeavored to fight their way out, it soon was seen as hopeless, and they laid their weapons down. They were marched off to the cheers of all our boys.
We returned to the base camp after the excursion, and packed up our rations and baggage. It was no time at all before we were ordered into battalion line, and marched off this time to the south of the camp. We were posted along a different tree line along a broad field about 40 acres in size, bordered on the far side by a rail fence, a road, and then more woods. Skirmishers were deployed about 20 rods to the front. There we waited, in line, the guns positioned. After a while, there appeared from the woods by the road off to the right of the field some rebel cavalry. They rode fast, scoped our dispositions, fired a couple rounds, and returned to report our strength to their command. It was quiet for a bit, but then a body of rebels came out of the woods on the road, went into line by their left flank, and immediately opened on our left wing. The left wing, outnumbering them simply advanced, and opened on them, causing the expected outcome. Then another, and another rebel battalion came up, and advanced on our right wing, and the skirmishers were driven in with heavy casualties. Our wing advanced, and engaged those rebels, and were pushing hard, when the cavlary returned and atacked our right flank, causing some commotion. After about ten minutes of trading fire, it became clear to the rebels that they were not going to pass across our front and converge to the north where the rebel host was reported to be. They mostly went bounding into the woods again, runnign away from our front, and were not seen or heard after about a half hour, save their killed and wounded which they abandoned in their haste.
In the late afternoon, after a short rest in the shade, we conducted a dress parade and roll to determine our strength and losses from our activities since the night before. We still had six companies with sustainable strength, being the 28th Mass, the 2CHA, the 22 Mass, 25 Mass, the 2d RI, and our 8th Conn. Vols. The captain commanding ordered three companies to be put on picket, being the 28th, the 2d RI, and the 8CV. We got our gear, and formed, and were marched off once more the the north as we were that morning, this time under the command of a Lt. from the 28th. We marched to the bridge, and down the left road, and continued past the site of the morning's capture, and after about a mile, came upon a stone house on the side of a large pond. There the road forked again, one up a hill, the left fork along the pond, and across a narrow 20 acre field. We were there but a few moments, when the inhabitants returned through our line to their home, reporting rebels about, and that they had been to town to sell their eggs and butter. We assisted them in unloading their goods from town, and assured them that we would keep their property protected from any harm. They were quite pleased to have us about, and retired into the house.
The Lt. placed the 2d RI across the fork, and off to the right flank, his company in advance of the stone house in the middle of the two forks, and us on the left flank, guarding the pond trails and the field to the front. Each company placed their sentinels, and as darkness fell, our picket post was quiet, each watch lined up their bedrolls, and rested under arms. Just before full dark, some firing off to the left down the pond trails was heard, and the corporal of the guard reported a pair of rebel wood ticks out there. The orders were to hold our posts, and resist them only. And at the far end of the field, also a couple more rebel pickets were engaged, but once darkness fell, the firing stopped, and we passed a quiet, but vigilant night. Save one encounter in the middle of the night that brought the corporal of the guard running to post number two. There was a shout, and the sound of running feet from Mark who was posted there. It seems he heard something in the brush, and advanced to challenge it, when he came face to face with a skunk, and the both of them ran in opposite direction in great fear and haste.
As the morning light crept across the land, our boys were happy to stop listening so hard and have the use of their eyes again. The reliefs at the picket post were making coffee, and doing a little cooking, when the scattered sound of fire across our picket lines was heard once more. The same couple rebels here and there were harassing our sentinels, and mostly in the same locations, so at this time, a platoon of the 2d RI were sent forward past the end of the field to force the issue, and inforce our line. We sent the second platoon down the pond trails, to push the rebels back in that area, and determine their strength there, since it was felt that an attack in force was expected at first light. I pushed two of our pickets down the trail, leaving a line of sentinels in sight of each other along the way for rapid communication back to the rest. We pushed the rebels back until the trail split, and held a length of both. Soon we heard sounds on both branches, and determined to pull back a little to the junction, so as not to have any one get cut off down one of the legs, but too late. We were simultaneously attacked on both branches, and could not hold the junction, so three of us were cut off down the left one. Two were captured, but I was not sighted, and bolted straight in to the brush about four rods, and dropped, and hid under a thicket. My heart was pounding, and I could look through the brush, and see the rebel feet trodding back and forth on the trail, searching my way for any more they could capture. All I could do was stay still, and dread capture and Belle Island. After a while, they simply marched off back to their army, I counted five of them. Once all had fell silent, I crawled out, and returned to out post. When the attack was sprung, our communication sentinels ran back, and were there telling the story. I came in, and then, suprisingly, our two prisoners appeared, having escaped.
Our lack of success and delivery of intelligence brought about the deployment of the first platoon down the same path. This time Bill set a trap for the now bold rebels. He pushed to the junction, and left two of our boys hidden off the trail there. Then he had one sentinel go forward, engage the rebels, and then gave the command to fall back, and sure enough, the rebels came in on the third attempt. Just as soon as they were by our advanced but hidden boys, out they jumped, and the rebel lot was captured. The sergeant paraded his catch out of the woods, and directly to the officer of the guard, smiling widely. The lieutenant accepted the proze as was heard to say, "Good hunting, Sergeant!" I suspect that the failure of the second platoon under me, and the success of the first platoon under Bill will be remembered for a long time, particularly by Bill.
As the morning advanced, so did the rebel body. Our artillery in advance of the main force arrived at the post, adn deployed at the head of the field. Then the main body came up, and were put into line. As we were dispositioned to meet any advance, a pair of rebel cavaliers rode right through our lines, right up to our reserves, looked around excitedly, fired a few shots, and disappeared, with many a Union minie ball in pursuit. It was hard to imagine how they got through our pickets, our advanced guard, and to the reserves, but either way , we had been reconnoitered. It was not five minutes time that passed when a rebel skirmish line emerged from the tree line into our field. Three companies of our boys went into line with the artillery, and blasted away at the skirmishers and the advancing line behind them. The rebels were outnumbered and out gunned, but yetm they also closed ranks, and went to charge bayonet, then advanced. The three companies fired in succession, and just at the point that all were unloaded, they came on with a yell. But they could not close the gap fast enough to survive, as our men loaded and fired again at short range, and slaughtered them mercilessly. To a man they were all casualties. Only a few high tailed back whence they came. The line was closed up, and the orders came that our line was to fall back to the front of the stone house, and refuse to move further. The old Eighth was deployed as skirmishers with specific instructions to block the advance into the field, but to only delay them, and to fall back on the main line. This was done when the rebels returned in about fifteen minutes, and we did so in order, until a small band of Texan wood ticks appeared out of the tree line on our passing left flank, and blasted away at us, surprising us all. We skedaddled at once to the protection of the artillery line, and then back to the main force. The guns did their work with canister at close range, and the infantry was not needed to repel the rebels once more. This time, it was determined that they had retired for sure, and the three picket companies and the rest of the main force were ordered to return to camp directly. This was done at once, and we stopped along the wood road at the baggage dump, retreived our packs and thanked the guard from the 28th, and marched back to camp, arriving around 1 on the clock. We rested in the woods at the trail head for a time, and munched the meager remaining contents of our haversacks, and talked of our losses and our futures.
It was determined that the old Eighth had stood the picket all night without interruption, and that the rebel forces were now in distress, and not likely to attack the superior numbers they might now face. So, the Eighth took up the benefit of the picket duty, and that is a 24 hour period of no duty at all, and we were all thankful for the break. We trundled our gear to the wagons, and proceeded to draw new rations, much of which was cooked and ate immediately. The events of the past few days have certainly kept us up, mentally and physically. But the weather here has been sublime, with warm, but not hot days, and first rate cool and clear evenings. We all pray that this continues, and that you might be having such luck at home as well. Our rations are ample, our health is good, and our spirits are strong. God Bless the Union!
Your humble friend,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.