Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Cedar Creek Event Report
Cedar Creek Battlefield
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Belle Grove plantation
October 21-22, 2000
October 23, 1864
near Belle Grove Plantation,
south of Winchester, Virginia
The days here are warm again, after a plentiful amount of cold, and a colorful showing of the leafs. We are hot in the days and cold at night, so the shift of the seasons is here. Our boys here are faring well after the late battle that has finalized any rebel holdings here in the valley. I know that the papers are urely singing the praises of the army efforts, but I for one can tell them from the eyes of the Nutmeg men that were here in person.
The rebels in the valley are not as strong as they once were, owing to the successes of Grant and the pressures on Richmond drawing off their forces. Sheridan here in the Shenandoah valley has been burning out their larder in order to stress them more. What rebels there are in the valley were holed up south of Staunton for some time while Sheridan's Army has occupied the ground about Belle Grove where the mansion is headquarters. Our camp is a little more than a half mile north of the house, just over the second ridge. From our camps, we can see teh chimneys of the house, and a sea of canvas spread in every direction. We are here with the United States Volunteers 1st Regiment under the command of Lt.Col. Wafler, Major Burt, and Adjt. Naliborski. We are in the company of the 56th Penn Vols, under Capt. "Grampy" Grehl.
Friday evening we made into camp from a long picket, and were directed to our new company street, and made ourselves at home at once. We erected our shelteres in the midst of the wedges, and constructed a firepit in short order. We were pleased to find many a good friend in the newly established camps, and took a good report from them all. Bill, Dan, and I took the liberty of going through the lines and surveying the environs that evening. We took a long walk around the ridges, and observed that the rebels were indeed nearby in force, and counted amoung them at least 15 guns in plain view. We also took in the sights at the sutlers, and procured several necessities such as candles, paper, and the like.
Back in camp, the night was turning cold, and the orders were to be ready to fall in for a four oclock formation. It seemed the command expected a push from the rebels in the night. So, we were obliged to retire early, and slept fitfully until the 1st.Sgt. Joe Knapp knocked on the tents at 4. We all got up, and quickly got the coffee up for to delay the slightest might mean none before the march. We did get our cups down then lined up to march off to the south. We did not go far, and only crossed the creek, and deployed there on the right. Our regiment spent the next hour or more dressing to the left, dressing to the right, going forward slightly, &c. The rebel force did appear, and attack the far left flank of our line, and the fighting was severe for a time. It seemed that the boys in blue could not be dislodged. So they came against our right flank, and as we refused, and fronted them, we were surprised by a rebel thrust into the gap in the center of our lines, and were taken from the rear. In a panic, we all went down, and the rebels jeered at us, and then moved away.
We returned to camp just about sunrise, and began our breakfasts, qhich were quite acceptable after working so hard that morning. After a good break and rest, we were ordered up to a regimental dress parade. We were second company, and our regiment numbered 198 at report. The 2d regiment numbered 156. The dress parade was followed immediately by a battalion drill. The drill emphasized forming column of companies, deployment on the right into line, and on the right of companies to the front and rear. All this was to ensure automation while relieving the regiments engaged in the expected battles.
We returned to camps once more, to find that Capt. Grehl was appoined Officer of the Day, and our company was to mount the guard from noon until two. I was ordered sergeant of the guard, and so selected my guard from the duty book, and formed them, paraded them, and presented them for inspection to Capt. Grehl. There were four sentinal posts, #1 at regimental headquarters, #2 at the northwest corner of the camp, #3 at the southwest corner, and #4 at the southeast. Other camps and their respective guards gave the completion to our lines of security. Special orders wer that civilians were required to have passes signed by headquarters to pass. Many citizens of Virginia were stopped and examined, and sent to headquarters under protest. I believe that the traffic was surely caused by a good deal of rebel sympathy, and their all wanting to get information about our intentions for their fathers and sons in the rebel army.
As the afternoon wore on, the assembly was called, and the regiment formed, and marched off farther to the south than we traveled this morning for our brief skirmish with the rebels. We marched in column, and came to a low dry creek bed, where we went on the right into line, then stacked arms, and rested until something developed that would require our attention. We layed about in the shade by the creekbed, and noticed it was thick with mint, which was enjoyed by all in chewing and sucking, and a good deal of it was harvested and laid into the haversacks. Presently, we were called into line again, and took arms. Soon, the guns on the crest to our rear were bearing in the advancing rebels which we could not see over the next crest. But, come they did, and we were quickly pressed to the front, again working on the right wing. The rebels there were pressing hard to flank us, and that was thwarted well. But, we were called to the left to suppot the center, as the rebel push there was quite strong, and it was taking effect. The companies there were peeling off and retreating in ones and twos under the pressure. We pushed forward to gain some time for the engaged forces to retire, and we also were pushed back with our backs against the other side of the dry creek. This time we had to go left flank and get out to get away. A huge Moxley hole just in the rear of the company caused some problems, but no one was hurt. Again on the other side. the rebels continued to pour over our positions and overwhelm our gun positions. Maj. Burt took first and second company and tried to get to support our right flank, and the guns there. We scrambled up to the top of the hill, and reformed, then advanced to the support of a section of bronze Ohio guns. The rebels were advancing up the slopes, and the guns let them have it, then we went forward. We were able to cause great casualties and push them away without great harm to us, or loss of the guns. It is remarkable that the four bronze guns were just cast this year of 1864, and belonged to the State of Ohio, where they normally grace the state house lawn, but were pressed into action and entrusted the this battery. The Ohio gunners gave our wing three cheers for our support, and it seemed that the battle drew slowly to a close. "Grampy" formed the company and returned us to camp without any adieu. Sgt. Knapp took the role there, and told us to get some supper and rest, since this setback was not to last, and he predicted a counter attack on the morrow.
The supper of the Eighth was a lamb and beef stew concocted by Cookie out of what was at hand, and it was very acceptable to the hungary and tired soldiers. The next surprise was when the mint came forward, and in no time there was a sort of manufacturing concern established in the preparation of mint juleps. Here in the seat of war, the Nutmeggers were studying genteel ways. And the effect was almost immediate, as the remainder of the evening was passed with story telling, singing, and general good temper. The night was a cold one again, and ample blankets were a thing of dreams.
The morning dawned again over the army, and preparations for the reclamation of the lost ground of yesterday were underway. Breakfasts and coffeee were enjoyed, and the other brigades in the area were observed at their dress parades. It seems one wayward sergeant major of the Mifflin Guard had been harrassing the headquarters entertainment the previous night, nut had escaped the provost. His sins were repaid, since being a generally good sergeant major, he knew he had to be to parade on time, but collapsed at the end of our street on the way. We were obliged to carry him the rest of the way, and present him to his Colonel in a heap at his feet. Sunday morning inspection was the camp activity for the Mifflins that morning, and it was a fine thing to observe.
Our USV parade on Sunday was a brigade formation and review for our General Heim. First and Second Regiments formed abreast in column, and the brigade staff were reviewed. This review was followed by the rubber match of a shooting competition between the First and Second Regiments. The Regiments were formed in line of battle, and each regiment was allowed to fire by battalion three times in succession. The tightness and oneness of the volley was judged by brigade staff and the independent Col. Scott Washburn. By a narrow decision, it was the Second Regiment declared the winner for the campaign season. We of the First of course gave them three cheers, and wished them well for the victory in the Shenandoah Volley competition.
We were returned briefly to the camps to get some cold food and some water, as the push against the rebels was about to begin. The regiments once again went of in column towards the south, and came into line, stacked arms, and waited for the appointed hour. The guns opened, and the Mifflins stepped right off towards the left. They passed our rear on the way in to the cheers of our boys. The fighting opened quickly there, and rose to a pitch. We were to then move left also, but the Union cavalry protected the right flank was not able to range freely, as they got engaged by a large rebel cavalry there, and were so occupied that they could not prevent a rebel brigade moving to our right flank and causing the command there fits. We were once again employed in thwarting the flanking motion, which we did, but prevented us from following the battle orders. Once we checked the rebel jab to our right, we did double quick, and in order, I might add, across the Union lines, and proceeded to push forward on the left flank of the army. The rebel host there was used up, and getting cut to ribbons by the massed forces of Sheridan's troops. They were pushed up the hills easily, when Grampy started firing, and moving to the left front, flanking the fleeing rebels. He would have us volley, and over the roar of battle cry out to them to "give it up", and to "Surrender!" which they ignored, so we kept pouring it into them. Grampy was knocked down, and we were about to charge bayonets into them when he got up again, and told us to cease firing, it was over, more would be murder. And all the sight one could see was the rebel backs skedaddling to the south and down the Valley Pike as fast as they could go.
We gathered up our wounded, and proceeded to get ourselves back to last nights camp, bundled up our things, and marched off to reclaim our camps around Belle Grove once more. I hope that the rebels will not try us here again, as they likely cannot, they have left many a man and a large quantity of materials behind. These losses they cannot afford. Our losses here are not small as well, but they still leave us strong here in the valley.
I would pray that this victory will bring the end of the war before Thanksgiving, anad that we can come home with honor for the hloiday season. Most of the Connecticut boys here are well. There are no losses with the boys you are familiar with. We will live to fight another day. That is all that I can write tonight, as my candle is about used up, and so is my paper. Do write us here often, and let us know about even the smallest news from home.
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.