Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
140th Anniversary Antietam Reenactment
Artz Farm, Hagerstown, Md.
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Sept. 13-15, 2002
Sept. 19th, 1862
Antietam Iron Works, Md.
I am once again permitted by the grace of God to be penning you some lines that I pray may find you in good health. As you are already quite aware, the boys of the Eighth have been in the middle of an epic battle for the preservation of our Union. Many a Nutmeg son has given his life for the triumph of our army, and many more are hoping to heal from wounds inflicted in the battle. I will try to relate to you our story as it unfolded to us over the past several days.
We of the Eighth arrived en masse after a march from the south at this rural site. We repaired to the camps of the army, and found our regimental site quite easily, as it was at the farthest point of the wing, and yet, pleasantly into the shade of the woods along an old wood road, and various cow paths off it. It seemed that each company present occupied a particular cow path, and all formations were on the wood road. Some of the other companies of the regiment were just marching back from the actions they supported at Fox's Gap. They were quite tired and sore, and ready to rest from the long march. The place there was quite a pleasant site, but it was too good to be true. Because of the close proximity of the rebel army, and that they were concentrating in the area across the creek, we were ordered to draw rations, cook them, and be ready to move at a moments notice, most certainly by 9 PM o'clock. This was done, but in the course of cooking rations, a dress parade was ordered, so we all counted on Pvt. Maston, who the captain excused, and left him cooking a company sized pork ration on one little fire. It shall be noted, that it all came out perfectly, with little waste or burned, and all were indebted to John for his fine culinary skills. The rest went to the parade, and were in the presence of the entire regiment, listing in at 240 aggregate present.
And promptly at the appointed hour, indeed the orders did come for the battalion to form in line, which we did quickly, this time having anticipated the march. We marched out by the right flank to the south, through all the Union camps, across a farm, and off to a stubble field next to a yet uncut corn field. There, we were ordered to break 6 companies into three reliefs of 6 sentinels and 3 corporals of the guards. Three companies would run 3 hourly reliefs from 10 PM until 1 AM, and the other three from 1 AM until 4 AM. Our company drew the 10 to 1, and organized the reliefs under Corporals Bingham, Bayreuther, and Liska. We were stationed as the center of the three supports, about 4 rods straight into the tall corn. We tramped down a little area for the support there, and then deployed our 6 sentinels forward from there about another 4 rods, on a row of the field. We made two sets of a center stationary, and left and right walking posts, each about 25 yards apart, and the left and right sentinels hooked up with those of the other companies. We were ordered to not engage the enemy, but to remain silent, and report any movements to our front to the corporal of the guard. It was quite quiet in that field, and even the challenging that goes on at a whisper was quite audible at some distance. There were indeed some rebel scouts out there, since on the third relief, at least four were detected, and prevented from penetrating our sentinel line to our left front. A fine piece of work sent them scurrying away from the line, and with little knowledge except we had pickets in the corn. Grand rounds came shortly after midnight, and found most our dispositions acceptable, and retired for the duration of the watch. We at the supports simply sat quiet, ready to spring to action at a moments notice, quiet in the corn. We did turn out that guard at a few alarms from the sentinels, but did not get active. Major Markiewicz found our position, and we lead the next relief company to our support area, and once the rounds were relieved, retired to the stubble field where the reserves were stationed, and everyone to the man simply laid down in the dirt, and fell sound asleep.
In a matter of a few hours, we were called to our feet again, as the last relief of the guard was pulled in, the battalion was formed and marched off to the left of the stubble field. We were inspected, and put into line of battle, then shifted here and there for about an hour or so. Just about dawn, we were lastly placed in the third brigade line, all arrayed to attack the corn field, and what was in or beyond it. A huge artillery barrage was opened on the corn, and tremendous amounts of shot fired and shell exploded in the air over the corn. Then the infantry went forward into the corn, and a fury of hell broke out. There were as many rebels in the corn as yanks, and the battle was confused. It was hard to see anything in the smoke, and the fighting was at close quarters. We were finally ordered to the left and then forward into the action, but as we were about to advance into the corn, an entire brigade of rebels debouched from in and held us in check for some time. We would not dislodge them or discourage their stay at the edge of the field. More were coming out of the corn, and moving towards our left flank, and a long line of our batteries there. We also moved to the left, went on the right of companies to the front through the guns, back company into line, and prevented the line of guns from being captured. The rebels did withdraw after a time, probably out of ammunition. But we were also low or out of ammunition, and at that time, Col. Liamo ordered our battalion forward, only to find that we were out of ammunition, at which point, Adjt. Golding relayed the orders that we were relieved, and we marched for camp.
Arriving at camp, we were ordered to get up our breakfast, and be ready for orderly call at 8.30, guard mount at 9.30, and battalion drill at 10.30. All these duties and assignments were made, but some of us never even got our coffee. A full guard mount was executed, and the police guard posted along our camp wood road, all civilians, and outside soldiers were kept out of camp. The guard was excused from drill, but the rest of the battalion marched at 10.30 to a drill field, where we were instructed in the close column on first company, deploy column on first company, and change front to the rear on first company. After these instructions were complete, we went back to our base camp in the woods.
Word came that the battalion was to form and march again. We were not to return, so all the camp must be struck. This was done in short order, and the battalion fell in once more. We marched for the south again, passed the camps, a farm, a house, a barn and crossed a road. We were drawn up in line of brigades, again the battalion in the third line. We stacked arms, and sat in the shade for a bit, under the brow of a long ridge to our front. We all could imagine the view from the top of the ridge, into the lines of the enemy, but preferred to rest here while we could. There were the usual numerous officers calls, and all the prayers, and simple conversations that precede a battle. Some eating and drinking, others talking, others writing home. Then it is up, and into line, and all the brigades move off to the left, then front, and go up and over the crest. The first sight over the crest is a long dirt lane, long worn deep into the ground, and flanked by wood snake fences on both sides for some many rods. And in the natural cover of the sunken road were a myriad of rebels, already shooting at any blue item that appeared to their front. It all seemed a travesty to attack such a strong position, but then, looking up and down the blue lines, it was easy to see that we just had to push, since the numbers were with us. It was hard going to advance, and many a lad was used up in the effort. Yet, as the carnage grew, they were getting thick in the road there, and the resistance diminished. Our battalion was able to make it right to the fences at that point, and fight our way through to the other side, and pursue the rebels to the south as those that could made good their retreat. Our battalion rallied together all our unhurt boys, and retired to the end of the bloody lane, and rested for a good deal of time. It was now getting towards sunset, so we were ordered to bivouac in this area for the night. Water and wood details were sent out, and the rest of the boys set to building shebangs of the rails from the snake fences, since it was looking like quite a storm blowing up.
Once the quarters were prepared, and the rations cooked, a very singular crew of citizens came up, and set up a queer minstrel show. Yes, it was a pair of hucksters, Zimmerman and Murphy, conducting some entertainment in the form of a medicine show. They were accompanied by a Mr. Miller from the army, and all were in favor of the entertainment they purveyed. It was a fine show, and all were encouraged to visit their sutlery in the main camp, adjacent to Gen. Burnsides' headquarters. All the soldiers enjoyed the show first rate, but none really had the inclination to spend any hard earned money on such foolishness as Wizard Oil, Hiawatha Hair Tonic, Bowel Treatments, Bullet Proof Vests, or any of the like. Still, it was all in fun, and a bully time was had by all. We returned to our bivouacs, and slept a longer sleep than any had in several days.
The orders to be in line to move out at 6.30 AM were heeded, and our boys were up at first light, rolled up their kits, and stood in line before any of the other companies got up. We were supposed to march off back to the brigade and division for a scheduled grand review. This would have been a spectacle of the command of the entire corps probably, and so, after the other companies came on line, off we marched for that review. En route a courier approached the column, and we were ordered to halt in a stubble field. We stacked, and rested. It turned out that the review had been postponed, and we had some time to wait, so, I got prone with my load. Ed came over and asked for a match, and I told him to go, but his idea was to build a fire, and not to pull my leg. Ed and I set right to getting a little coffee fire together, under the proviso that we get our captain and major a little spot of hot coffee from our labors. We got the fire up, the boilers on, the beans in, and just about to a boil, when "fall in" was the order, and the oaths rent the air. It seems every time Ed and I go the coffee fire route, it is a dead end. We stomped the fire out, and I fell in with the boiler in one hand, and proceeded to drink the half brew rather than pitch it altogether. As the march started, yes, the courier visited once more, and told us that the review had been totally canceled, and that we should march for our old base camp in the woods along the wood road. Now, this indeed could have waited for my coffee to boil, such a singular thing, but all in three years.
We returned to our little local place, and determined to get some rest, as there were no orders until 12.30 to fall in for further duty. We were to clean our muskets, cook our breakfast, and get some rest, which were all accomplished, all in different orders by the different individual soldiers. I ate first, and had a good strong boiler or two of fresh ground coffee, then the cleaning, and finally, pitched the remainder of any rations that I could nor would not eat.
At 12.30, the battalion was formed once more, marched again to the south, then to the east. We marched by the left flank, and crost a creek disguised as a rail road, then further to the left, faced front, then moved by the right flank to the right, coming in contact with the left of Fairchilds brigade, including the 9NY Zouaves and other NY volunteers. There we waited under the protection of the crest of the bluff to our front for orders for the advance. The divisions to our right began to advance en echelon, but we were held in position by our fearless Major Buffington. Then, when the opportunity was ripe, he ordered "Take Arms", "Forward, Guide Center, March", then "Close Column on the First Company, March", and all was done with precision. Onward we went, alone on the left of the line, we advanced. We pushed past the rebel deployments on our left, and them to our front were swept away in our advance. As we crested the knoll protecting us from the rebel batteries arrayed along the Harpers Ferry road, we "Deploy Column on the First Company, March", and off we went. We halted and poured our fire forward. The Major detached our left company under Capt. Levine to advance to the left front, and capture a rebel battery, which was done in fine order, the day seemed to be ours, but we were far in advance of all the other Union troops, and the rebels started appearing on our left flank in spades. Capt. Levine returned his company to the line directly, and we started fighting for our lives. The major ordered a "Change Front to the Rear on First Company", and that was done with alacrity. We then fired on our flankers, and the compliments were returned. The boys were dropping fast, and the entire color guard was down. The Nationals were picked up by Pvt. Payne, and shook out in the face of the enemy. The regimental colors were retrieved by Pvt. Warchol, and the line was quickly reestablished. The major ordered "Face by the Rear Rank, March", and off we went in order. After a few rods, it was "Face by the Front Rank, March", and fire was directed back on our enemy. Again, "Face by the Rear Rank", and again, "Face by the Front Rank", but we were being engulfed by the rebel hoard coming from the Harpers Ferry road. It was lastly, "By the Left Flank, March" and we got ourselves out of the fray. Then as the rebels bore down on us, it was "Rally on the Colors", and the whole battalion surrounded the colors for protection, thence from there to the rear, and the battle subsided. We got ourselves accounted for, roles were taken, and it was evident that half the regiment were missing. The casualties were extensive, but we needed to get off the field, and to the protection of the valley of the Antietam. We retreated in order to that locale, and thence back the area near the creek.
We were dismissed from the battalion, and the companies were left to help themselves. Our captain dismissed the company, and all seemed to fall in exhaustion right there. After a while, we reformed, and marched towards the rear, and from there, to our marshalling area to account for the losses. We went right to the baggage trains, now up, and loaded ourselves and our equipment for relocation. A detail was left to attend to our wounded and bury the dead. This was indeed the finest hour of the Eighth, but the saddest day for our heroes and patriot sons of the Nutmeg State.
The hours and days ahead will account for the true level of loss that we have sustained, but for now, the living are marching for Antietam Iron Works, near the C & O Canal, and will rest there until further orders are received. Rest assured hat I am safe, only having been shot through the bedroll, and a slight graze of the right temple, I am still among the living, as are many of my friends, but yet a many more are now lost to us, and I shall try to account for them in the next letter. Now, I am out of paper, out of ink, and jaded to the gills. I shall write once more as soon as I can gather my wits, get the news, and tell our story in full. Until then, please pray for our missing and our casualties, and most of all, for the fallen and their families.
Your humble servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.