Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
New Market Event Report
May 18-19, 2002
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New Market, Virginia
On May 17th a small contingent of the 8th Ct headed south under the command of Gen Sigel to New Market, Va. The goal was to clear the Rebs out of the Shenandoah Valley once and for all. The troops consisted of Pvts David McCartney, Jacob McCartney, and Scott Simmons. (Pvt Simmons was diverted on special assignment to Harpers Ferry and did not participate in the action at New Market.) The 8th was placed in the 3rd battalion USV under the command of Capt. Scot Buffington.
The troops settled into their camps just before dusk and were greeted by rain, brilliant flashes of lightening, and thunder that would have drowned out the artillery. After the quick storm, we settled down to a quiet evening in the camps. Just after midnight, however, the torrential rains and strong winds arrived and everyone in the camp felt the miserable effect of a spring storm. We awoke to a cloudy, cold day. It was so wet that fires started with great reluctance. Once a fire was going, we utilized it to dry out the remaining wood.
1St Sgt John Bert led us in a battalion drill to help shake out the cold. For the fresh fish (and veterans) he reviewed the procedure for safe firing in the ranks. He also stressed the importance of starting a march correctly. At the command of forward march, everyone steps off at the same time with their left foot. (More on this later). Following our drill the entire USV fell in for dress parade.
During the afternoon our commanding officer, Gen Sigel, heard reports of Rebs in the area. The entire army was deployed south in search of them. Just after passing a farm house in the area we encountered the first artillery fire from the Rebs. Not knowing the strength of his opponent, Gen Sigel was reluctant to attack the position. The 3rd battalion was moved over a fence line and down into a road on the extreme right of the Union line. The Confederates eventually began probing our strength down this road. Initially they sent a small squad down the road that drove back some Union cavalry (Not a difficult task). When they encountered the infantry, their assault was stopped temporarily. A larger force was then sent down the road by the Rebs. Capt Buffington countered this by splitting his 3 companies into six separate lines stretching from the 2nd brigade on our left to a cliff on the right. The strong Reb force gradually drove us back up the road. Capt. Buffington would have one line fire, and retire to the rear. This kept a constant harassing fire on the Rebs. As we pulled back the area we had to defend became narrower and narrower. We also began to fall behind the main line of Union forces. Capt Buffington countered this by pulling lines out of the road and refusing the line with the 2nd brigade. The unwary Rebs continued moving down the road without realizing they had walked into a trap. With only 1 line left in the road, the Capt ordered a charge. The remaining troops crashed through the trees and right into the flank of the startled Rebs. You should have seen them run! Gen Sigel felt it best at this time to retire with the entire army.
Once the troops were back in camp we settled in for what started as a pleasant evening. Unfortunately once the sun dropped, so did the temperature and by dawn the rifles, and grass were covered with a light frost. Brutal conditions for troops still wet from the night before.
On Sunday the 19th we woke cold and stiff, but the sunshine gave us hope for a comfortable, peaceful day. The Lord's day what could possibly happen! The 3rd battalion fell in with the 1st and 2nd battalion for dress parade. It was an extremely long dress parade. A contingent of beautiful West Virginia ladies presented new regimental colors to the boys from West Virginia. Gen Sigel then read a special commendation to the 3rd battalion and Capt Buffington for their part in the action on the 18th.
Around noon reports of Rebs in the area reached us once again. Gen Sigel ordered the troops to fall in. We immediately gathered our gear and prepared for battle. The long line of Union troops stood waiting for the command to march. The commander ordered forward march; the boys in the 3rd brigade all stepped off at once with their left foot and immediately ran into the troops in front of them. After 6 attempts at starting we finally got the entire line moving at once. (Like Sgt Bert said, everyone steps off together. Yeah, right). Just south of the Bushong Farm we encountered a large contingent of Confederates. Captain Buffington was ordered to deploy 2 companies as skirmishers. We immediately headed out against the overwhelming odds in front of us. A full company moved out on our right. The Reb line immediately opened a heavy fire that no man could stand against. We quickly lay flat and began returning fire as we awaited re-enforcement. Sgt Bert ordered Pvt David McCartney to go back and tell Capt. Buffington that the company on our right had fallen back. At this point in time, Pvt McCartney discovered that all of the skirmishers to his left had also fallen back. Alone on the field, outnumbered, and facing 3 Reb cannon, Pvt McCartney and Sgt Bert fell gloriously on the Lord's day defending the Union. The remainder of the 3rd battalion fell back, but not fast enough to escape the oncoming Rebs. The entire 2nd company, including Pvt. Jacob McCartney, were killed, wounded, or in a few cowardly cases ran like rabbits during the assault. Gen Sigel outnumbered the Rebs, but he did not have the ability to successfully lead the Union troops. The battle was lost when a unit of boys from a nearby military school assaulted some guns and captured them.
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.