Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Recon2 Event Report
May 3-5, 2002
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Cedar Creek Battlefield
May 5, 1864
North of the Po River
I take this opportunity to write you some lines to post to you about how we are faring of late. The recent changes in our circumstances began to unfold when we were put on the march Thursday last, and were directed to the southeast from the battlefields of Spotsylvania. As you know, we are part of the 2d Corps, under Gen. Hancock, the 1st Division under Gen. Francis Barlow, and the 1st Brigade under Col. Nelson Miles.
Our little band was on the roads for some time, and after a while turned off the pike for a night's rest. There, the bulk of the company came up, and the aggregate spent the night. In the morning, we got up our messes, and found a few more had arrived during the night. That Friday morning, we all made our way further south, and at one point were then turned offf the road by guards to a headquarters area. There the company was examined and inspected by the guards and sent out into the fields to find our command. Arriving at the Todd house, we were greeted by a captain and the Colonel of the brigade, it being the first brigade of the first division of the 2d corps.
Our company, Co.H, of the 183d Pennsylvania under Col. George Mclean, was assigned as the third company of the first battalion, and took up a position in the open field, just to the west of the pike, and the east of the Todd house in the shadow of two huge sycamore trees. We are the combined representatives of the United States Volunteers, under the command of Capt. David Felice. There, we established our color line, took roll, and organized our platoons and sections under the Corporals.
After a time, all the equipments and wagons were up, and we were called to brigade commissary for rations. We drew two days rations, in some disorder, being on account of a grouchy brigade commissary officer, and an intimidated and unorganized regimental commissary officer. Either way, our first draw was of a box of crackers, 8 loafs of soft bread, 25 potatoes, 4 turnips, 8 pounds of coffee, and 4 pounds of sugar. The meat ration was of smoked sides of bacon, but was very small, being only two sides for the whole company. We were told just to repair back to the company. That we did, grumbling about poor organization and small rations and the normal army way all the way back to camp. Back at Co.H, we broke down the rations and handed it all out, and the boys set to cooking. A messenger was sent from the commissary, and we were told to return henceforth and we did so, drawing another 2 whole sides, for which the boys were glad, and all was put to the fire, then into the haversacks.
After officers call, our orders came that we were to form the police guard for the battalion during the night. We got the reliefs organized, and established the posts as directed. The countersign was "Victory", and all were challenged in the night. There were several instances of civilians roaming the night, and they were all either asking questions, spying, or just trying to test our mettle. Some slipped through the outer pickets, and one got right to camp, asking the Captain for safe escourt the the Todd residence. She was escorted, but not allowed to return. Vigilence during the late night and early morning identified many quiet rustlings to our front, with twigs snapping, birds flushing, and low whispers heard. None approached, but most likely were some other rebelious information seekers.
With the dawn approaching, during the relief of the second platoon, with me as the sergeant of the guard, orders came from the officer of the day to turn off the guard at 5 a.m. and provide three escourts for the adjutant going on a reconnaissance patrol to the front. The rest of the company was ordered up, and into ranks to move. We all rolled up our bivouac, and fell in, but then just stood there for a good long time. Then we were ordered to rest, and the boys all got back to the fires, got up some coffee, and had a little breakfast. We did not move until about 9 in the morning.
We were in two battalions, moved by column of companies to the south, and after a time, passed beyond the line of sentinals from the previous night, past a tree line, and right into view of the rebel cavalry on the right, and their infantry to our front. Our skirmishers opened on them, and they replied. We were able to push them, but they stubbornly moved by the flanks, and we turned as in a waltz. They fell back to the next crest, and tried to hold, but our superior numbers once more caused them to retire, and they retired to the Bradford plantation. We stayed on position on the crest overlooking the property and the road to the south. After a while, we saw the rebels move to the east from the plantation along the road, and cross our front at about a half mile distant. We could not figure their intentions, and could not figure how our command would not attack them. We just sat. In about an hours time, here they came again, passing along the same road to the west. What kind of a demonstration are they trying? Soon they disappeared into the woods to the west of the farm, and our officers were called to the commanders. They then called us into line, and we marched to and through the plantation, and halted once more. I was finding it quite singular that we were content to let these rebels just move at will in our presence, when we outnumbered them two to one. We sat again for about an hour.
Once more, we were called up, and moved after the rebels. We passed into the woods, and the roads narrowed and became nothing more than tracks. We narrowed our flank march to two files, and moved along in silence, with flankers out on both sides, first company as the advance guard, and fourth company as the rear guard. We crawled through the Virginia thickets and woods, hearing occasional musket fire and cavalry action to the left flank and front some quarter to half mile away. We continued, and got to a little glade, where the rebel cavalry came down on our left flank, the flankers holding, and our third company was deployed to the left, and sent in after them. We pressed them away, and we passed through the woods, and onto another track. There, the rest of the command was reforming, and much confusion on the road was had. We were ordered back along the road to a new position, where the road rised and curved to the left. There was a nest of rebel infantry off to the right of that position, and we were ordered to passed in front of them by the flank, a dangerous move, then front, and attack them. This we did in fear, but once faced to them, the boys calmly, and fiercely poured a heavy fire into the rebels, but sustained many casualties as well. The rebels were driven off, and it was a good thing, since we were not in a good position to sustain the fire. We moved down the road about another half mile, and were halted to rest at a well, where the boys all filled the canteens.
The bugle for officers call sounded once more, and after the conference, we were up once more, and moved back the way we came, only this time not along the road, but directly through the woods. The going was tough, the growth was thick, and we silently proceeded along, past old trenches and gun emplacements. The fourth company was deployed as skirmishers to the front, and on first contact with the enemy, we were to go company into line, and forward into line, and overwhelm whatever we found to the front. It happened that the skirmishers came out of the woods on to a road, and they discovered the rebels. They opened, and took cover. We went into line, and deployed on the road. Two cavalry vedettes came galloping around a corner to our right, and almost right into the ranks, who were sent scattering. They told us the rebels were in force to our front and left, and we were then ordered to move to our left, and into the woods to the front. We were faced directly into a strong rebel breastworks, manned by about a dozen or more rebels. Our company opened on them, and a fierce fight developed. While we were holding their attention, the second company came into line behind us, moved to our left, into the woods, and into position to flank the rebel position from the left. We were starting to take heavy casualties, and looking over to our left, but the second company did not close the trap. They took so much time, that we were obliged to pull back, and the rebels made their escape. Exhausted, we were ordered to cease fire, and reformed in the road, and continued our march to the left. We took the roll, found 5 missing but accounted for, streaming to the rear for the hospital. We were halted after about a quarter mile, and told this is our bivouac for the night.
It started to rain as we looked about for our nests, and so up went the most curious assortment of shebangs I ever saw. The rain was quite heavy by now, and the boys were hunkering down. I made the rounds to check the boys, and marvelled at the quickness and innovation that went into each of the modest shelters. Some were of gum blankets, some were of shelter halfs, some were roomy, some were small, some were of rope, some of scratch wood, some were of bent over saplings, some were of cut timber. All were now home, and a dozen or so little coffee fires sprung up among the shebangs. It was all in order, as the resignation to spending another night in the freezing wet rain was upon us.
Then, in about a half hour, the orders were received to pack it up, and move immediately. The boys were astonished, but simply took down and struck the camp just as quickly as it had been erected, all the fires extingushed before anything was even prepared on them, and all fell in on the road. We marched off still to the left, and after a good long time, we pased the brigade field headquarters, the hospital, and came out of the woods and onto the pike. We marched off to the north this time, and arrived at the department headquarters. There we received word that the operations had been called off, and all orders recinded, that we were to return to our commands and base camps. This all the boys did, without grumbling, as it is "all in three years".
We were more than pleased with the duty of our command, Capt. David Felice, Lt. Bob Boucher, and a host of first rate NCOs. All the boys in the command stepped up the extra yard to do their duty and make the company an effective fighting force. This level of coordination and comraderie has been a pleasure for all. Hurrah for all those heroes and patriots of the USV that participated in the recent operations on the Po River, and offer our total respect to the staff command of the operation.
We are mostly well, not hungary, nor sick, just tired, and even jaded. We are cold, and we are wet, but this is the price we are willing to pay for our Union. Among the wounded were John, David, Hal, and Chris. They have returned to the company, and are on the mend. They will most likely heal faster among friends than at the hospital, and we are glad to have them. God grant that they are the last and the worst of our casualties, and that we all can soon be restored to our homes and families. Write often, and direct via Washington as usual, as the mail will follow us, and we look forward to receiving it regularly.
Your obedient servant,
Sgt. Seth Plumb
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.