Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Jacksons Valley Campaign Event Report
(sponsored by the 1st. Md., Co.H)
June 1-2, 2002
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Torrington Fish & Game Club
June 10th, 1862
I am graced with enough time and desire to acquaint you all with the proceedings here in the Shenandoah of late. Our good God has sustained my safety from injury and death still. We all were proceeding up the vallry in a southerly direction of late, and the armiies were traveling on two different roads. Along our way, getting late Friday afternoon, we experienced a fierce series of thunderstorms that frightened even the hardest of soldiers. About 5 PM, the sound of lightening and thunder could be seen and heard, as the air got that tingle to it. But, as we really could not choose otherwise, we simply marched on. The storm opened upon us with torrents of rain, and an occasional pelt of hail, and it came down in buckets. After about a fifteen minute spree, it turned to normal hard rain, and slowed. But the events were played out again and yet again in succession, at about one huor intervals. The best of the news is that when we arrived at our assigned camp grounds, the rain had passed, and there was enought of the daylight to erect our modest shelters. That done, a supper mess was gotton up, and our little band went to sleep.
The morning gun sounded at the appointed hour of dawn, and the roll call was taken. We find ourselves here under the command of Col. Burbank of the New England Brigade, in Gen. Tyler's division. We are here in the valley, pursuing the rebel forces of "Stonewall" Jackson and Ewell.
The cook fires were the spot, as we all prepared some coffee and breakfast. The day dawned sunny, breezy, and quite pleseant. After we formed our company for some drilling which went quite well, as far as drilling goes. All the bases that hte commissioned and non Commissioned wanted to cover weere effected, including company drill on the left and right flanks, platoon drills, and skirmish drill. The rest of the morning was ours to rest, and have some noon rations. The officers call discovered that there was to be conducted a dress parade at 1/2 past 1 PM, and we were to march for battle from there directly.
At the appointed hour, the parade custom was duly conducted, and prior to the start of the march, a chaplin said a fine prayer to us. He encouraged to use some of our recent pay to support the Orphans and Widows Funds. The Col. then was obligated by the recent government finding for equal access, that one of his staff, Capt. Devon Kurtz was to say a few words. It turns out that he prayed for destruction of the south, the people and the property. Except the domestic animals. And the boys shouted Hurrah.
So, off we want in the direction of the enemy. Our 3d company was moved to the front of the column, since our orders were to be used as skirmishers as needed. We passed along muddy roads and shady woods, and all in the valley was sublime. We followed the road to a point where we turned off it and out into the open fields and treelines for a time. When we arrived at a fence line and a stone wall with a barway through it, the staff moved just through it to get a look. What they saw was the rebel line in place, a battery on a knoll, and a small line of rebel skirmishers out in the front of all that.
Our company was sent forward towards the right of the line, and deployed by the right flank. As we probed the rebel strength, we found it easy to push the rebel skirmishers, since we were twice theirs. Tehy did draw us along, and then ceased, and fell back on their main body. We ceased fire, and were examining our alternatives when a rebel battery opend directly upon us from our front. At that point it was clear that we would fire in retreat, and return to our command with the news and intelligence gained.
The staff major then fed companies through the barway and into the fray en eschelon, hoping to overwhelm the rebels by number. This did not exactly happen, as the rebels continued pounding shells into the Unon ranks. At one time, Tylers divion went forward to the crest of the hill, only to have the rebels on the opposite slope rise up and devestate the lines. As the right of our line became untenable, and the rebel infantry deployed on our left, front, and right, it was clear to the command that we had better disengage and make haste our retreat from the field. This we did, in order, and returned to our camp of the previous night. No net gain. This was reported as the Battle of Cross Keys.
Early that evening, several pickets were driven in from the direction of the enemy, and they were sure the rebels were massing on our front. There were three companies called out, and each went on a reconnaissance up the center along the muddy pike, and also along the woods on both the right and left flanks. We continued forward until we encountered the enemy moving across our front. It seemed that a whole company was there, and being followed by another. We sent the third company forward to encounter them and fall back, and bait them into an ambush from both sides of the road by our company. We almost succeeded, but as the third company passed through the jaws of the trap, the rebels withdrew. We then determined that they were trying to get around our left flank, so retired a bit, then went into the woods to the left, hoping to detect them. Again, no luck, they had withdrawn. We tried to move all three companies in concert through the woods on each flank, and right up the road, hoping to overwhelm them with numbers, whenever we encountered them. The second company now on the road advanced and encountered them at some range, and skirmished with them. Our third company came up on the left flank, passed the skirmish line, came out of the woods on the road in line of battle, and pressed the lead into them. They retired quickly, and we pursued them. We stood in line and delivered more lead, which they endeavored to return. We finally pinned a band of them in one place, and sent a company volley, then gave them the bayonet. At this point the question was over, and we returned to camp. Desultory picket fire continued for some time, but the patrol beyond the lines had achieved its objective of finding the enemy, assess the threat, and return to command with the information.
There, the evening was consumed by the cleaning of weapons, and the cooking of our rations into warm foods. There was some time allowed for a little socialization in the early evening after retreat. We combined our officers mess, the NCO club, and all enlisted men with a nice cold picnic spread upon a carpet. All was a good pot luck, and no one went hungary. We mingled with the other companies, had some song singing, and a general good time was had by all.
The Sabbath morning also dawned, sunny, breezy, and pleasant. A lot of the time was spent cooking once more. The morning found the men hungary, and a fair deal of the rations were consumed. The Col. was kind enough to not hold any drill this morning, and allowed the boys to attend prayer meetings and church services.
At 1/4 until 1 PM, the parade was formed again, the customs observed, the orders read, the weapons inspected, and the ranks closed. Our company's orders today did not include any light infantry duty. We approached the battle field, and could hear action occuring along the river.
We advanced over the bottom land in column of companies, then deployed the first three companies forward into line, holding the rest of the battalionin reserve. We went forward, and suceeded in pressing the rebel skirmishers as yesterday. We got so close to their guns that our officers sent the first company forward to overwhelm the gunners, which they did, proudly taking the gun, and protecting the rest of the battalion from its effects. The victory was short lived, as the rebels also had a battery in the middle of their line, and it opened at close range doing enough destruction that our lines were ordered back.
We reformed with the reserve, and all of us were meeting the threat from the rebel advance, when it occured that a rebel battalion came up from our left. We changed front left on fifth company, opened on them, but now things were getting desperate. Yet another body of the enemy appeared in our rear, adn we were all but surrounded. Many our men were dropping, not knowing which direction to fire.
Our staff was unable to mount any effort to break out of our noose, and that part of the battle ended with many casualties, and many prisoners taken. Such was the sort of indian massacre that our battalion got itself into. It is little wonder that some small hand full of soldiers lived to tell the story at all. The results along the entire line were singularly the same, a hard fought battle, with heavy casualties, but no clear outcome.
Those that were not lost, were formed and marched back to our last camp and gathered up the remains of our battalion equipments, and proceeded to withdraw beck down the valley at a good pace. It will now be known as the Battle of Port Republic. We are now safe from rebel threats in the vicinity of Winchester. The reports here are that the rebels also withdrew from Port Republic, so that there is no victor, only a costly, bloody draw. I do pray that this war soon be over, and let our soldiers return to their homes in honor and peace. That is my wish.
Your humble and obediant Servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.