Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
140th Anniversary Battle of Cedar Creek Event Report
October 16-17, 2004
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Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation
October 18, 1864
On Cedar Creek near
The travel to the seat of war from my most valued furlough brought me south via the cars through Pennsylvania en route to the Shenandoah valley. The travel was slowed by some dense fogs, and some cloud bursts that hampered the travel. Once in the locale of the army, the weather did improve, and the beauty of the valley in all its fall splendor were revealed.
We were encamped in good order upon the northern side of Cedar Creek, amongst and around the Belle Grove Plantation. There were a host of the army here with us of the 23d Ohio. We were also in the company of the VI Corps and the XIX Corps to our right. We were the third battalion of the United States Volunteers, and were made up of the following friends, 56Pa, 8CV, 63Pa, 78Pa, 23OV, 140NY, 155NY, 14NJ, 3NJ, 2NJ, 43NY, 28MA, and the Excelsior Mess. We were emcamped upon a small side hill, facing to the west, and with our front upon a fine crest overlooking the Heater house, and the fields to the south.
The evening was concerned with getting situated, and a few administrative treks to USV HQ. The army never rests when it comes to trivia and bureaucracy. The draw from the hat for the drill was accomplished, and the evolutions announced to the commanders. Column to the Right, Column to the Left, Column of Divisions, Change Front Forward, and Deploy Double Column to the Left.
The Major determined to have his own instructional meeting of all his officers and non-commissioned, so they were duly rounded up and brought to his tent. He instructed the men in the evolutions of Casey's School of the Battalion. Parts II and V. He used the chalk board frequently to illustrate the lessons, and got it all out. Then the announcement came that we were all waiting for. Gen. Heim had ordered that the three regiments would compete in a drill contest in the morning at 9:00 o'clock.
Saturday morning got us up in good order early. The orderlies went right to work, calling rolls, stacking arms on the color line, and everyone got up some breakfast, or at least some good dose of coffee. The Sgt.Maj. circulated to the orderlies, and got the reports to the Adjutant, and the Clerk transcribed all the information onto the Consolidated Morning Report, which went to HQ just on time. At 8:00 o'clock, the battalion was formed, and the drill warm-ups began. The Major ran through a chorreographed rendition of the items, and then did it again. Then again. We were through the script three times in less than an hour.
The judges for the drill competition were three anonymous officers from General Tolar's staff. They were ready on time, and so the First Regiment went first, followed by the Second, then us, the Third. All the participants performed very well, and the judges ended by reviewing and providing commentary that would improve all of the aspects. They were precise, and well prepared. No one was awarded a perfect mark, as there is always ways to improve.
We adjourned to our camps, and performed fatigues, and started to get some passing showers. The weather was quite windy.
Early in the afternoon, the Major ordered us out, and we marched by the right towards the south for some distance. We were followed by the other two regiments, thus creating a long blue line, inching and crawling along much like a huge snake. We went into line at the crest of a hill. We could see some rebel batteries at work, and a few slender lines of confederate skirmishers pushing our way, trying to read the tea leaves of war.
They were met with the full address of the massed Union forces. But presently, to the south, we could see the enemy attack column pushing towards the field. At the distance of about a quarter mile, we could see them deploy, come into line, and start sweeping towards us. We deployed the Excelsior boys as skirmishers, and when they were pushed in, we pounded the enemy until our right was threatened. We retired by the left, and reformed under protection of our rear by our skirmishers once more. This behavior was repeated twice again, when finally, the pressures on our right became so strong, that the Major ordered us to dispurse, and to reform our lines upon the second crest to our rear. This task was actually executed flawlessly, except for only one or two soldiers that simply never stopped running. From our last position, we drew real blood from the enemy, but ultimately had to yield the field.
Back in camp, we had an evening dress parade, and I am pleased to report that from start to finish, it encompassed ten total minutes. The reports were received that the USV3B had indeed, won the drill competition, and so the major ordered a bonfire be built, and all companies provide fuel, and the gala would begin at 8:00. About that time, a contraband arrived in camp, claiming to be the sister of Mammie Johnson, a character well known to the battalion. Prissy Johnson, as it turned out, was also interested in the gala, and so she hawked, or honked, her goods for everyone's delight for some hours. We all took turns singing Civil War 'tongs, and telling Civil War 'tories. Prissy was a little rougher than her sister, but also had a good backing of advertisers which she represented well. After a good long time, she left, and the remainder around the fire stretched the hours with Irish song. Late to bed that evening, and what would be the worst?
At four-thirty in the morning, the boys were called out, formed in line, and marched off by the flank to the south in the dark once more. They were put in line, brought forward, and engaged both friend and enemy alike. The fighting was confused, as you might guess in the dark, and there was little outcome that could be determined, other than the Union boys had held off the approach of the enemy, and prevented an accident to the entire army. They were brought back into camp and gotten some breakfast. Again, the orderlies got their morning reports in, and the Sgt.Maj, Adj, and Clerk all got it down, marking and ciphering all the forms into the truth of the army, more paperwork. The Major and Adj. repaired to HQ and presented it to the Aide-de-Camp, then chatted with the General on the plans for the day.
Some of the men were allowed to attend Sunday services at 10:00, so the Major determined to have a dress parade at 11:30. This parade was done with the full honors and escort of the colors of the 23d Ohio. It is always a moving time for me when you have the entire regiment on line, and the escort retrieves the color from the commanders tent, and "to the color" is sounded in the distance, then they march, and we present and "to the color" is sounded now near. We all become the defenders of that color. After parade, we inspected all our weapons, and stacked them on the line.
Around 1:00, we could hear the sounds of an attack developing to the south. It seems that the rebels had attacked along the lines of the creek that morning, and the surprise was quite strong. Many men had no time to grab their equipments and get in line. They simply fled to the north. Once the sounds of the emergency were being heard in the camps away from the creek, those units were able to fall in, get organized, and create a strong rear guard for the running masses. They all were pushed from their camps finally, and through Middletown, and towards Winchester, when General Sheridan returned from Winchester on his lathered horse, and was able to rally the lines, and mount a strong counter attack.
Such was our lot to anchor the left side of that counter attack. To our front, there were some lines resisting the enemy, but they were tenuous, and under great strain. The Major brought us into column, closed in mass, and we wheeled, and went forward as an attck column. We went to the double quick, and punched our way right through the confederate front, then deployed the column, and kept advancing. We were sweeping some North Carolina troops in our front, and we went right through a rebel battery, and still we kept on going. The enemy was routed, and when we went to catch our breaths, Gen'l Daniels moved us to the right, to help flank and capture another rebel battalion. Such was our lot that day, out of camp, and back again.
We were exhausted after about a miles advance, so we checked our weapons, and headed for our old camps again, looking all around our prize, the Shenandoah Valley, and the Cedar Creek Battlefield. We moved north again later that day, on detached duty, and hope to be with my froends in the seat of war soon again.
Your humble servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.