Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Spotsylvania 140th Anniversary Event Report
May 7-9, 2004
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Spotsylvania 140th Anniversary Reenactment
May 14, 1864
Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia
First New Jersey Brigade.
Arriving near this crossroads after an incredibly long and hard march from the North, and after arriving just about sunset, it seemed that we were directed into the muzzles of Mother Nature. Nearing the camps of the Army of the Potomac, we were directed to the camps of our division, but the skies were closing around us. Our best minds agreed that a hurry to post our shelters on the proper streets should be waived, as the wind and the weather closed about us. In full and heavy marching order, we simply choose to hide ourselves under the baggage wagons, and ride it out. The evening grew dark, and then it grew black, the winds picked up, and the rain started to fall. Enough for a veteran to handle. Then it just accelerated from there. The rain came in torrents, the lightning was so common, that it could not reach the ground, for shorting out on the next bolt. The trees started giving up all they had, in terms of leaves, twigs, and branches to add to the missiles in the winds. All was violent for quite some time, far beyond the normal spring thunderstorm. We ducked and prayed under the wagons, and in about an hour, it did pass. We elected to get ourselves into camp before being reported absent. The search for directions to our headquarters lead us on a long walk among the refugees of the storm that were in camp already, everything being blown down, and many in a state of disorder. We found the boys of the battalion after a full circuit of the army, and nearly at the point where we started to search. Such is the army after dark, and after a storm. We found the streets, so up went the dogs, and that is where we parked it for the duration of the night.
First light found the skies clear, and a very kind Heaven looking down, so the early reveille was sounded, the morning reports taken, and the battalion started acting like the army again. Breakfast was first rate, and that was followed by an officers and NCOs call. Major had all the requirements laid out, and the command responded. Instructions were given to the boys, and the battalion went to drilling in short order. A massed battalion drill was the result, taught by Capt. Grehl, a kind and caring mentor, until the boys could not stand the sun any further. The recall was sounded, and a short midday dinner break was welcomed by all. Some of the boys visited the river banks during that time, and were impressed with the speed and the mud of the river. No wonder the pontoons were required last winter at Fredericksburg. Nothing could cross that river other than how the AOP has provided.
After dinner, well, we drilled some more, and got to the meat of the orders from headquarters. We drilled skirmish drill as a regiment, and got to know the other Jersey boys around us, massed here for the push. We all cried "Jersey Blue", and were one for all. We were given a rest, and then called into formation, where the colors were paid their honors. We all knocked back the tears for the colors of our homes, and were so moved, that the boys seemed welded into a firm mass. Nothing would derange the force of the battalion. We rested again, but were called into line around 3.30 PM. We marched off be the left flank, and joined the marching column for the south. We were halted along the way to wait for the other divisions to pass, and while there, reveled with the colors, the guidons, and the full strength of a body of men of a singular mind. After a time, we marched off again, and halted in the presence of the command. Colonel Upton, dashing, and mounted, lead the division off to the south, and positioned us in a field of winter wheat, just in front of a tree line. There we rested for some time in anticipation of the orders to go.
Ahead of us, we could see a line of rebel pickets, and beyond them, a formidable line of works, well manned, and well protected by earth and wood. That was the objective. The salient that the rebel engineers had created during the past day and night would need to be broken.
After a time, the orders were passed, and the First Jersey were ordered to deploy as skirmishers in front of the entire division, while at the same time, the rest of the division were being formed into a a column of divisions, doubled on the center. All was set, and so our skirmishers in heavy order were ordered to the front. It was an easy task to push the rebel pickets in, as we surely outnumbered them on that part of the line. We advanced, engaged, and held them in check, when the attacking column was ordered forward. They came up, in fine order, and quickly advanced past our skirmish line, and went right to the attack at the double quick. They were there and up to the works in a matter of minutes, and they were so strong, that they went right up to, and into the trenches. The clouds of sulfur almost swallowed them up, but we could see them doing their duty right through it all. The skirmishers were assembled on the center, and we also went forward to their support in line of battle.
The column had indeed punched through, and the boys were all mixing into the works with the enemy, some were falling, and some were advancing. I cannot tell you what desperate situations the individual soldiers were facing, and it was all a blur, but the masses were prevailing here at this point of the line. Our boys were up and out of the trenches, and pushing the rebels to the rear, but it soon was evident that we were not supported, and the massing rebel support was coming on us in great strength. We were now getting pushed back, and I for one had to run for the rebels were reaching and clawing to grab me from behind. There was no chance of any more firing, it was all had to hand, and run with the legs. We got off the line, leaving so many behind prisoner, that it was a travesty of command that we were not supported in so successful an attack. We reeled from the chase, and reformed a good distance from the works, but as darkness fell, we elected to only hold that ground, and not try to push through again without the promised support. After a time, we were withdrawn, and sent to our camps. There we caught our breath, some of the staff were posed for exhausted images, and the rest of the boys went to their rations as fast as they could light a fire. The nightly retreat roll was called with many missing voices, and the men turned into their blankets for sorrowful rest.
Around 5.30 AM, the orders came to form and get in line, and to a man, every one answered the call. With a good amount of quiet, the Union once again flexed its muscles, and every personal will was focused once more on the target. This time, it was determined that Hancock and the 2d Corps were going in first, and that we would all support them in the effort. His Corps was assembled in a column of battalions, and this was directed at the point of the Mule Shoe. The orders came to advance, and we all stepped off, loaded, not capped, and at the trail. In no time, our column reached the angle in the lines, and we hit them hard. We took the trenches, and were able to enfilade our fire both along the right and the left of the line in the trenches, making any rebel there a dead man. This attack also was not properly sustained, so the rebels massed on the point of attack once more, and they proceeded to capture many of our men. We were able to also capture many of theirs in this whirl wind dawn light. Once more, we were not able to keep up the advance, and the rebels stalled us long enough to get to the rear and reform a line there. The Union juggernaut was out of steam, and could not continue. We withdrew once more, and were simply rested for a time, and then put in march for points to the south of this location. We are halted on the way right here, and the mail was called for to go north, so this is the story that I can tell to this point. Our losses are heavy, but our courage is strong. Those of the Jersey Blue that has survived and withstood this fight are ready, willing, and able to fight again on a moments notice.
The war this spring has taken a truly morbid turn, but we all agree that it is the worse for the Johnnies, and that we all will return home in honor and peace as soon as Grant has his way. God Bless the Jersey Blue, and God Bless the Union!
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.