Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
McDowell 143rd Anniversary Event Report
Battle of McDowell
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May 7-8, 2005
May 8, 1862
Dear Friends at Home,
We have been very active here in these parts over the past few weeks, particularly these past few days. We are now packing and planning on leaving McDowell, where our position is no longer tenable, and will soon march north towards Franklin.
We arrived over the mountains here Friday last, and when the baggage was up, set our battalion of the 75th Ohio Volunteers into a very nice camp on the banks of Bullpasture River, and in the shadow of Sitlingtons Hill. Rations for the evening were drawn that night, and promises of more wagons and supplies were made for the morning. Our battalion is of three companies, first being buckeyes from the 91st and 14th Ohio, commanded by Capt. Robert Minton. The second comapny is of friends from the 8th Conn, 63d Penn, and the 56th Penn. Vols, and commanded by Capt. Jerome Grehl. The third company is the 28th Mass, Co.B, and commanded by Capt. Mark Herzog. The battalion commanded by our Major Scot Buffington.
Our Quarter Master Vic Bonardi had indeed pulled off a fine showing by still getting a regulation camp into and amoung the trees, and selecting a fine little rise where the battalion staff made itself quite comfortable with mossy ground. A fine little spring was close by, and all were directed not to stir it up with mud while dipping. The past few nights have been quite clear and cold here, almost to freezing, but the days have been sublime, sunny and cool.
The village is just to the north of our position, possibly 1000 yards or so. During that first evening, we were summoned by orders to a meeting of the brigade command in the Presbiterian church. All intelligence was reviewed, and in a short time, we returned to camp. A few moments were passed around the company camp fires, where in the Company C street had appeared a fine church pew for the comfort of the men.
At dawn, assembly and revielle were sounded, the rolls taken, and the cook fires started. Coffee and crackers were the order of the morning, as there was little else. Reports were taken and consolidated by myself and my very capable clerk, Keith Brown. Between us, we generated consolidated morning report, company ration returns, consolidated ration returns, and receipts for the constant flow of written orders from the brigade.
About 8.00 AM, a police guard was mounted, and a curious parade of wagons started coming up and down the road along the river. Many curious citizens were taking a close look at the invaders. The guards were ever vigilent, and kept the peace easily.
Rations finally arrived in camp in the forenoon, and the brigade commissary set upon a fine supply of fresh beef with a vengence, dismantling the cows into company sized pieces. A welcome sight was the beef after so much salt junk. The returns were presented and the battalions sent their details to collect their due, which were presently brought to the battalions to be rationed to the individual companies. The cook fires were stoked, and the mess pails went on. Fresh beef and soft bread, coffee, sugar, potatoes, turnips, all made their appearances to the delight of the man.
The Assistant Adjutant General and several Aides-du-camp from brigade were detailed to inspect the camps, and so they came through, walked each street, and recorded the general conformation of the command. I accompanied the inspection throuighout the camps of the 75th, and such mutterings were heard as, canvas condemned, sinks too close to streets, &c, &c. No general comments were directed to me, other than that question, where did the church pew come from? I replied, it simply appeared. I was told that the correct answer was, I have an invoice for it in my records somewhere, I will try to locate it.
Orders were received to detail one company for detached duty. They were sent out on a reconnaissance up one of the runs into the hills. They were looking for forage and food, citizens, and partisans. We sent Capt. Minton's buckeyes, and off they went. Presently, as they now report, they were passing along a wooded road, when they were bushwhacked by seeming civilians with shotguns. The ambush left one man dead and several wounded, but our boys were able to recover and overwhelm the attackers, and take them into custody and return them to our command. They were arrested, and a hearing was convened to investigate their status, and their punishment.
There came an alarm to the church that the enemy was detected approaching the town in force from the east, and the hearing was hastily terminated, as all the military principals had more pressing priorities all of a sudden. The brigade was turned out, and marched to meet the enemy. The brigade consisted from right to left of the 25th Ohio Vols. (NR), the 82d Ohio Vols. (CR), and the 75th Ohio Vols. (USV). The 25th and the 75th went into line, with the 82d in reserve. The rebels indeed approached both our front and our left with skirmisshers. They were easily held, but they surely sized us up and returned to the main body. We changed front to the left to keep them in check, then forward again. The brigade to our front advanced and opened firing, while the skirmishers to our left formed a heavy skirmish line to continue to harras our flank. We advanced some, and fired a good deal of lead. We reported to command that we were getting low, and were told to take it off our casualties and hold our positions. At that point, we could see the 82d now advancing, and so, we put our right company into column, and the 25th put their left company into column, and with the space so created, the 82d went rushing through, advanced and opened fresh on the enemy lines, now getting tired and low also. That did not cause them much grief, and they were able to drive back our flanks, and then the center. We retired through a glade of trees, and took cover behind a swale there, and started piling rocks and logs for the imminent attack. Most of the boys were down to one or two final rounds. But the attack never came. A small force of rebels appeared from the north, and started attack of our brigade right flank, but were checked by their change of front right. The engagement turned to desultory about this time and we were left in possession of the field.
A brigade parade followed the action, in which the laurels were bestowed upon our own 75th Ohio, Company B (28Ma) for the most perfect company street in the command. Capt. Mark Herzog collected the honors, and cheers were given. He won the priveledge of conducting the battalion back to camp, and in doing so, executed several battalion evolutions, including on the right of companies to the rear into column, and on the rear of column, left into line wheel. The battalion responded admirably. Back in camp, the rations drawn were reduced to several stews of the finest quality and a first rate supper was had by all. The evening was passed in the camps, and around the fires, many conversations of army, war, and home transpired. The night was cold, and the orders to fall into column directly after revielle, prepared to march were receieved.
The morning came, and a few cups of coffee were squeezed into the few minutes between assembly and revielle, and the brigade was in motion quickly. The march was from the valley of the river, up a draw, and towards a high hill to the south of town. The march was brisk, and the boys were all electric over the expectations of contact and fight with the enemy. Near the top of Sitlingtons Hill, the battalions were deployed into line. The 82d were pressed forward, or rather, up the hill, in a long skirmish line. They quickly were greeted with massed fire and skirmisher from the enemy, and checked in their advance. They held the positions, and the 75th on the left, and the 25th on the right were also opened upon the enemy up near the crest. The rebels advanced upon our lines several times, but we had good cover in the banks of the wood road, and were repelled. They attempted to move beyond and upon our left flank, up the hill, but we extended our lines until they virtually wrapped the hill, and contained them on the crest. We held there, and so did they for some time, until our cartridges were about expended. About that time, the retreat was sounded, and the boys came back into line, went down the hill, and were not followed by the confederates. This ended the action.
The action was followed by the confederate command coming into line, and advancing to the bald crest of the hill, and forming a parade. The Federals followed suit, and formed parade facaing our brethern. Cheers from both commands were rendered for the other, and a short rest was called to comingle some, to talk with friends, to enjoy the view down into the valley and into the town. The sight surely illustrated the importance of the position in controlling the town with artillery from that vantage. At that point, the confederates retired down the north side of the hill, and the union boys retired by the flank down the west side of the hill, and returned to camps.
The General was sounded, the camp was struck, and the army was put in motion to the north, abandoning the exhausted town of McDowell to the rebels. All the forage had been stripped, and there was no remaining reason to hold the position. We will rest a while, and surely be back in motion to check the actions of Jackson and Johnson here in the valley, but for now, this engagement is recorded as history. I am well, though used up for exertion. Our 75th losses in the past two days are reported as 8 killed, 4 wounded, 1 missing, feared captured. But the rest of the boys have come away with the honor and the confidence in our action to stand, and will carry that sand everywhere we go from here.
All for the Union,
Your obebient servant,
Kim Perlotto, Adjutant,
75th Ohio Vols. (USV3B)
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.