Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Antietam NPS Torchlight Tour & Living History Report
Antietam National Battlefield Park
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Sept. 15-17, 2006
We took our time heading south on a nice Friday morning. The weather was pleasant, and the travel in the cars was easy. We made it to Sharpsburg in plenty of time to take a quick jaunt around the field, giving Keith a chance to experience the battlefield for the first time. We ran into several of our comrades while making the rounds, including a wagon full from the 56th piloted by Sid G. We chatted, and poked around, visited the tower to find it locked up, went to the bridge, and to our 8CV monument. We returned to the Dunker church vicinity, and started getting ready for the commencement of our time travel. I looked for Stephanie G., but found Christie S., and introduced myself to her. She was soaked in kerosene, and desiring a match.
We gathered our stragglers, and geared up for the long march to our camp. We formed in line of battle precisely at 5:00pm, and marched all the way to our camp in pristine glade of trees along the Smoketown Road, next to the Maryland monument, and across the Hagerstown pike from the Dunker church. The camp was set in a few minutes, and all the boys proceeded to walk about, get a fire up, and commence commissary pursuits. The ladies from the Frederick Ladies Relief Society arrived shortly, and we set up the hospital hard by our camp.
The evening was spent pleasantly around the campfire, and the sleeping weather was grand. The morning brought a roll call, and some breakfast. John T. fixed a nice stew and had coffee at the ready. We went right to the daily orders, which included a quick drill, and a march in line from our camp across the fields towards the position of the 14th CV and Bloody Lane. On the way, we passed several folks who were quite interested in our presence, and we obliged them well. We crossed the cornfields, and to the 14th Conn. Vols. monument. Don H. read us the passages of the history of their operations and experiences on this part of the field, and we all started to take it in that the very ground we were treading was fought over, used for protection, and soaked with the blood of our Connecticut boys. From there, we marched down the Bloody Lane, and while some of us occupied the road like Confederates, a squad of the boys hopped the fence, and strode up and over the hill out of sight, then changed front, and marched back towards us, to both give themselves the view of the enemy, but to give us the view of the onslaught approaching. At about 300 yards out, the musket muzzles appeared above the crest, then hats, then heads, then bodies. Accurate fire could be laid upon them at about 250 yards. It seemed most impossible that they could sustain themselves in full view at 150 yards. Quite a sight to behold. It is no wonder that Roulette's reverse hill and dooryard were sought for protection.
After we made our tour, we returned to camp, and ate some more, and detailed ones and twos to tour the field on their own. After our noon dinner break, we went back to drilling once more, this time as a company and upon the fields of fire on front of the Dunker church, and Miller's cornfield.
About 4:00pm, we all met up with the NPS rangers, the FLRS coordinators, and reviewed the Torch Light Tour details. The tour was well organized, and our boys were to be the exclusive portrayal inside the Dunker church surgeon's scene in order to control the quality of that scenario. We were also detailed to the Smoketown Hospital scene, and all went splendidly. I was a tour guide for the first time, enjoyed it, and learned a lot about doing it better next time. The public reception of the tour was very well received. We retired that night after a few long talks around the fire over the shared experiences of our youth, and the events of the day.
The morning came as it normally does, and all the boys were up and in line for roll at first light. We immediately started the company in motion for the south end of the battlefield, and our annual pilgrimage across the left flank of the army, retracing the steps of the 8CV. We arrived at the launching point above the Burnside bridge, where we were joined by a squad of the 2d and 3d NJ boys. We marched in line across the hills and dales of the final assault ground, stopping along the way for color commentary and historical background. We proceeded towards the 16CV monument, then turned to the west, and up the hills towards the town of Sharpsburg. We crossed Otto's Lane, followed "the gully", crossed the new road, and climbed up and up towards the crest and the Harpers Ferry road. We finally came into line, fronted to the enemy, looked to the left, where McIntosh's battery Branch's North Carolinians came at us, and to our front, where the Georgians, Toombs and Benning were positioned, and to our right, where Kemper was anchored.
We all came into line on either side of our monument and took caps off. Nate B. read the entire Bartram dedication prayer, and then proceeded to read some summary paragraphs from the dedication keynote speech. Each and every word seemed spoken directly to us, the current protectors and providers of the monument and the memory to which it was erected. We took a few images and pictures that recorded the moment. We returned to our Smoketown camp for a good breakfast, and another beautiful day. We drilled a little in the manual of arms, determining each specific detail of the motions. We followed that by some interesting figure eight drills, exercising the school of the company evolutions successively by the left and right flanks. After a time, Aaron H. and Tom S. lead us in a vigorous bayonet drill. There was a lot of leaping ,thrusting, and shouting, and a good time was had by all.
About mid afternoon, the company was dismissed, and the camp came down. Everything was loaded back in the wagons, and the teamsters started off. We thanked our friends of the NPS for their hospitality, and the FLRS folks for their continued friendship. We all headed off from Antietam, very pleased with the weekend, and a little sad to be leaving such a dream.
Your humble recorder,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.