Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
"Down The Valley" Event Report
First Kernstown & First Winchester Reenactment
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Cedar Creek Battlefield
June 15-17, 2007
May 24th, 1862
I write this letter to you in hopes to inform you at home what has become of your Indiana portion of Banks Corps here in the Shenandoah Valley to dates this spring. Our 14th Indiana Volunteers Regt. arrived here near Winchester, in a small village called Kernstown from guarding the trains heading south up the valley from Martinsburg on Friday afternoon last. We found ourselves situated in a fine camp off the pike and down the hill to a small spot in the meadows, studded with trees, next to a good creek, and with a train track hard by. Up went the tents and flys and off to report to brigade headquarters where we found the "airy" Col. Kimball of our regiment in command. Orders were prepared for a reconnaissance in force in the morning, and a probable general engagement with the enemy on the high grounds around Kernstown.
We spent a pleasant night, although the ground was harder than usual, and the morning brought roll, reports, and the general. All was packed and prepared for our move. The brigade was formed, and with the Federal City Brass Band and the Camp Chase Fife and Drums in the lead, we stepped off towards the south on the Cedar Creek road. All our spirits were high, and our step lively, so many thanks to the band for making the miles fade away behind us with cheer. We arrived south of Belle Grove, and went into the woods.
We tramped towards the south still, and came out on a wagon track along a ridge. We were deployed to hold that ridge, and we of the 14th were on the right flank. Lt.Col. Harrow deployed third company as skirmishers and took the ridge, brought up first company, and built breastworks in the center, and deployed second company to the right. After a quick reconnaissance of the right, it was determined that the ridge had a long ravine all along its front, and it wrapped to the rear off our right, making a perfect place to anchor our right flank. All was ready as we heard the enemy approaching from the left and front, engaging the skirmishers of another battalion. Suddenly, the rebel skirmishers appeared to our front, and we immediately engaged. The fight towards the left grew louder, and the aide-de-camp came and passed orders for the 14th to shift to the left, which we did, unmasking the right flank of the lines. It was quickly determined that we ought to stay at our position, and so a foot race to get back was held with the rebels trying to flank through our vacancy. Simply put, we won the foot race.
We engaged with spirit those targets to the front, and they built in force. They advanced to the opposite rim of the ravine, and poured it into us. We were ordered to the advance, and our whole line went forward, third company in reserve, and pushed them back. Those cocky rebels determined to advance also, and pushed to the rim, and into, and almost across to our side. We brought up third company, and hammered them. They turned to retreat, many still in the ravine, and we slammed them hard, shooting like fish in a barrel. That was Lt.Col. Harrow's orders, precisely, "Shoot them like fish in a barrel!". We mounted up their wounded one on top of another in the ravine, and they fell back. They pushed on once more, with valiant effort to turn our right, but it was firmly anchored on the turn of the ravine. Capt. Hooks went back and forth up and down his company line, yelling, "Sh-t!", and moving files this way, then "Sh-t!" and moving files that way. It was very very close to collapsing. We were about to give a little ground, when the rebels all started to do the same. They melted away, and the fight was over.
Rolls were called. Only one name was not answered in Hooks' company, and he was found, shot through the heart, where he had ended his portion of the original foot race. First company had three wounded, not serious. We withdrew down the hill to the wagon path, and stopped to rest, eat, and breathe once more. The brass band entertained us nicely, and when the Confederate brigade marched through under a flag of truce, they struck up Dixie and other southern airs, and all were paid the compliments we always pay each other upon such close contacts.
After a time, we formed the brigade once more and marched back to the north and to our original camps. We were directed to fall in under arms once more, and deployed on either side of the valley pike. The Confederates approached along our front and opened on our left. We were able to sustain our position on the left for some time with artillery support. It was determined that the enemy was moving to our right, and they raced for a stone wall there. They got there first, and made a good position of it. We were shifted from the left to th right, and were used to engage and overwhelm the wall. The fighting was severe, but after a time, the push from our right was enough to cave their line. They all pulled out and back, and their right back to the valley pike before their route of escaped was also cut off. So ended the battle of Kernstown.
The march back to our camp was severe in the heat and sun, and many a boy collapsed in camp, exhausted at the days efforts. It was a quiet supper, and a quiet evening as everyone turned in to get some well deserved rest. The brass band sounded "Lights Out" precisely at ten o'clock, and continued for some time after with soothing pieces that lulled all to sleep and dreams of home.
Morning revielle called once more, and the morning reports showed some loss from the day before. Yet, breakfast was gotten up, and the tents struck, and the wagons loaded once more. We had a mail arrive in the midst of breakfast, and the lateness of several mails were rectified. Almost everyone to a man received his back mails, and many were pleased, several were chagrined.
Officers call was at 10 o'clock, and the plans for another attack were laid out. This time we would attack at Winchester. Our ranks of the 27th Indiana Volunteers were formed at 12 noon, and marched to a United States Volunteers dress parade and inspection. The Federal City Brass Band did us the honor of trooping the line, and it had a very fine effect upon the men. All our thanks to the band, and all that they do to lighten our steps.
The 27th Indiana was positioned in reserve in support of a battery near the left center. We could see the battle open to our front, the rebels advancing in large numbers towards our left. They engaged there, and we held for some time, but began to weaken as another Confederate column attacked our right center. We were shifted to the right flank, and we were set upon by a complete Confederate brigade. They advanced upon us, flags flying and muskets flashing. We poured some well targeted vollies into them at some distance, yet they advanced, and were taking some tool upon us. We also advanced, to the side of a crater or a large sink hole. There we stood as long as we could and they just kept coming. Many were wounded, and many were retreating on their own account. We were decimated, and down to nothing. We tried to hold some line, but we let them get too close, and for a handful of us our only choice was to surrender. They called us through their line in a hurry, and pushed us all to the ground, and put us under bayonet guard. There they held us as the rebel line advanced, and swept all the Union troops from that side of the field. All was chaos as the Union soldiers, guns, horses, and wagons, tried to make a get away through the streets of Winchester and beyond. Several more were captured in the process and the rout was general.
Such is the current state of affairs here in the valley and with Banks command. This army needs more soldiers and supplies since we need to stop Jackson here and now. The rebels we were captured by were more kind than the rest, and let us go to return home to be paroled. Others that were captured in the rout were not treated as well, and it is rumored that both enemy soldiers and citizens committed some atrocities against our men. This I do not know. Others here blame us of the 27th for retreating, and causing the entire right flank to cave. I believe that we received orders to do so, but only the official reports will sort all that out. For now, we are not in a fighting condition, and I do not think we will be chasing Stonewall any time soon.
Your humble and obedient servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.