Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Fredericksburg 145th Anniversary Event Report
December 8-9, 2007
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I write to you from the east side of the Rappahannock river, after what has been a major tragedy and trauma to our boys of the Union. We marched here a long distance and prepared for the coming campaign. We took up our places in the camps, and gathered around us the boys that would serve in the ranks. We arrived from farther north on the peninsula than the most, but were able to hook up quickly with our command by seeking them out on Friday at the Irish Brigade tavern. And, of course they were all there in spades! A few dinners and pints were in order, and we got to know the General Meagher, and the commander of the 69th New York. He was a fine man, and served us and the nation well.
Saturday morning brought the trip into the city across the pontoons, and along the rainy streets to the center of the town, and the park where the Irish Brigade was concentrating. We were acknowledged as not being absent, and sent to Federal Hill a few blocks away. There, we were mustered with our regiments, all five strong, and the lines began to swell. Around 9:00 am we were set to drilling in street fighting and other concepts of urban warfare. I was guessing that they may come in handy soon.
A fine full dress parade was formed, after all the boys in the ranks were handed a sprig of boxwood to keep their Irish colors, seeing that most of the regimental flags were off being replaced. The one green flag that the brigade did have was that of the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts Infantry, lately joining the brigade, and playing a central part in the actions and the line of battle today.
General Meagher addressed the line, and his words were passionate, compelling, and full of courage. He implored us all to serve our adopted country as she never knew before. We were all electrified, and the cheers followed him everywhere. Soon, we were rested a tad, then formed into line, and marched across the base of town, and then up Hanover street. Along the way, we met up with the Rebel resistors, and we went into a street fight where we tried our best to push them back upon the heights. The Rebels were resistant, and the casualties of both side mounted quickly in the streets. This kind of fighting was incredibly brutal, at short range, and deadly. The Rebels had sharpshooters in some of the secessh houses on the streets, and they were met with our boys breaking, entering, and capturing the shooters. The citizens harboring the lot were also brutal, weilding pots and pans, and screaming at our boys. So the boys looted the best that the houses offered, through down the valuables, destroyed the property, and despised their persons. We gained the end of the street, where it began to rise to the heights beyond, and erected a barricade there to hold our position.
We were ordered to rest a time, and then fell in to advance on the heights. The line of battle featured the 69NY first, the 88NY, the 28MA, the 63NY, and the 116PA. We advanced once again up the streets, across the mill race, pushing the resistance as we went, and then, the Rebels all fell back under the cover of a sunken road and a fine stone wall. We advanced upon them over open ground, and the regiments attacked en echelon. Each was ground to a halt, all went prone, and the attacks stalled one after another. The casualties were lying all around, and the Rebels were pouring a murderous fire on anything that moved in their front. After an eternity, the orders were passed to withdraw. Only those that had survived the lead long enough to be able to get themselves off melted to the rear. The rest of the boys wounded, killed, and all, were left piled deep on the ground. The darkness came, and the fighting died down. A few Confederate soldiers actually came out from behind the wall, and half pilfered the wounded, and the others aided them with water from their canteens. Those of our boys that were able to rally with the colors were only half of those that advanced. This was a sad day for the Union and the sons of Erin.
The troops all rose, saluted across the lines, and marched by the right flank down the sunken road, and were dismissed. The evening was spent in many a corner of the Fredericksburg city in honor of the boys that fell. The morning came and beckoned us all to fall in again.
We all formed in line of battle once more as the Irish Brigade, at the City Dock along the river. This was the site of the middle pontoons. From there we were escorted over the hollowed ground and advance of our fathers by a learned historian of the National Park Service, Frank O'Reilly. He narrated each and every step of the boys from the docks to the heights. The story sent chills down my spine, and I was both honored and scared to be Irish that day. Such a grand demonstration of duty and honor may not have been played out since that day 145 years ago. I for one, have been there to live the story, and will never forget being Irish. No more can be told of the advance, you simply had to be part of it to understand the time, the place, and the boys. All I can leave you with is "Faugh A Ballaugh". And thanks to each and every friend in the 28th Mass and the 47th Virginia for creating this unique opportunity to have an anniversary event that was so different, so fulfilling, and so meaningful, that it will be a hard one to beat in the coming years as the battle in Fredericksburg.
Your humble servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.