Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Woodbury Conn. Event Report
Marching With the VI Corps
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Sponsored by the 2d Conn. Heavy Artillery
Three Rivers Park
Aug. 18-19, 2007
Now in front of Petersburg,
June 28, 1864
We arrived her at hte seat of war after a hot but short march. We found the old Corps camped well back from the front lines in good order in a huge meadow along side a good swift creek. To the front, however, we could see series upon series of trenches, works, redoubts, and covered ways. These works separated us from the saucy rebels who we could see and hear on the opposite side.
We setup our camp with the battalion, and found ourselves together with many old friends from New England and even New Jersey. We settled down for some rest after the march but were greeted around midnight, when the heat lightning turned to forks, the wind blew up a gust, and the rain and thunder came slamming down. We survived it just like the rest of this type, we got wet, and determined to dry up with the rising of the sun. The pea soup that we started at sundown also survived the storm first rate. It needed a little more water anyway.
Morning brought reveille and sunshine. The weather was pleasant and nearly sublime. The morning rolls and reports were done. Our Lieutenant Bingham, and Sergeant Sica are doing a fine job with the men, keeping spirits and discipline up. The boys from New Jersey and Connecticut were having a fine time shaking off the night and cracking around the fire. The pea soup was freshened once more, divided into two mess pots, and put back on the fire to cook. Breakfast was well done and well appreciated.
The battalion was formed in line about 9.00 oclock. We were drilled in light of a potential review for some big dignitary from Washington, D.C. We wheeled and marched on column of companies, guide right, passing in review. The drill was well instructed, but poorly executed. Seems soldiers get rusty and moldy if left in the trenches and rain too long.
Shortly after the drill, the battalion was called out by the long roll, and marched to the front. We were ordered to port arms, amd charged the first line of rebel trenches straight away. We carried the first line quickly, the enemy falling back to their second line of trenches. We were met with severe vollies of fire from the entrenched enemy. Our flags went down, and our Colonel Kellogg also went down. Many of our boys were trapped between the trenches and fought to retain the ground thus gained. The rest of our men coming up in the second line were forced to retreat, all the surprise lost. The sound of the wounded crying out was very sad. The enemy would shoot the wounded helpless in front of them if any motion was seen. Such was the 1st of June.
We were relieved and returned to our camps a safe distance to the rear, but still too close for comfort. It is quite interesting how a soldier can ignore the risks he faced just hours ago, once out of the danger. We heard the news that the southern women in the nearby town of Unity had rioted for bread against the provost of the town. They are feeling the pinch of our siege. No food, no hope for the rebellion.
Our mess mate, Pyro, has acquired a fine watermelon which he shared around, and all enjoyed it very much. We were interrupted once more and called into line again. The afternoon simply turned out to be another futile frontal attack on our part. The lines have not moved. A brief truce was arranged so that the wounded between the lines could be attended to. Gen. Grant did not want to be seen as weak in allowing this, but the perponderance of the wounded were ours, and indeed, they could not last any longer. The battle for Cold Harbor has turned into a stalemate for several days. At night we received orders to quietly withdraw, and we marched and crossed to James, moving to the left, and towards Petersburg.
We arrived in front of Petersburg the next morning. The trenches there to the front seemed to spread in all directions, north, south, and to the west. That morning the battalion formed for the anticipated review, and lo, it was old Father Abraham Lincoln himself who had come to review the troops. He was accompanied by our Colonel, and of course, Gen. U.S. Grant, and the president went up and down our ranks, and spoke so quietly, kindly, and respectfully to many a common soldier in the ranks. We passed in review, and seeing as though it was for our beloved president, the marching was just like West Point. He addressed the formation at the conclusion of the review with heartfelt thanks for our dedication to the Union and our government.
We were called into line in the forenoon and ordered to lay down in column of companies. We saw several columns of troops thus asssembled. There were a few miners and sappers hauling barrels of powder down into a tunnel shaft leading to a mine dug under the rebel works. In the duration several columns of troops were assembled to our left and right. We saw the fuze lit and after a seemingly long time, the bombs went off. Smoke, dust, dirt, and rock rained down upon us all. We were instantly ordered up and to the charge, before the concussion even left us. The charging columns converged into the crater, and went into and around the crater. There the jig was up. The rebels had also kept their cool, brought up reinforcements and shot into the breech in their lines from front and flank. The carnage of Union boys was immediately realized, and every man who could retreat did so. The unusual and desparate plan was a fiasco.
We rallied back in camp for a time, but the bugle sounded once more, and we marched out to the outer line near Fort Stedman. We left a light picket guard on the line of works there, and were held in reserve to the rear. The rebels patrolled the lines, and found this weakness, and took advantage of it by taking the fort by force, yet some of the picket got out, and sounded the alarm. We were brought up in line, and fought toe to toe to take back our fort. We attacked the rebels in the fort from three sides, and after a short time, they yielded to our greater numbers and firmer resolve. The fight at Fort Stedman ended with us victorious, the rebels beaten and captured, and all in all demoralized once more.
We were relieved once more, and ordered once more to the rear. This war has turned into a trench siege, and no longer operates over great spaces. We fight every day for a rifle pit or an inch of ground. Such is the character of this ugly war. May God speed the end. Lincoln & Liberty!
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.