Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
June 11-13, 2010
Cross Keys & Port Republic, Va.
June 13, 1862
Our troops made their way to the seat of war once more, via the cars from the North. We were lucky enough to be delayed in Carlisle, Pa, at the War College. We walked the grounds of the place, after the threats that the Rebels had put on the place, and found that the Army Barracks there were well worth the visit.
We continued south from there, and proceeded up the Valley of Virginia, to the south, and found the area sublime. It was full summer, and the first cutting had been taken in most places. We arrived at the location at the south end of Massanutten, with Lookout Point overlooking all for a 20 mile radius. We found our command at the registration place, at the Union church that was the location of hospitals over the next several days in the course of history. We registered, and caught a ride on the wagons to the camp of the 8th NY, just to the rear and behind the Widow Pence's Farm. We were summarily dropped a quarter mile from the tree line and walked into the woods where the camps were forming. Most of the northern troops were bivouacking in the trees, in a little hollow to the east of the field. It surely got to be a quick decision that the weather was thick in there, and that a cooler night could be had out of the woods, and on the open field. Our Union headquarters were modest on the tree line above the woods, and all the troops began to roll in.
All accounted for soon were realized, and the staff cadre of about seven souls made their way to the Widow Pence Barn for an evening coordination meeting. A fairly predictable occurrence was observed with about 40 on the other side coordinating with our humble band. We made our way back to camp, passed the word and orders for the next day, and got some good sleep in the most sublime of surroundings, We were camping on the right flank of the original battle line, and were very pleased with the opportunity. I did awake during the night to a disturbing nightmare. I got up and took a stroll to the picket line to clear my head. It was a pitch dark night, near new moon. In the short front, I thought I could see about four men standing motionless in the dark. So I bobbed and weaved a little to see if it was shadows. They did not seem to be moving. So, as I made a curcuit around the spot, I was getting a little concerned that I could not identify them men or ghosts. But a nice healthy sound of ripping grass and munching mouth, brought reality back to the mind. It was two horses standing sliently in the night, silouetted on the ridge. Sure looks like four men standing.
The morning brought the turning up of the wick, with the ascent of the sun and the mercury. The morning reports were received and tabulated out at a very fine number, actually more than expected from the previous reports. The battalion was formed, and marched a short way through the trees and cow paths to the step off for the battle of Cross Keys. We were served also by the best army clerk in the service, my normal duties were happily shouldered by the best left-handed scrivener in the service of this army.
We were formed in line on the edge of a woods, on the spot of tha advance of the Eighth New York Volunteers. We sent out our skirmishers, being the boys of the Liberty Rifles, and they served a sure roll. The Rebels of Trimble's Brigade engaged soon, and were able to push them back on our lines, but we advanced, singing along the way, and then met a Confederate force that was not expected so big, and they devastated our lines. We bled away from the line, and were overwhelmed to the point of losing our colors to the enemy, and it was a very difficult situation to observe.
We retired back to the woods, ending the engagement.
We returned to our camp, and buckled up for a march to the next strategic location. We all bent our backs, and started for Port Republic. The weather was getting stifling, and the boys were sucking dust and were winded pretty soon. The sun was baking from the top, and radiating off the ground as well. It was apparent that we were not going to complete the march as ordered, without some serious straggling and sun struck soldiers.
We started falling out and straggling as best our health would allow. Soon, it became the priority of the command to sweep up all the stragglers, and call for the concentration of our troops at the little church at the Coaling.
We were all brought there in any and all conveyance, and the pastor of the church welcomed us to his walled and shady church yard. It was indeed a welcome sanctuary. He was indeed a southern gentleman, yet he welcomed us with kindness and generosity. He made his yard our own, and we recuperated there for hours.
As the sun was going down, we made the move to our first planned camps on the plains back by the river on the farm close by. A sultry, pleasant night was passed there, most sleeping on blankets in the open. Every where we were to turn and look were the most beautiful views of the valley we are intent on saving. There was a few sprinkles overnight, but were more welcomed that spurned.
The next morning, we marshaled our troops once more as the 66th Ohio. We paraded, and cheered, and then marched on to the Coaling, and up the hill behidn to the heights above. We took up the battle line, and were firmly supported by artillery, under friend, Lt. Chris Sedlak. We sent forward a strong line of skirmishers to check any advance, adn pinpoint the point of attack. The pickets were soon engaged, and driven in. The battle was opened by our guns, and the Rebels attacked us uphill, but off course to our left, and the things got mixed up defending our flanks, and the boys got their dander up. Finally the Rebels did come storming straight on through, and swept us off the crest, back down into the fold near the Coaling, and the battle was over for the 66th Ohio..
A small amount of time was spent on getting the coordinated post mortem on the command and control situation for the event, and then all were dismissed. We all made it back to the valley floor, and were conducted back to the jump off, and the campaign was in the bag.
It was an event that was certainly compromised by the heat, and the coordination challenges, but not a big loss or melt down for the participants. All in all, it was great to be back in the valley once more, to be presented with the most sublime locations in the valley, and be the guests of such hospitable local supporters.
The amount of preservation fund raising for the event, and the location was indeed a total success. There were grand showings of local interest and the citizens of the valley were fully engaged and supportive of our efforts. We did big things once more to keep the area aware of what our intentions are in the area, and for the history minded, it was well received.
We need to continue to take these opportunities to make our presence known in the valley at every back yard, farm field, and yes, church yard. It all changes the minds of the current times to think far more seriously about what we are striving to save. Once it is gone, it cannot be brought back.
We made our way to the north by the cars after the event, very hot and tired, but far more pleased with the results and experiences than ever before. Yes, it was worth the effort. You've got to suffer if you want to wear the Blues.
Your humble servant,
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Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.