Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
150th Anniversary Gettysburg Event
June 28-30, 2013
July 4, 1863
near Gettysburg, Penn.
Dear Friends at Home,
You must have heard from your church bells and your papers that a great battle has been fought and won, and that the boys you know were in the front and the thick of it. It is a glorious story for our Nutmeg State, and I will commence from the very beginning.
The amassing of troops began in earnest on Thursday afternoon, as the pickets and patrols came in from every point of the compass, far and wide. I arrived with Bill Liska and Bob Boucher, and found a host in our camps, including our old friend Jeff Grzelek, offering his abode to share. It was a fine shebang on officers row, so I shook his hand, thanked his hospitality, and pitched right in with him. Among the streets of the battalion, the Nutmeg street was our domain, and we were supported there by the members of the 8CV, 14CV, 17CV, and 7CV, the last two directly up from sunny Florida. We dropped our traps and reported to regimental headquarters, and to Lt.Col. Gary Peacock and Major Roger Muessig. The weather was very warm, and the evening was spent with light chatter and good stories among all the friends in the camp. The camp was a fine one, in a glade of trees to the left side of a wood road. It was amply clear of brush, but well endowed with good trees overhead, and made a fine shade that the army was pleased to possess.
Friday morning was initiated by a chorus of buglers at our disposal, from far and wide. Literally from New Jersey to Germany, a fine treat. Sgt.Maj. Dan Czerepuszko and I worked through the morning reports to create the consolidated of the regiment at 197 aggregate. We got Col. Scot Buffington to sign, and did not have to deliver to Army HQ, as Gen. Markijohn had come to call, and was willing to carry it back for us. Soon, we were formed in line of battle. We were the left flank company of the 56th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and were wearing red balls for the First Corps badge. We marched off along rough roads, and marched for a good while. This was the advance to Gettysburg along the Emmitsburg road, and finally across lots to the fields north of town. we were brought into line, and were ordered to give a battalion left oblique, which we did, and that was the first infantry volley of the engagement. We were holding our ground, anchored on a rail road cut to our left, and soon, were flanked to the right, and pinned in front, which obliged us to retreat in order. We did so, firing and moving, firing and moving. MacPhearson's Ridge was soon left to the Rebels as the general retreat prevailed. We marched back to our camp and took copious amounts of water, and started to cool down. We nibbled on the contents of our haversacks, it being too warm to cook, but food was a good thing to keep our strength during the oppressive heat.
In the early afternoon, we were called into line once more, our slot being the third company as the color company for the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteers. Red crescents were the Eleventh Corps badge of the day. With the colors of the 17CV flying, we were marched off towards the East Cemetery Hill. We were formed in line of battle at the bottom of the hill, facing east. There was long line of our guns at the top of the ridge. The Confederates came upon us, sweeping in from the fields to the east, and we fought to hold our ground. Our lines were stretched thin, but there were many rebel lines advancing, and hitting our right flank. We were ordered to pull out of our position in the middle of the line, and move quickly to the right flank and deploy and extend the line there. This we did in great haste, leaving a good gap in the lines, but securing the flank. As we fought, and gave ground to the onslaught, we could see that the rebels were coming through the gap, getting in the rear, and threatening the guns. There was a massive melee there, and we determined to pitch into it. We were ordered back into the gap, and every man went screaming back into the middle of the fight, with great effect. After an interminable amount of time, danger, and casualties, the rebels withdrew. They only half tried to come again, and then it was over. We had held, and the flag of the 17CV was waving over our lines. We were once again marched back to camp with the requisite amounts of water and rest to cool the souls once more.
That afternoon turned into a good rest of the boys, and it cooled off some. There was a quick thunderstorm rolled through, which was nice, then another, then some warnings from the skies. The next thunderstorm that rolled through was a big one, with high winds, and gushes of rein. There were some intense times in the camp to keep the shebangs up, and only the sick and the weak of this species did not survive. Later, after the storms, an impromptu serenade broke out on the bugle. It was Home Sweet Home. Then the bugles from the opposite end of the camp pitched in with some military airs. This set off the battle of the bugles between our First Company street, and the Sixth Company street, and each time one ended the entire camp erupted in applause. This went on from some time, and was thought to culminate in the Star Spangled Banner, but was trumped by the last long song, Home Sweet Home. Many a boy had enjoyed this fine display of good airs and great camaraderie. Suppers were gotten up, and a square meal soothes the beast like nothing else. Being that the boys were indeed worked pretty hard during the day, suffice it to say that all were abed with the chickens.
Saturday morning brought the usual bugle reveille at the appointed time of 6:30am. Most men were already up at that time, tending to coffee boilers, and starting to look after rations. Sgt.Maj. and I compiled the consolidated morning report, and it totalled to 208. This morning we were provided with red trefoils as the Second Corps badge for the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts Volunteers and the Irish Brigade they belonged to. Lt. Grzelek was appointed Officer of the Guard and presided over several stints at the guard, and posted our sentinels and gathered them back together with alacrity.
Saturday afternoon wore on and the air got thick. The sun was beating when we were called into line once more. The Irish Brigade was started on the left by the 69th New York, portrayed by the Muddy River boys, then our Nutmeggers as First Company, 28th Mass, then on down the line. We were joined by the 28th Co.K, and finally, our own 28th, Co.B as the left flank and color company. Then we marched, numbering 368 strong. Over roads, over hill, dale, and swamp. We came to rest in a grove of trees, at the edge of a large meadow, and there we stacked arms. We were put at rest, and seemingly for a long time. Father Corby called us all together and to our knees, and delivered us General Absolution. They boys crossed themselves, and then rested some more. During this time, the fighting was raging out across the plains to our west, and a little scared baby fawn, all spotted white, came darting among us. Given our lines, and our rifle stacks to the rear, the deer was rushing here to there in a panic. Finally, the boys opened a hole, but the deer could not be driven through. In desperation, the fawn found its way around our right flank, and disappeared into the woods. Bully the little deer's pluck.
After a long, long, time, were were called into line, take arms, face by the rear rank, forward march, and so off we went across the fields, through the hedgerows, and out into the Wheatfield. There, ahead, was our mark. We were advancing and pushing the Rebel lines. In a total chaotic ten minutes, we advanced, fought, got pushed left, right, rear, fought some more, got pushed, and retreated. We were hampered by about a 40% casualtty rate, adding to the confusion. All in all many a boy was upset about the scenario, yet it was mostly true to history, with a lot of waiting, and a little heroic fighting. Our complements to all the heroes and patriots of the original Irish Brigade for their fighting that day.
We were marched back to camp, and the drill was as usual, drink water, and cool down. This afternoon was not visited by the thunderstorms, but a scared doe, a whitetail deer did come bounding directly into camp, dove to make a left turn off the side of a tent, and ripped it to pieces, bounded off unhurt.
That evening, the orders came for three companies to march and bivouac at the wall in the center of the Union lines. Captains Hayes, Hooks, and Perlotto lead our companies to the task at 7:00pm. We skirted the rear of our lines and arrived at the stone wall with an angular zig-zag in it. We were dismissed from the line, and some went to the tree line, and some to the stone wall. There emerged a unique array of shelters, propped up on inverted muskets, blankets thrown down in the tall grass, and just about any sort of location for a soldier. Time was passed looking at the huge vista in front of us, chatting about most anything, munching on haversacks, and just starring at the sky. After a time, the sprinkles came, then turned to a good rain. Most weapons were rolling into rubber blankets, and the previous contents made for the tree line. It was fortunate that the rain lasted only an hour, as that left the rest of the night clear with a starry sky.
Morning came at the same time, with harmony bugles sounding reveille. Roll calls were had, and found that no one had snuck away in the night from such a sublime location. We got up some water and some coffee, and some victuals. During the morning fatigue duties, Hincks found an Enfield barrel in the stone dump on the tree line. There were no general orders until the rest of the regiment was to arrive about 10:00am. As the morning wore on, the population in the vicinity of the wall increased dramatically from our humble band, to included artillerists and cavaliers. To our right we could hear fire and see smoke from action on Culp's Hill. The fighting there was severe, but we were not alerted for support. It was our duty to hold the position we were assigned. To our front a cavalry battle slowly developed. First the lines were formed east and west, and then they sort of eyed each other at length. The distances were slowly closed, like mountain goats edging closer for the ram. Then it exploded, with muskets, carbines, pistols, and a tornado of hooves pounding in a mass, nothing like the well formed lines previously had. When the lines closed and mingled, the sabres came out and there were fewer gunshots, mostly the clang of iron. In time, the lines once again parted, and they returned to their respective sides.
At the hour of 10.00, the rest of the regiment was indeed seen in march. They were pulled up in line, and our battalion was also called into line. The intention was to merge the lines, but the Colonel was not immediately present, so we rested in two lines until he appeared. We formed one long line for the regiment, now the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteers, and all blue trefoils emerged as the Second Corps badge of distinction. The Colonel then put us in march by the right flank, across the bottom of the ridge, along the wall, then up the hill towards a large formation near the top. We could see that it was the rest of the USV Brigade forming for a brigade dress parade. We took our place in column of companies on the left of the First and Second Regiments, and the parade was conducted. It was short and sweet, mostly due to the heat, but it was a sign of solidarity for our USV, and a well received three cheers closed the proceedings. We marched at our leisure back down the hill, and were placed in line in front of the stone wall.
We were first positioned to the right of the inner angle, and then placed in ranks of four. This stacking along the line provided us the location on the wall all the way to the angle, and to its left. The "Fourteenth At The Angle". Bully for Buckingham! We put out two companies of skirmishers at a time well to the front, most to the Emmitsburg Pike, and across to the Bliss farm. The sharpshooters were carrying their Sharps rifles and using them with good effect. Another great Connecticut product.
At this time, General Markijohn came riding along the lines. He entreated us to protect this wall that the USV had built, and let no one cross it. Three cheers went up for the USV and our General. We were ordered to lay down, as the shells were starting to fly in both directions, plowing up the ground to our rear. This bombardment went on for some time, and when our guns slowed in response, the rebel guns also tapered to a stop. Then, across the plains to our front, we could see the Confederates emerge from the woods in lines of battle, a mile away, and a mile wide. Then the flags were unfurled, and the march commenced. Their point d'appui seemed to be our angle in the wall, and on they came, with stop watch precision. When they reached the fences along the pike, we opened on them. The front rank man would fire, pass the musket back, the three men behind would load and pass forward. When the front rank man got his own musket back, he would go to the back of the line. Such was the drill, and the Rebels started to go down in droves to our front, but yet, on they came. Some individuals actually made it to our position on the wall, and they were summarily hauled over that wall and sent to the rear as prisoners.
I could see a rebel regiment approaching the left of our line, and they were coming on strong. When the regiment laid a hurt on their rank and file, and the color bearer went down on his knees, I yelled capture that flag, and over the wall bounded Lt. Kierran Broatch and Sgt.Maj. William Hincks. They ran to the flag. Hincks won the race, and yanked it out of the hands of its bearer, and turned and ran like the wind back for our lines, They both made it over the wall with their treasure, the colors of the Fourteenth Tennessee Volunteers. A cheer went up for the brave boys that went over the wall, and for all our boys that defended that line. The cheer was Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg! About that time we could see and hear that the human wave had crashed on the wall, and was ebbing back. We were relieved on the wall by the Garibaldi Guard regiment, and let them pound the rest into submission. Our rifles were red hot, and we took a second to view the landscape and take a drink.
The sight to our front was no longer lines of marching foes. It was a waste land of killed and wounded, and others retreating. Our stretcher bearers were going over the wall and gathering wounded officers and taking them to the rear. The enlisted wounded would have to wait for assistance. The sounds of battle subsided, and gave way to the sounds of the casualties and the carnage.
It started to sink in what we had just done. The Fourteenth Connecticut, and all the regiments to our left and right, had just faced the enemy in a most desperate charge, and turned him away. We had stopped the tide of the enemy, and it would never be able to mount such an attack again. God bless the Union, and all our boys killed, wounded, and otherwise suffering for their reward for service. I think we have now turned the course of the war finally to our favor. God will us that right.
Lincoln & Liberty!
Bully For Buckingham!
God Bless the Fourteenth!
Your obedient servant,
Kim Perlotto, Capt., Nutmeggers.
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Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.