Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
"Campaign Before Richmond"
Battle of New Market Heights & Fort Harrison
September 26-28, 2014
September 30th, 1864
Henrico County, Va.
I must take my pen to paper and describe the work of our blessed Union Army against the defenses of Richmond in the past several days. I am pleased to report that our forces are still in control of this line, and will hold it to the end. The fall of Richmond is but a matter of time from the success of our troops in these past days.
Our forces of the XVIII Corps were concentrated from Bermuda Hundred and around the seat of war, and marched to the environs of Henrico County, Virginia on the Friday last of September. We were directed in our various lines of march to a long winding clearing in the woods, and were situated in a little glade off the fields. Here we of the 28th Ma and the 8CV were bivouaced, and soon got word that the others of our USV battalion were close by. The 99NY were out on the field to our close front, and the 3US were some furlongs away in the next clearing.
There were the obligatory officers meetings Friday night, conducted by the accomplished Gen. Mike Lavis. Our forces were well represented by Mike Schaffner commanding the USCT, Bob Minton commanding the AotO, and Kim Perlotto commanding the USV. Once all the arrangements were made for the morning operations, we were dismissed back to our camps. In the camp of the 8CV there was a small and quiet prayer meeting, and those that attended were fulfilled and braced for the next day.
Come first light, the boys were up, got some coffee, and ordered out to drill. The morning report for the USV battalion portraying the Eighth Conn Vols. numbered 71 rank and file. Come the call to formation, the USV battalion was lead by the accomplished Capt. Jason Eckhart. We were marched some miles, crossed the river, and were advancing towards the hills of Richmond. We were held in the woods some distance off for a time, and the boys were both excited, and reflective. The situation was that we were to advance from the screen of the woods, across a mile of open ground, and directly to the attack of the rebel outer works at Fort Harrison. Our first company, our Liberty Rifles Company K were deployed as skirmishers, and lead the advance nobly across a mile of open ground with little resistance or loss.
Once called into line, the Eighth Connecticut was steady, and ready. The call to advance brought our colors out, and the line of battle started with determination. The distance across the killing fields was great, and the fire from the fort was directed into our ranks. At one point, our friend, Sgt. Seth Plumb was struck and killed instantly. The line continued forward without a flinch. In about another five or six rods, the steady and closed advance reached the outer ditch, when the attack became every man for himself. The boys were mechanical, went into the ditch, tried to get a foothold on the hardpan to their front, now facing the twelve foot wall, some scaled a bit, and reached back to help their file mates up. The boys up on the works held their muskets down to draw up their friends, and these works were topped.
The colors of the Eighth Conn. Vols. were helped to the crest, and were waved and cheered. This was one of the most singular successes of the bloody old Eighth in this war, and many a holler was raised. The garrision was quickly overpowered and routed, outnumbered like ten to one. The fort was now in the hands of the Union. Gen. Burnham, our brigade commander was shot down, and once the fort was taken, it bore his name. This attack was on the left of the main works, and on the right of the works, we were supported by the AotO portraying the 148th New York Vols, who also swept into the works with the same vigor and success. We had swept the fort and our front of the rebel hoard in spades. The fort was ours.
We were reviewed, and marched back to our bivouac, and rested for the afternoon operations. It was to be the attack on the right of the Richmond defenses, at New Market Heights. The attack was opened by Major Micheal Schaffner leading the 5th USCT battalion towards the works, and the USV supporting as the 7th Conn. We were directed to the right of the works as the 5th USCT swept into and over the works on the left with a strong cheer. They were the heros of the day. We were pitched in to anchor the rest of the line, fought hard, but were forced to retire, and ultimately so were the USCT on the left. The effort almost carried, but made many a hero.
Once the lines were stabilized, we marched back to our bivouac, and our Liberty Rifles Company K were posted in Fort Burnham for picket, and to turn and improve the works for the expected counter attack. Thy were all armed with shovel, picks, axes, and were instrumental in improving our grip on the chink in the works of Richmond.
Over the night, the pickets were out, andf the patrols continued to the west of the works. The report came in before dawn that the rebels were forming in strength, and were advancing to take back our proze. All arms were called into line, and off in the dark, we could see our pickets pushed in, and the beginning of the counter attack advance. We wre into the rifle pits and shifted from the right to the left over and again, and their numbers were matching ours. We were being attacked by NC, SC, and Ga. troops. In the end, our turned works of the fort held, and Lee's counterattack was repelled. We all mostly collapsed on our arms and breathed a deep breath in the faith that this foothold in the defenses of Richmond would be the wound that would fester into the end of this war.
Later that afternoon, our USV command was called out once more to engage in the Second Battle of Deep Bottom. We were put into line once more, this time as the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and off across the fields of Strawberry Plain and Deep Bottom we went against the entrenched Rebel forces. The point of our attack was the AotO portraying the 62nd Ohio Vols. We were directed to attack to the right of the works, and as we approached the abatis, we were ordered into column, and then directed to the left of the center to follow up the punch hole made by the 62 OV. We followed them up to, over, and into the works, and fought to dislodge the rebels to the rear. We formed to the right of the 62nd, and pitched in to the rebels to our front and right. The 9th USCT came onto line and pushed the attack on the left of the 62nd. At some point, the rebels consolidated, and flanked our line to the left as well as locking us up to our front. We were compelled to retire, and we did so. We left them in possession of their original line, and had nothing to show for it but our comrade casualties on the field of battle. Such is the fate of war. There is nothing as tenuous as a short lived victory. The tide can and does roll in and over the firmest sands.
As this weekend rolled to an end, many kind thanks and cheers were offerd to Mike Lavis, Chris Anders, and the Henrico County folks. This event, with the coordination, dedication, and incredible preparation was simply one of the best situations anyone has offered in the 150th cycles. And to top it all, it was our USV that pulled together to be a full third of the Union forces, and work together to cement a truly memorable weekend in the seat of war. This will be talked about around the cmpfires of the USV for some time, and I hope that you have your story to tell.
Lincoln & Liberty !
God Bless the United States Volunteers!
Your obedient servant,
Seth. F. Plumb
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Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.