Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

Sharpsburg Historic Festival 1996 Living History Report

Sharpsburg, Maryland
Sept. 20-22, 1996
September 22nd, 1862
near Sharpsburg, Maryland

Dear Friends,

We have been through a lot in the past week, the battle which I described in my hurried letters home to let you know that I am well. The many things that we have been doing since the battle are the subjects I wish to post you of in this missive. The impact of this great battle are only beginning to be felt, with the losses, both human and material taking effect with the army and the citizens alike.

On the 18th, after the battle it was as if the armies were in a daze, and it became slowly clear that and the next day, that the Confederate invaders had made good their escape from these parts. Our immediate concerns were to locate the missing, determine what happened to the wounded, and find and bury the dead. After traversing the field in seeking our missing comrades, following many leads, we finally have at least accounted for all of our company.

So, on the 20th instant, we were directed to assemble our company in the village at 215 East Main. That we did, but no sooner than our canvas went up in the back yard, but we were ordered to move, and we took up a location back on the banks of the Antietam creek, about 500 yards above the lower bridge. That evening, we were treated to a chile that was quite smart, in fact so smart, that Mike Hayes suggested we cook up some salt pork to settle our stomachs. And so the evening went, with us singing many verses of Amazing Grace, we were just so happy to be able to sing. We turned in and awoke in the morning, made coffee, and geared up.

We marched into the village once more, and were part of a marching procession lead by a wonderful regimental band, color guard, Gen. McClellan, and the troops to the town square. There we met a contingent of captured rebels, and traded musical compliments with them our band playing Dixie's Land, and theirs playing Yankee Doodle. After that, we proceeded to the Reform Church to look after the wounded as the church was now a crowded hospital. The church matron welcomed us, told us the story of the church, of the Connecticut boys there, especially the 16th, and of stains on the floor under the surgeon's tables.

We spent some time in the village, then were detailed back out to the north end of the battle field, on the Hagerstown Pike near the Dunker Church. There we assisted as best we could the wounded and dying around the church, blue and gray alike. The U.S. Christian Commission was about, doing the best it could to keep humanity there. At this place, we came across some friends from the 8th NJ among the wounded.

A woman delegate offered a mortally wounded Federal a new shirt, and he accepted it, but promised to get it to a Johnny down the hill who needed it more than he bye and bye. A man died without a word, and the delegates found a testament in his pocket with an identification, so that they could write the family and let them know what had happened to him. A soldier on crutches begged the Chaplin for soft bread, as he was starving, but the Chaplin told him no, that there was little to be had, the soft bread was for the men with mouth and head wounds that could not chew hardtack and that he could only have hard tack and green apples. A sergeant pleaded with the Chaplin to come pray with their drummer, and in doing so, found an orphan boy, recited a last prayer with him, and sent him on to his Father in Heaven. In the Dunker church, the surgeons were frantic, operating without chloroform, and hunting everywhere for it so that the amputations could proceed. Across the way, the hospital tents were packed, and as one dead body was removed, wounded stumbled in to take their places.

The citizens were also attempting to make claims for the losses to their farms and properties from the battle. Farmers lost animals, crops, and buildings, but were frustrated with the need for documentation and verifiable records demanded by the provosts. How many farmers count their chickens, and record the number? Such madness. These victims may never be reimbursed. And the burial details were working beyond on the battle field, burying, recording, and marking the graves. They were constantly put upon by citizens who had traveled to this place in search of news of their loved ones, and sometimes finding what they had prayed against. And the details were not of the most reliable men, as they wanted to get it done as fast as possible, where many graves were shallow, and many bodies not totally covered. Past mid night, we were relieved, and made our way back to our camp by the creek. As soon as we arrived, it began to rain, and then some more, til we were forced to turn in, and the clouds let loose, but only for an hour or so. The night was a bit warmer than the last, and no one shivered.

We awoke early, and prepared a bigger breakfast than yesterday, with corn cakes, eggs, bacon, salt pork, potatoes, and the hot peppers common to our 1st.Sgt's pockets. We then broke down our camp, marched back into the village of Sharpsburg, repeated the procession from the cemetery to the square like yesterday. A woman from the Dunker Church came by and thanked us for our much appreciated work the evening before, and invited us to keep in contact with them which we will gladly do. Then as a company, we visited the spots on the battle field that marked the farthest advance position of the 11th CV, the 16th CV, and of course our honored 8th CV.

We then made our dispositions, and moved off towards locations we are not privy to. It is suggested that we are to move to Pleasent Valley for a time, and get some rest. That sounds like a good thing for a short time, since it is clear that the enemy has slipped the snare once more. I do hope that this great army will rest, then rise to fight and pursue the rebels again, since this war will not end until the rebels are removed. The war surely cannot last a long time now, since the rebels are greatly demoralized, in rags, and running away. God bless the dead, the wounded, and the safe in our ranks, and let us do the work we set out to do with honor. May God preserve our great government, and sustain our President, and our Union.

Your obedient servant,

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