Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

Gettysburg Forgotton Battles 1997 Event Report

Turner's Movie Sight
Pumping Station Road
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 4-6, 1997
July 2d, 1863
Gettysburg, Penna.
3d. Co. 1st Battal. USV

Dear Friends,

I write to you from these environs, while around us the trials of war are raging. The wheels of fate have clashed our brave Union forces here with the rebels, they coming to the field from the north, while we have arrived generally from the southerly direction.

We reached the field of battle around 5 of the clock on Friday, after a hard march and under quite warm weather. The Army of the Potomac was massing around this area, and battle had been had prior to our arrival. Our small yet brave band reported to USV headquarters for duty on arrival, and were assigned to the third company of the 1st battalion. This put us under the strong and reliable leadership of Captain J. C. McPhail of the 79th NY, known by the men as "Fightin' Joe". This also put us in the company of our acquaintances from the 7th Ohio, 2d Mich, and 40 NY.

As we arrived just to the north of town, we passed through town, ending up in our camps. We were immediately rushed under arms to the front and fought a relentless series of attacks by the rebels trying to gain our position on the top of the Culp's Hill. We fought like the devil and were able to repel them, wave after wave, with great casualties on both sides. As the darkness fell, they faded away. We had last faced the men of the 2d Maryland, and we had captured many of their wounded they left on the hillside to our front. We retired back to our camps, and tried to get some rest, some rations, and talked a little around the fires. Gen. Dana Heim happened by unaccompanied, and spent a few hours just talking to the men at the fire as an equal. We talked of many things, including the poor condition of the roads in his native Pennsylvania, and the possibility of him running for political office after the war. He surely has the integrity of a great leader, and it is no surprise that the men love him dearly, and will follow him to their end.

Saturday morning we were up at dawn, not many sleeping well, given the circumstances. We cooked some breakfast, cleaned our weepons, and reported for dress parade. The USV had a parade for each of the two battalions present, ours presided over by Lt.Col. Hannis. The parade was followed by battalion drill, then company drill, then some rest. The artillery were sighting in their guns with great accuracy during this time, discouraging the rebels greatly. We thought this Bully as we were not doing the work. The cavalry was also active on our flanks, and present in good number. The 3 NJ band played some in the camps to distract the thoughts of many from the battle to be had.

We fell in around 2.30 of the clock in the afternoon, and fielded a company of thirty-eight men. We were marched to below a hillcrest with some degree of haste. We then were arranged on line of battle, and proceeded up, then down into a dell, near an unfinished railroad. We rushed forward to meet the rebels there, they crouching in the cut for protection. We then forced them in, bottled them there, and closed on their flanks from two sides. Capt. McPhail had his taste for blood up, and was not going to allow us to be pushed from our ground by a strong company of rebels to our front. He ordered a bayonet charge on their right flank with the remaining portion of the company, and it was effective. We overran a company of the 33rd Virginia, and took most of them prisoners. We again returned behind the lines to our camps and talked of victory, eat a little rations, and fell asleep early.

Sunday morning came as usual, with us up at dawn, getting some breakfast cooked, some coffee made, and some hardtack eaten. We were formed for a battalion dress parade which was followed by a division drill, and a platoon drill. We were instructed in the skirmish drill, and we were glad, because we knew that if it was practiced in drill, we would never be in need of it on the field of battle. After drills, the boys were resting a while when a grand cheer was heard throughout the camp, and in looking for the cause, a great dust devil was seen wandering through the camps. It was about ten feet in diameter, and reached a height of about 70 feet or so, and was just a twirling column of dust, hay, and other debris that it was sucking off the ground. Some ran away from it, and others were brave enough to stand in the eye of it. It was quite remarkable, and lasted for about 15 minutes until it just wandered away.

We were ordered to form up once again early in the afternoon, and were again marched off in haste. We were then arrayed in column of battalions. There we stacked arms and rested in the shade of a tree line, for a good while. In the course of events prior to a battle, the men react in many different ways. Some joined in prayer, and others simply got into fights for distraction. The one fight between two privates in our company seemed for show, and so the sergeants did nothing to stop it. In fact, they placed the first wagers on the outcome. But the officers did stop it before it was decided, and one man was sent off to the surgeons for attention to his head. We soon formed into brigade line of battle, and we were advanced over a ridge line and towards the enemy occupying the ground around an orchard of peach trees.

Our guns were arrayed in a long line on top of the ridge to our front, and they were working on the rebel position. We advanced through the line, and formed in a grand long line along a fence lined lane. Our battalion was on the right flank of the line that reached about a half mile long. All along the line, one could see many of the stars and stripes and other colors floating on the breeze. It was an inspiring view. A grand artillery exchange occured that had the ground shaking as they were firing over our heads.

To our front we could see both Union and rebel skirmishers testing each other as the brigades of both sides moved into position for the fight. To our right front, a piece of rebel light horse artillery was constantly moving, unlimbering, and loading, trying to decimate our ranks, but we all yelled from the infantry line to our skirmishers to shoot at the gun, not the rebel skirmishers. We were getting anxious as it seemed that those people would get off a shot at close range right into out ranks, but at the last minute, our skirmishers poured it into them, and they retreated in great haste. Our ranks were roaring the hurrahs for our skirmishers. But the rebel gunners had to be watched, for they kept up with their harrassement, moving in and out, taking some shots at our lines.

Once the infantry moves began, it was apparent that the rebels were concentrating their attentions to the area of the orchard, and they were firm on their attempt to aweep our boys from that place. We were not engaging any large force on our right flank, and we had the advantage of interior lines, so the orders came to move at the double quick to reinforce our left flank, which was being pressured, flanked, and turned. So we did get over there in good order, and formed, continuing the line to the left. We worked very hard to keep our ground, but the rebels were many, far too many, and we were ordered to withdraw firing. We were pushed back constantly, and soon were passing our line of guns in retrograde motion, and they were overwhelmed, and so were we. We finally were completely withdrawn from the field, and reformed our remnant of the battalion, took a roll, and reported our casualties to the Sgt.Maj. Childs. We soon learned that we had been routed by the 42nd Virginia. They took some prisoners, and left many wounded. Only about one man in two got back to our lines where the rebel advance could not reach them.

We thence proceeded back to camp in order, marching by the flank, then in column of companies, for review by our command, and when we reached camp, all the cheers for our leaders were had, the camp equipments were gathered, and all were eager to leave this place. The latest rumors are that the rebels have sneeked away in the night, and that we are to follow them. While we can see acrost to the Seminary Ridge, there are some rebels there in force yet. If they are gone, we surely will follow them and chase them out of our lands, and fight them next on theirs. Direct your mail to me by Washington. It will find us eventually. All the boys from home are tired, but well. God Bless the Union.

Your obedient servant,

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