Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Gettysburg Forgotton Battles 1997 Event Report
Turner's Movie Sight
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Pumping Station Road
July 4-6, 1997
July 2d, 1863
3d. Co. 1st Battal. USV
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
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,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.