Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

135th Gettysburg Images

135th Anniversary Gettysburg 1998 Event Report

135th Gettysburg Anniversary
Gettysburg, Pa.
Pumping Station Rd.
July 3-5, 1998
Gettysburg, Penna.
July 5th, 1863

Dear Friends,

I now have some time available to pen you some words on the Great Battle fought here that you probably have heard of through the papers. I write to relieve any worry that you might have for me, since I was blessed and came through all our trials unhurt. A Great Victory for the Union has been won here, but at a terrible cost to both the rebels and our selves.

We began to arrive in this vicinity about dusk on Thursday, and the convergence at this place by the entire Army of the Potomac was well evident. It took several hours of clogged roads, waggons, and lines of soldiers at Headquarters to sort it all out. Then using the provided directions, something like "over there, that way", I proceeded to try to find the camps of the United States Volunteers, then the First Battalion, then our beloved Connecticut company. Along the way, I was concerned to find that the residents were selling water to the men as they passed their homes. My experiences in Maryland were that water was eagerly given away to the hot and thirsty defenders. I did find our boys in the woods of the camp that stretched for a mile long and half a mile wide. Once there, I pitched my shelter, and made some supper of salt pork, and found myself in the company of the old 8th, the 14CV, 17CV, 5CV, and the 2d Conn. It was early to bed, as orders were to be up at dawn.

The morning dawned bright, and the sight of the army here was grand. The number of men amassed exceeded even my expectations as to what an army might look like all in one place. We set to getting some breakfast up, of salt pork, hardtack, and coffee. We fell in, called the roll, and were formed for battalion parade. We marched out of our woods, down a hill and out into the open fields below. There we held our battalion dress parade, ending with the Colonel forming the USV Fourth Battalion from the Ohio and western boys, presented them their Naitonal colors and guidons. It was a moving sight. Col. Waffler of the 7th Ohio will command. He is a fine officer, and loves the men. And I can tell you, we all love hime too. The 8CV will remain in the First Battalion. The dress parade was dismissed, and we had a battalion fatigue duty, building two concentric rows of breastworks around the base and half way up the hill to our camps. The work was hot, but normally, the boys know that the building of works saves lives, and so they do not complain. Once done, we were reformed and dismissed to company drill, which we accomplished, going over the right and left flank drills to the satisfaction of Capt. Kurtz and Lt. Belyea. During that drill, we noticed a doe running panicked through the fields, to and fro, such that she must have felt surrounded by the army, and knew not what to do or where to turn. Some joked that she would make a good dinner. Then we marched back to camp, held a short NCO meeting, divided the company into platoons under sergeants, and squads under corporals for alternating wood and water details. Then we prepared some rations for the noon repass. We later heard that the doe was dead on the field.

After noon, we were once again called into line, and formed with the battalion, and moved once again down our hill. Near the bottom, we were halted on a wood road, and rested. It seems that there was a battle brewing, and soon the sound made it clear that an engagement was under way. But, we were gotton back on our feet, and marched off in the opposite direction for some considerabe distance. It seemed that we were part of a grand flanking manoeuver, but I surmise that the rebels were also doing the same thing, by the dust on the horizon, and we simply circled each other like boxers in the ring. We were the reserves, and when we finally hit an open field, we were deployed in battalion front, and advanced in line, left wheeled, and hit the rebels, who were operating as independent battalions, and not as coordinated as our supporting division push. We were flanked, and retired quickly, and advanced again, to the support of the Fourth Battalion, advancing and retreating, and repeating the motions again. We were now operating as our division of two companies, the Connecticut boys, and the New Hampshire boys. The casualties were beginning to take a toll, when it all came to an end, the rebels withdrew, and we sort of collapsed in place to rest, gain our composure, and gather our wounded. We then were able to crawl back to our camps, find some water, and quench our thirst. My shirt was so wet and sticky that it was tore asunder when pulling it over my head to rinse it out. I surely need a new shirt soon, as this one is quite thin with wear. I hope that I can get it mended. We made our suppers of salt pork, hardtack, rice, and coffee, and passed the evening quietly, resting and praying for the morrow to give us victory. The doe was nowhere to be found, and evidently ended up as some fortunate souls vennison stew.

And once again, Saturday dawned clear and bright, and found us all in the army still, again eating the usual fare for our breakfast. I found that my ration was exceptionally salty that morning and felt compelled to complain about the rations to the Captain on behalf of the men, but I am sure you know the response. Eat it or leave it. The Army Commissary has done its job. The battalion was formed about 9.00 of the clock in the morning. In formation, Captain Kurtz suggested a cheer for the 4th of July, George Washington, and the Heros of '76. And another cheer was raised for Governor Buckingham. In our situation, many had forgotton the date, and were pleased to have an appropriate reminder of why we were here. We marched down the hill, through the woods, and off to the left, past the breastworks we built yesterday, and halted to rest in the woods there. Once again, we were in reserve, as a great battle was raging to our front acrost a wood and out through the meadows of wheat. We were finally fed in to the fighting as many of our brigades were retiring, out of ammunition, when we deployed and advanced in colunm of companies. We engaged the rebels to our front, but the numbers of advancing rebels on our left flank forced our division to refuse the line, hold for a time, and then retire in order, covering the retreat of the rest of the battalion. There we halted, returned fire, and dressed our ranks, then retired more, &c. We halted in front of a battery of ours, and that is when the fighting just subsided to a lull. We retired in order past the guns, and continued directly back to our camps, as they had been left relatively lightly manned. There we had a midday meal mostly of tinned fish and hardtack. Some of the fish was bad.

We rested until we were called out once more, this time about 1.30 past meridian, and in a great hurry, as we were needed for reenforcements down the extreme left of the Union line. Up on that hill, called Little Round Top, the cannons and muskets were raging and roaring, and it all seemed very dire. Our orders were subsequently countermanded, and all we could do is stack arms and listen to the battle. It seemed that we had to stay here on our hill to keep up the strength there.

Yet, after a while, we fell in again, and marched down our hill to the increasing sound of battle there. It was good that we were close at hand to fend off the attacks in this quarter. There at the bottom of Culps Hill, we arrived to find the rebels in possession of our first line of works, and charging repeatedly the second line. The boys in blue there were having hot work of it to hold their own, and running low on ammunition. It was at that time that we were deployed, and moved to the right, then up to the works. There we immediately opened and repelled two charges of the 10th Virginia, taking some prisoners. The fighting was close, some hand to hand, but we pushed them back. In the lull while they were regrouping to charge again, our gallant Captain urged us forward up and over the works, and advanced to the outer ones, taking up residence there, and there we fought more charges from the determined rebels. They were littering the ground in our front, and fighting right up to the works, but our plugging the hole, and holding tight won the day. After successive attempts to overrun us, and with heavy losses, about dusk, the rebels skulked away, and the action was over. Cheers went up along the lines, and leaving a force there to guard our interests, we once again withdrew to the rear to our camps. We passed the springs on the way, and detailed the second squad for water, burying them with canteens. Our supper was once again salty pork, hard tack, coffee, and a surprise dram of whiskey from the Captain for every man. It rained on us some, light, pleasant, not uncomfortable. I was very grateful and lucky enough to have Mark, who is so handy at it, do the sewing on my shirt that evening to make me whole again. Maybe now, the shirt will make it till winter.

The evening brought time to ready ourselves physically and mentally for the next day. Surely the armies here have struggled to a draw thus far, and it seemed sure that the pesky confederates would try something new on the morrow. We readied our flags of Connecticut, and shined the new finlal for the 14th Conn. Vols. just arrived directly from Hartford, compliments of Governor Buckingham. Since the Brigade Staff and Line Officers were holding their Council of War, we thought it appropriate to send the finial over there for their examiniation, and to show them the resolve of the Connecticut boys to have the honor of being Color Company for the First Battalion the next day. We approached the Headquarters tent, where we saw a formal guard in white gloves, and all the officers sitting under the Colonel's fly, sipping and smoking. As I approached the guard, he jumped to "defend against infantry", and I quickly stated my business, respectfully requesting a word with Captain Kurtz, with news of an urgent nature. The Captain was called out, and we told him of the finial, and he escorted us and it, and it was passed in silence around to each and every officer there. Needless to say, it sealed the deal. As soon as the meeting was over, orders came to us to prepare for color guard and color company at dawn. The heros and patriots of Connecticut raised a cheer. Late that night after retiring, one could hear the sound of a lone violin playing low and mournful. The music was very nice to hear in such a situation, but rather peculiar and out of place. None the less, those who were not sleeping all applauded politely in the early morning hours for the unknown player.

The next morning, being the Sabbath, found us eating canned beef and potatoes, and the officers sharing ambrosia made of milk, sugar, and rice. The morning details were to eat, break down the camp, and move all the baggage back to the rear to the wagon trains. This was done, and accomplished in due time, but the wagons were hard to find. Once complete, we donned our light marching traps, and were formed about 10.30. There on the wood road, many prayers were spoken, both from Chaplins, and men, and officers. We then marched to the left, towards the center of the Union line. There one could see a great concentration of artillery and infantry, in expectation that this was the only yet untested position. We formed a brigade dress parade there, in two battalions, of four divisions each, colors out in front of each. We were reviewed by General Heim, USV. In his own special words, he simply told us that this was our day, and the rest was up to us. Bully for our General! We all knew exactly what he meant, and with a new determination, we faced towards the open fields, and the ridge beyond, where the rebels now lay. In the middle of the field, there was a long low stone wall, with a clump of trees near its center, where the wall took a right turn, and then angled back straight away. There was a battery positioned there in the angle, as well as long line of guns along Cemetary Ridge to both sides. We were marched to the far right end of the wall, and positioned there. Our boys saw, and knew that they should be to the immediate right of the angle, and the cry went up, first from our company, then from our division, and then from our whole battalion, "14th on the angle! 14th on the angle!" The emotion was infectious, and as surely as there is a righteous God, the brigade positioned at that location was moved, and we were placed there. As it turns out, both ours and theirs felt that they were in the wrong place, and through the cooperation of the commanders and staffs, we were able to both have our due. Bully for all! This was divine intervention, and once more, miracles should never be barred. General Hancock of the 2d Corps was seen riding the lines, making sure all the men saw him there with them.

So, we were in position, looking across the field, and the Emmittsburg Road, over to Seminary Ridge at the rebels, We were put at rest, we drank from our canteens, ate our hardtack, shared apples, jerky, &c. After a time, the rebel guns all along the ridge over there opened up. The birage was severe, deafening, and continuous. We all went prone, and listened to raining death, as most of their shells sailed over our heads and landed on the back side of the slope. Our guns replied in kind, and a great roar much like hell continued for almost an hour. The ground was plowed around us, and the air filled with bursts, but we stood it first rate, with few casualties. Our guns slacked off, and then the rebels stopped. It got real quiet for a moment, and one could hear the birds singing. General Daniels rode up and down the lines, saying that he usually asks us to stack them like cordwood, but today he was just asking us to cut them down, and someone else will stack them for us.

Across the way, we saw all the enemy step out of the woods, and start forming, and dressing, and parading, their colors unfurled. All their officers on horseback were running up and down their lines. This went on for about fifteen minutes The air was singularly electric. It was time. Their skirmishers advanced, as well as ours, and they engaged each other as if to distract attention from the main host. Then they stepped off, and the cry went up along our lines for us form into line. We took positions on the wall, four ranks deep. The front two ranks were to remain kneeling and the rear two ranks would stand and fire. We all crept to our positions, took our muskets, loaded, and waited. The rebels were marching across at a deliberate pace, and there was nothing that was going to turn them back. They approached the road, and climbed over the two rail fences on either side. At that time, the orders came for us all to rise, fly the colors, and start shooting with musket and canister. The first three vollies were by brigade, and they took a withering toll as the enemy crossed the fences. Then the next three vollies were by battalion, and then independent company fire. Our company fired by rank, then all by file. The work was hot, and the rebels were coming fast. They were up to us in a hurry, when they began to break up and charge by companies tords the wall. It was good that we had plenty of powder to use, and they were going down in piles. Yet, they would waver, reform, and charge again, repeatedly. It was deafening, and the muskets burned our hands. Some of them made it to the wall in front of us, only to be hauled over as prisoners. Our casualties were hauled to the rear also, to make room for the reserve troops to fill the holes. It was a sight only those who needed to be there should see, as no mortal words can describe. How fast they came, how long it takes to load, those terrible seconds of desperation. Yet, they kept coming, and the ground to our front was covered with them. Our losses were also high, and the reserves were urgently pushed up. But, after about twenty minutes, it was apparant that they had not carried our position, that they had been decimated, and they started streaming back from whence they came. Some were hobbling, others were helping the wounded, and many others lay where they fell. The cease fire was sounded, and a great cheer went up from our lines, "Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg!" as a stinging reminder of debts repaid. About that time, we all slumped to the ground, exhausted, but mostly alive, and thanked our God that watched over us this day. We formed in ranks, took a roll, many were missing, and were dismissed to the rear.

Since then, we have been content to know that the rebels have withdrawn and returned to Virginia, leaving this state in our hands. The army is presently too jaded to pursue, but as always, the opportunity to harrass and even capture the whole lot was presented. We all here are tending to our selves, visiting our wounded in the local hospitals, burying the dead animals and men, and waiting for the orders to move. We all know that a great turning point has occurred here, and the latest papers bring word from Vicksburg also. May God Save the Union, it seems that the beginning of the end is near for this War. May we all return home in honor and victory soon.

Your humble and obedient servant, Kim

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