Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

Burnside Bridge and Torch Light Tour

September 14-16, 2001
Antietam National Battlefield
Sharpsburg, Maryland
September 22, 1862
east of Sharpsburg, Maryland

Dear Friends,

I am now able to send you some news from us after the battle. In my last I told of the trials of the fight and of the great suffering and losses we have sustained. Our losses have been severe, amounting to about half our numbers, for which we pray for all the living wounded to survive. The regiment is now lying still in camp at the eastern base of the Rohrback bridge, some now starting to call it "Burnside's Bridge". I sense that the name is mixed both in honor and in taunt. The rebels also lay quiet for the most of the 18th, and then disappeared in the night across the fords of Shepardstown. We lay here still, with no orders to pursue, and no orders to leave. Only constant duty on guarding the army and attending the casualties.

Every house and barn for miles around has been pressed into service, and many more are tended on the ground by the army. The wounded of our regiment were first taken to Otto's barn, and those needing more care were moved to brigade hospitals,or transported to Baltimore. Those remaining here were moved to the Smoketown hospital. The rebels have left, our army is mostly pulled back from the line of battle, and the towns folks are left to tend to the wounded. There must be about a dozen wounded for each citizen here.

Much aid in the form of the United States Christian Commission and the United States Sanitary Commission is coming in, but many necessary items are still in short supply.

Our regiment established our current camp at about sunset on Friday, having marched by the left flank from our bivouack since the battle to establish this camp. It is on the ground over which so many men fought for control of the bridge crossing, and were eventually successful, though at great cost. It is once again quiet and peaceful along the banks of the Antietam, a world away from that piece of Hell it was a week ago. We established a company street, our baggage having caught up with us, and our shelters restored to us. We made a fire of fence rails, cooked our rations, and Sgt. Rosberg and the other NCOs assigned the guard. The guard was paraded and inspected, and then mounted about 10 in the evening, and ran right through. Nothing of consequence was discovered, but the night beats were lonely and rather eerie. Dawn came once more, and the men were got up, morning roll conducted, breakfast prepared, and sick call finished. The officers subjected the men to drill, and more drill, and the forenoon was thus consumed. The drill consisted of School of the Soldier, positions, facings, manual of arms, and School of the Company, firings, left and right flank marches, and evolutions to and from the the line of battle. A short break for dinner, of light rations, and the lot of us were drilled some more, then called to the north or the right of the line for a public demonstration of our preparedness and resolve to meet the enemy once more. There were members of the 2d Reg US Sharpshooters there, as well as our regiment and others including the 3d Maryland. We conducted a battalion firing demonstration the fire by battalion, fire by rank, and fire by file. We then on command, wheeled to face the crowds, and gave them a "Present Arms".

We took a short rest in the afternoon shade near the Dunker church, and waited for further orders. They came after a time, and were to draw rations that had just come up, and were hard by. We did this with relish, and found the rations quite acceptable. We were then ordered over to the Smoketown hospital for some duty assisting the residents and the volunteers there with the operations of the hospital. We detailed some men to assist in unloading box after box of supplies, medicines, but no food, which was in great demand there. While there, we witnessed an endless flow of soldiers and citizens coming to the hospital in search of comrades and loved ones. The condition of the hospital was well organized, and the stewards and doctors were quite efficient in dispatching the visitors in the various directions to find their people. Many a happy reunion was had that night at the Smoketown hospital. One fellow named Cornelius Boyd was found by two of his comrades from the regiment, and the doctor told him he was to be discharged the next day, so that he might as well go back to the regiment with his friends to night. There were several elated people that headed back to the lines that night. However, the amount of rations that were coming into the hospital could not keep up with the demand, and the doctor asked some of the civilians to go back into town and fill their baskets with the generosity of the towns folks once more, to which they accepted, and they were off into the night.

We left the hospital very late that night and so commandeered some teamsters and took some wagons back to our camp at the bridge. Other than the guard, all the boys turned right in. The night was quite cold, and many cold feet were to be had, some pairs found in the morning sleeping next to the fire. Again, as so many army days before it started with the morning roll. This being Sunday, the officers gave the bulk of the company time off, and we were allowed to return to the battlefield for a walk retracing the route we took during the battle itself, from the ridge on the west bank of the creek above Snaveley's ford, across the hill and dales, across Otto's lane, past the ledges were we took cover, up the draw and the depression we advanced past the north edge of the now famous 40 acre cornfield, and past the stone wall where Toomb's Georgians continued to challenge us. We crossed to the next field, and continued our advance to the front where we were alone in advance of the army, and past the place where Co.I under Capt. Upham was detailed to silence McIntosh's battery, and past the edge of the Narrow Cornfield, where the North Carolinians appeared on our left flank. We halted at the point only 20 rods from the Harpers Ferry road, where the old Eighth regrouped, and held its own until ammunition was about expended, the color guard all fallen, and no support approaching. There we recited a prayer written by Corporal Ashbel Bartram for a memorial. It was a somber moment, and many of the boys were visibly moved. We then retraced our path on the return to camp. Once there, we were called out for drill, and covered all the firings, facings, wheelings, and skirmish drill. Once back on the company street, orders came to promptly break camp and pack for the march. To where was not shared with us.

We left our camp at the bridge and proceeded to the same spot on the right of the Union line once more in the afternoon. The same sort of command performance was conducted to the satisfaction of the staff and the public. We drew some short police duty in the area and then were dismissed for the long march. We started off in the direction of Hagerstown, but I cannot post you more with the news on our move, as I had to hurry this missive to a close to get it posted before we left.

So much has happened in this past week to change the history of our nation, it is truely sobering. Invasions, attacks, captured Federal posts, bloody battles, large loss of life, it is all swirling around my senses. I do hope in time the images of the week will fade from my memory, as they are indeed more nightmare than dream. It was all too real, and will be with us for all time.

God Bless Our Union, and Give Us the Right to See Our Victory.

Your obedient servant,

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