Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

Gettysburg Event Report

The YingLing Farm
Gettysburg, Penn.
July 7-8, 2001
Gettysburg, Penn.
July 8, 1863

Dear Friends,

I am now able to take pen in hand and write you some lines that will let you see that I am well. Word has surely reached you of a monumentous battle that has been fought here near Gettysburg. We are now recovering some from the exertions and horrors of the past week, and are able to start taking full stock of the resultant victory.

Upon arriving in the Gettysburg environs mid day on Friday, it took some time to sort through the heavy traffic of soldiers and civilians clogging the main thoroughfares of the area, but we were able to come on through and find the United States Volunteers camps south and west of the town. We were also able to find Adjutant Nailborski who greeted us with a large smile and and stationed our company camp upon the most sublime location in the corps, the only little glade of trees along the lower fence line, out of the way, and in the shade. We were then and are still most grateful to the Adjutant for attending to us in such a fine manner.

We got our equipments dropped in a pile at the appointed spot and were called into line almost immediately, where the major brought out three companies of us to reconnoiter and skirmish with a small band of rebels reported in the area. We did encounter the rebel skirmishers, and saw rebel cavalry in the distance, but they did not attack. After several vollies, our lines did discouraged their skirmishers, or at least satisfied their desire to obtain our strength by direct observation of our camps, they shortly disengaged and disappeared. We returned to camp, and were dismissed.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening listening to various activities all around us both near and far, and as they continued, our camp did stay safe, and grew in strength as the various regiments and brigades arrived on the field, and were consolidated here. The artillery was massed along a long low ridge, spanning for about a half mile in front, creating a position any enemy must hesitate to attack. There we passed the evening in fine spirit and confidence that the morrow would bring us a certain victory if the rebels indeed develop their threats. The evening turned out to be unseasonable clear which was first rate, but also unseasonable cold, which was not.

We awoke early before dawn the next morning, and some of us got up our coffee before revielle. The rest of the company was turned out at revielle at 6.30 and the morning roll was called, and the company drilled then and there before it got any warmer. That duty caused no groveling in the ranks, and so the drill had good cooperation and met its objectives in short order. We returned to our bivouac, cooked some good breakfast, and policed the area for a time.

Around 10.30 in the morning the battalion and the brigade were called into line. The whole were put into column of companies and marched towards a prominent hill on the left of the line named little Round Top. The troops were deployed in a single line, and stretched to the limit. The boys were made to rest for a bit, when several vollies of artillery were sent our way by the enemy, and answered by our gunners, thus steeling us all for the attack. Our lines sort of followed the contours of the hill, and bent off the left and right rear of the hill, and were were near the center of the line. From the valley below, the rebels soon started first advancing as skirmishers, and then by brigades. In a short time, the pressure of the rebel attack waves was strong, their artillery pounding away on our positions, and the casualties were mounting. There infantry attacks were stalled, halted, and turned back several times by the tenacious fighting of our boys, but they continuously retreated, reformed, and renewed the attacks. Our lines were getting paper thin, when finally it was apparent that the enemy could no longer mount an advance on our lines, and the cheers went up, as they disappeared down the hill and out of sight. We were formed beck in line, the wounded attended to, the dead were buried, and the brigade returned to camp once more.

A welcome time was spent on the shade of our little enclave, and water details were the order of the day. We got ourselves a ration of cold items, apples, hard crackers, summer sausage, and the like, and took our leisure for a time. The captain order the company into line after that for a mandatory instructional drill that was designed to remedy some shortcomings in our drill that he had observed during the engagement. It is always an embarrassment to disappoint our captain, so our efforts to remediate these failures was quick and genuine. The captain was satisfied, and the boys will not let that happen again, I assure you.

We sat for a bit after drilling, only to shortly be called into line once more. This time, the brigade marched off by the right flank, and continued to the north of the line for about a mile or so. We went into a gladed area between to saddles, and near by was a place called Spangler's Spring. We were posted behind a snake rail fence, and told that we were going to hold that line for the duration. Since there were no immediate threats, we stacked, and were put at rest. We talked and rested for a bit, but were as usual interrupted by the call to rise up and take arms. Across the clearings we could see the rebel brigades advancing towards our positions, rising over and disappearing into the valleys to our front, and the two rises between. When they crested the last rise, the cannon opened on them with grape and canister, and once they had discharged, the infantry chimed in with crisp fire by company after company. The fighting got quite hot, and the rebels did succeed in turning our left flank, which was reinforced by another battalion, and our company being pulled out of line and sent to the new line. Our Captain responded to the emergency immediately and we went into the fight faced by the rear rank. The envelopment was prevented, with substantial casualties, but the rebels on the flank were beat back, and withdrew. The fight was so hot that the rebels did retire to one on the dells to recover, and reform, whence they came again, but in about fifteen minutes met the same results. They once again retired to the swale to regroup. During this time, there were many cries for assistance from the wounded in our front, and against orders, several boys in the ranks could not take it any longer, and bounced over the fence to bring water or assistance to the wounded. About that time, the major ordered our company out as skirmishers. The captain mildly protested, but the boys were ordered out in front of the line, and deployed as skirmishers by the left flank. We advanced through the tangles of casualties, both ours and theirs. Once upon the first crest to the front, we commenced fire on the rebels in the crease, and they replied both by company, and then in sending out a thin line of their own skirmishers. We advanced and exchanged fire until our ammunition was expended. Since it was not possible to withdraw at that point, we scrounged cartridges from the wounded boys in blue, and from the dead rebels, and tried to hold the position now on the second rise. When we were firing literally our last rounds, a steady tramp was heard approaching, and our battalion line swept forward, passing our skirmish line, and saving us from harm. We took a short breath, and were then ordered to plug a hole in the line that had developed, but without ammunition, it was futile. We took the position in the hole and received many casualties without fighting back. The forces at this time disengaged, and the rebels were sent running, and our boys set to cheering. There was one account of some Confederate officers coming forward to apologize to our captain, on account of some issue of honor and ethics that occurred on the field. Nothing more was said, and the rebels were allowed to pass back through the lines. After the long march back to our camps, the boys set to getting their muskets clean in readiness for the next encounter, and got up some supper of steamed and shredded beef, compliments of the local citizens, then adjourned to our campfire and rested some before turning in early. Getting any sleep was a little difficult, since some neighboring companies were busy getting quite tight, and once they quieted down late, the clouds opened upon us, and rained a good deal, getting us wet even in our shelters.

The morning came, and the rain did pass, leaving it foggy, cool, and wet. We got up a fire, made some coffee, and took the roll. We were not detailed for any duty for a while, so enjoyed the Sabbath morning in peace. Around 9.30, we were ordered up for a brigade dress parade, which was done in fine order, the two battalions present, in column of companies, reviewed by General Heim himself. All went well, the orders of the day were for company drill, which Capt. Grehl conducted for us, and was very well received. We returned to camp, pulled up stakes, prepared our rations, and made ready to move out of the area at a moments notice. Of course, the moments were quite long, stretching well through the forenoon. Haversacks were reopened and a few rations from within were our noon dinner that day. Water was consumed in large quantities to keep us from going prostrate under the sun.

Around 1.30 we were finally drummed up into line, and marched off towards the front of our lines in column of companies, where we wheeled into line along a long low stone wall, and stacked arms. Behind us were all our massed guns, overlooking the same mass of rebel guns on the ridge across from our position. We broke ranks, and sat down. Then the rebel guns opened upon us, first only one of two, then all along their line they were throwing shot and shells at us at a furious rate. The shells were exploding above our ranks, and others were exploding into the ground to our front, throwing dirt and debris upon us. Our guns proceeded to answer theirs, and the artillery duel of the century was under way. We could see the fence along the sides of the Emmittsburg Pike getting blasted to bits. This cannonade lasted about an hour, when our guns fell silent. The rebel guns continued to pound us, but overall their effect was little, due to so many rebel shells not going off at all, only sailing harmlessly to our rear. Then across the plain, beyond we could see all the rebel brigades come out and form a long line of battle, and dress their lines. Their guns also fell silent, and we could hear their officers giving the orders, Guide Center, Forward, and they all started coming at a slow steady relentless pace towards the center of our position. There were some of our skirmishers deployed out to the front to slow the progress of the infantry advance and to try to harass the rebel gunners. On they came, and we were ordered to stay down, to stay out of their sight. They started crossing the fences along the Pike, when finally we were ordered to rise, and we opened on them with frightful effect at very close range. They kept coming, their numbers falling fast, but still coming, and in a few moments many of them were up to the wall and upon us fighting hand to hand. Several were mowed down right in front of the wall , each falling on top of another. Many of those rebels who did get over the wall were either beat senseless, or simply taken prisoner to the rear. Out in front of the wall, the shattered rebels did fall back and regroup, then attack again, but it only took a few attempts to decimate them, or turn them away. The rebel wave was broken on the rocks of that low wall, and the sounds of fighting gave way to the sound of the wounded, as the rebel survivors retreated back from whence they came. A hearty cheer went up along all of our line as the rebels walked away, and the cheer was "Fredericksburg, Fredricksburg!", having atoned for our own slaughter at that place. We simply stood in place, frozen with exhaustion, looking over the horrid results of the short fight, and it all started to sink in, we had held the line. Lee had made a grave mistake, and now was taking flight. We were ordered to the left down the line, and after a short march were relieved. We did go to the rear to check on our casualties, then were put on the march away from the little sleepy town, and now famous battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It appears that big things have happened at all points along the line here, and a great Union victory has been won. The rebels are returning south, and we will be returning there to meet them again, and bring this war to its honorable end, may God grant the Right!

Your humble servant,

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