Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Sutton, Massachusetts Reenactment
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Aug 3-4, 2002
August 4, 1863
I put my pen to paper to make a few lines that you might find acceptable. We have concentrated our forces here in the village of Sutton late in the afternoon of Friday. The weather was not so cooperative, since it was hard storms all the while marching in, quite strong gusts of driving rain, and resulting in a wet camp and a lot of wet soldiers. Such is our lot in life, at least for three years or the duration.
We find that the little town of Sutton is quite Union, as they have all the citizens turned out to greet us, and with a lot of hospitality. The square is hard by here, with the church, the green, a small band stand, and a few two story buildings. Our camp is off the pike a bit, behind the town center, and in a large mowed field. The canvas went up, and the brigadae took shape nicely, with the many Massachusetts regiments, one from Maine, one of US Regulars, and of course, the old Eighth. Our captain had arrived in the van of the column, and was assigned a fine location for our camp along a tree line running north and south. This hedgerow afforded immediate benefit to us as it helped shelter our dogs from the rain. Up went the camp, and we proceeded to gather a stack of wood from the environs with which to prepare our rations that evening. We spent the evening resting our weary legs, and singing, and talking, and eventually had a visit to headquarters, and another visit to O'Rourke's where he shared a few gills of whiskey and cream with us with great effect.
The dawn came clear and the army was awoken. Role was had, and the morning reports went in. A short meeting with the Sergeant Major resulted in companies being assigned to the police guard for the next two days, and the guard was mounted. The pickets started reporting that a band of rebels was bivouacked about a mile beyond our lines, and that they were not so much of a threat. We were directed to be vigilent, and be ready to move against them on a moments notice. The battalion held a morning dress parade, a battalion drill, and followed that with company drills. The sun was rising in the sky, and the temperatures were soaring to Virginia records.
As we occupied a first rate patch of shade against our tree line, we were receiving many a visitor from the other companies, and also several of the citizens strolling through the army. The citizens were friendly to us, but were asking several key questions as to our units, our strength, and our intentions in the area. We assured them that this was only the tip of the army which was close on our heels, and that we intended to occupy their town, and respect their private properties. As the day wore on, the heat became unbearable, as it tends to do here in the old Dominion, but there was a plenty of drinking water close at hand, and it was regularly visited by us all.
Around about two in the afternoon, the orders came to fall in by companies on the color line. We were combined with the 3d Maine, under Capt. Gowan, as our Captain Kurtz was assigned to the brigade staff. We had a fine company, and marched to formation with the rest of the battalion. We were inspected, and presently, marched off by the right flank. We proceeded onto the Boston Road and through town, to the cheers of the civilians, and to the music of a brass band on the porch of an old brick general store. We continued through town to the west, and then turned down a lane and out along a wood road. The column was halted, and the men rested for a spell. The exertion of the march was much, and the boys were getting used up. But the command and staff ordered us to our feet, and we deployed in column of divisions across the north end of a large open field, in front of a battery. The Battle of Perry's Farm opened with the guns, and soon, there was a rebel reply. After a time, the divisions were ordered forward, and over the crest of a hill, the rebel infantry came into view. They too were moving forward, so we opened upon them with muskets, and the divisions were separated to attack by the front and the two flanks simultaneously. The fighting became general and severe, and the muskets were getting quite hot. The boys were starting to drop from the lead flying at such close range, but the rebels were outnumbered, and the three prongs of our thrust were taking effect. The rebels were split into two bodies by the moves, and then attacked in detail, causing them to cave, and be captured or routed. They took to their feet and beat a retreat to the south from whence they came, and we were left in possession of the field. It took some time to gather the boys back up, from the many wounded and the many that were suffering from the heat. Once the battalion was reformed, it was marched back to our camp by the same route we came. I returned to camp riding the hay wagons that were bearing the wounded, accompanying our Corporal Bingham who had been wounded in the back, but not severely, but could not march.
Once back to camp, we were dismissed, the guard posted. The citizens about the camps were kind and gentle, and they provided cool buckets of water and clean cloths to wipe our brows, and to cool us from the heat. They were truely Christian about it all, and showed no signs of treason. In some time, we got up our suppers. Some of the boys went over to the church on the green, and partook of a chicken supper provided by the citizens with much enjoyment. The evening was once more one of rest around the fires, and singing the captain's favorite songs. There was no visit to O'Rourke's, since we were smarter, and he was wounded.
The next morning dawned much the same as the last, with the sun strong and hot once more. Some of the boys went off early to the church once more, and were rewarded with a fine flapjack breakfast. Once breakfast was over, the business of teh army resumed. Guard was mounted, the morning parade held, and company drill in the heat was not omitted, but was abbreviated. Church call came, and those not on detail were allowed to attend. They listened to a Beecher sermon of late, reviewing the causes of injustice, and the evil of slavery. Many agreed, but were a little offended by the tone of the Massachusetts abolitionist here in the little town of Sutton, and the Virginia hospitality it had offered us. There were no real duties to attend to, except policing the streets, and keeping the wood and the water on hand. But sure enough, around one on the clock, the orders came once more to form. We again came on line, and were inspected, and marched through the town. We were turned onto the yard of the Tavern, and halted to rest. The yard was shaded by two huge maple trees, and the boys took their share. I saw a young lad haul a bucket of water over to the cavalry, and offer a dipper to the men. But before one of them could reach down for the drink, his horse had turned his head and thrust his nose into the bucket and took a long draw. Those who saw it all had a good laugh.
We were ordered to our feet, and marched across the road and behind the Walthonthorn farm, then came into line in front of a long snake fence. Across the dell, and up the opposite side, there appeared a rebel battery, which opened upon us with cannister and shell as soon as we were in view. The boys held steady, and were ordered prone. We were got back up, and opened ourselves as the enemy infantry started advancing between the guns, and from our right flank around a small pond. They closed on us fast, and we fired and fired upon them, but on they came, and swept right up to our lines. They veered onto our left flank, where our company was posted, so we were extended and refused the line in one rank. This was simply not enough for the onslaught, so we were obliged to retire in a hurry. We got out of the pinch with not too many casualties, and marched for our camp. Our objectives had been met. We had occupied the town as a screen to the main army movements, held the town, and the local rebels in check long enough, so once back in camp, the orders were received to fall out, break camp, and pack it all up. Once back on the company streets, the citizens were once more present with their bucketes and cloths, and we availed ourselves of their kindness once more. Shortly, we struck the camp, rolled everything up for the march, and were ready to go. We were to move shortly for assignment elsewhere.
We suffered only a few minor casualties in the two days actions, none worth mention, but the heat was the real enemy, and most all of us have been jaded by it. We all still want to fight, but fight to bring this war to an end. We pray thatthe end will come soon, as the rebels seem less and less able to match our forces, and they must be tired and hungary as well. God grant us the right to see this to a honorable peace. Until then, Lincoln and Liberty is our call.
Your humble and obedient servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.