Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Borderland Event Report
Borderland State Park
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June 18-19, 2005
April 2, 1865
Dear Folks at Home,
I have but a brief opportunity take pen in hand and post you on the most recent developments in our efforts. I must tell you that we now believe that the end of this war cannot be far away. I believe that our operations here in front of Petersburg will eventually break the cycle of cat and mouse, as the mouse now seems out of cheese. We were recently relocated on the grand line surrounding the city, from the south towards the northeast sections. Here the line is well enforced, and we are out on picket every third day for two days.
We started this relocation piecemeal, and so there were several of us coming up near nightfall trying to find the 8CV camps. We took the tour of the camps with the general questions and vague answers and pointing of fingers in general directions, but that lead to several grand laps of the camps. We finally ran into Sgt.Maj. Grieves who both directed us, and then personally lead us to the spot since his tent was also nearby. If it was not for him, we would have been a good time longer in getting to camp. Our camp was on a wooded, rocky hillside, not at all unpleasant. We were able to intersperse our shelters with the boulders, and it was in the center of the area that a fire circle and a good sized downed log were the focus of activities. At least until John and Tim discovered a nest of yellow jackets with the same idea. Our sitting was then limited to the rocks and ground, and not the log proper. Orders were received to remain in camp and that the orders for us to go on picket were countermanded. We spent the evening cooking our rations, singing some bawdy songs, and generally talking of home. The night was cool and clear, and all slept well until an adjacent camp sounded revielle at 5.15 AM. We were up in a flash, then to be turned back in until our camp was awoke anew at 6.30 AM. Roll call and morning reports were the order of the morning, and the frying of salt junk and good coffee commenced. The morning was spent at the manual of arms, getting crisper and sharper as the days in the ranks wear on. A stacking competition tuned the boys all to be able to master it in about eleven seconds average.
The battalion morning dress parade was commenced at 11.00 and all the rank and file were there. A fine looking little band, and all the customs were observed. After the parade, orders came from the Colonel that the 8CV would mount a police guard over the perimeter of the camp, and we obliged with three reliefs and four posts. Being day light, we did not c challenge the military men, but all passing citizens were questioned and cleared for visits to camp if they were determined Union folks. Of course, all seemed to be. Further orders came to assemble the battalion at noon, and be prepared to march at a moments notice. And, indeed, we did march to the west as soon as the formation was made.
We passed along the way a fine plantation house, with gardens, but it all seemed quite empty. We passed there, and continued down a bank, and across a swale, where we came into line, and stacked the companies read y for an attack. The enemy made an appearance directly, and pushed in line of battle firmly upon us. We moved our lines forward and engaged them, us being on the right flank, anchored by a swamp and woods. They pushed our side hard, and we fell back a few times trying to gain a better position and field of fire, but they continued upon us as our ammunition seemed to disappear. We were ordered to fall back to a stone wall, and take up a strong defensive position there, while the left wing covered our move. We got to the wall and prepared to receive the enemy just in the nick of time, and so on they came, and we hurt them bad, but they did push through the wall causing us to leave it behind for them. All this time, one could see so many purple martins screaming over our heads, and I thought that the sound of battle had disturbed them to panic, but soon realized, all the motion on the fields in our front was stirring up the bugs so that the purple martins could not let such an opportunity pass, regardless of the dangers. Our withdrawal from the wall seemed to end the scrap and so we were reformed, and marched for our base camp.
Back in camp, suppers were prepared, and we all caught our breath. We had a stream of visitors from the other companies and persuasions and passed a fine night under the stars once more. Just before taps, orders came from the Colonel that the 8CV would be forming the escort for Grand Rounds that night. We all stood in readiness, until about 10.00 PM, when we moved out, one platoon in front, the Head Quarters contingent in the middle, including General Grant and Col. Burbank, and a platoon in the rear. As we marched along a wood road towards the outpost, we could hear movements probably of the rebel pickets in the woods to our left some distance. It seemed that our outpost was too far from camp, and that the communications were stretched. Now, let me mention some about Genl Grant. Many say that the rumors of his habits are questionable. He is the finest leader, but let me tell you, there is no question about his habits. He was most unmanagable in the way of us protecting him, and had to be herded back in the column at every step, or should I say stumble. His conversation or orders were indistinguishable from the mumble of a brook. Upon reaching the first pickets, we were challenged, and Capt. Kurtz answered "Grand Rounds" and I was advanced with the countersign. The picket then stood aside and let us pass to the next post. The picket support was next, and the guard was turned out, the second relief from their beds, and Genl Grant rousted a man himself, which was met with grumbles. Col. Burbank proceeded to get the report of Capt. Bryda, and commenced charging from one picket to the next without escort to ascertain the true situation. The reports all pointed to much activity beyond our line by the enemy. They were active, in motion, and harassing the pickets constantly. Once satisfied, the Col. detached a relief to bolster the strength of the escort back to camp, and along the way, I was bringing up the rear, as we were proceeding left in front. I heard, and almost saw several indications of the enemy shadowing us, but our renewed strength caused them not to spring any trap they may have concocted seeing us on the way out. Back in the main camp, we were thanked, dismissed, and ordered to relief the pickets at 5.00 AM. We slept soundly, and were gotten up and in line at 4.45 AM, and marched for the outpost.
We arrived there to the welcome of the 28MA and found that they had indeed bagged four rebel prisoners in the time we were gone. Congratulations were passed all around, and everyone wanted hear what intelligence had been learned from the prisoners. It seemed that they talked constantly about all sorts of things, but nothing intelligent. They were very well clothed, fed, and equipped, even better than some of us. They talked so much that the Capt. moved his guard tent down the road about 100 yards so he would not have to listen to their banter, and left only a small guard on the chatty prisoners. We made the rounds, and relieved the pickets with ours. There we stood, fully expecting to receive the engagement from any direction at any time. After a few turns at the posts, we heard the distant sound of muskets, and realized the main camp was engaged. We were presently sent for via courier, and marched at great haste to support the fight. We went into a large flanking move around the right, and proceeded to flush many rebel skirmishers out to our front, and right into the waiting arms of our infantry lines. We fired not a shot, but helped in the capture of twenty or more prisoners.
Back in camp, Sunday morning was observed with a hot meal, coffee, testament readings, and a good nap. Once the bright of morning was in the sky, the General was sounded, and we struck our camp and readied for the march. Orders were received that the battalion would pass in review before the march for Genl Grant and other dignitaries assembled. And so we did in full marching gear, a short review, yet with all the pomp. We proceeded to march once again to the west, and were posted at a small open earthen fort, hardly discernible to the eye. There we waited and the rebels advanced, to our surprise on a similar fort to our left, then, being turned there, came our way. We were not as strong as they, and so they took the fort, and we made for the rear in good order, looking for supports. We were brought towards the center of the action, and opened on the now massing rebel lines at close range with little effect. Our rate of fire tapered off as the ammunition was quickly expended, The amount of confusion and frustration in the ranks over the surprise and the ability to fend them off was in the air. Then we were ordered forward, and with a unified push we were able to rout the enemy from the front, send them back whence they came, and regain the ground and fort lost earlier. That is the end of the action I can write about in this letter, as I must soon close.
We are now forming to march back to the south of the lines again, and assume our old position I imagine. This war is turning into a cat and mouse affair, where ever the mouse tries to squeeze an advantage, the cats are quickly focused to remove the chance. And so it goes. I do hope this war will end this spring, as the enemy is surely loosing the numbers game, as we press more and more Union soldiers into their back yards, and strangle their lines of supply. The deed is not yet done, but we all pray that it will soon be done.
Most of the boys from home who are with us still are hearty and well. Bob is making a fine run at the company Jonah slot, as he no longer has any competition for the post. Please remember me to all inquiring friends, and I remain
Your son and brother,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.