Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Summer of '62 Event Report
Western Maryland Historical Foundation
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August 27-28, 2005
near Manassas Junction, Va.
August 29th, 1862
I have intended to write on a regular basis, but the recent events in this area, which you probably have seen in the papers, have kept me away from the pen. I take this time, after taps, to write a few lines to you. I have recd your of the 19th inst, and am glad to hear that you all are well. Tell George that school is a serious business, and he should be better applied in this coming term.
We arrived here about suppertime Friday, and were directed to our camps, which were quite a walk from the station where the cars left us off. We were packed for the march when a farmer came round with his wagon and team, and offered us a ride to the place. We gladly accepted his offer and heartily thanked him for his kindness. We arrived to find the camp already established by our QM, a fine camp along a glade with ever company in line and a Hd. Qtrs. set upon a little rise in the center along a path back into the woods. The Major had erected a large fly in the shelter tent style, and offered a bed there for me which I accepted, since the drizzle was falling and I have no inclination to set my shelter out right then. We received written orders for officers to appear at brigade head quarters at 8.00 P.M., which we complied with. General Air had prepared a table of hospitality even more generous than he is normally known for. All were pleased, discussed the army business, and then proceeded to socialize as officers are known to do for some time. The brigade was composed of four battalions, being the MG, NR, and VB combined under Colonel Siganuk, the 1st and 2d USV under Captain Childs, the Western Brigade under Colonel Lavis, and our own USV3B with help from Co.I, under Major Buffington. It almost seemed that the General was too generous, since it took quite some time to exhaust the guests and return them to their camps. We discussed the possible operations long into the night, and retired to a good night of sleep and rain.
The moring brought revielle at 7 A.M. with Sgt.Maj. Sedlak performing excellent service getting the report in and the orders out. Our consolidated report went in for 9, and police guard was mounted at 9.30. We conducted a battalion drill at 10.00 A.M. and attended a reconnaissance of the field at 11.00.
The battalion was formed and marched for the fields in front of Cedar Mountain. We were positioned deep in the woods on the right flank of the line. We watched as testing engagements by skirmishers, cavalry, and infantry exploded around us across the fields. Then the Confederate lines were found in our front, only facing away from us, and their right wing refusing. The orders were given to attack them, and we did so in column of divisions, with a cheer. Our first division broke out into the field and smashed into the enemy right flank, enveloping them. A great melee of hand to hand broke out, and the rebel colors went back and forth and up and down. The flank company of rebels was captured to the man, and sent to the rear. The colors did escape in the confusion, as the short success we had in surprise was turned by the surprise of Archer's Brigade counter attacking us on our flank, and causing us to be routed. We retired, bringing as many of our wounded as possible, as the cavalry attacked in column from our location. They checked the enemy advance while we made good our retreat, but they too were repeled and retired as well. Thus ended the battle. Our Confederate prisoners were called into line by their captain, and to our surprise, serenaded us with a full round of "One Ball Rielly", to which was all cheered their good spirits. They were paroled, and we all returned to camp.
Soon, written orders for another reconnaissance were received, and off we went in the direction of Groveton. Once more the brigade was formed, our battalion was formed as the 56th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and conducted an evening dress parade prior to marching for the front. The custom is specifically regulated to not be dispensed with except in extreme situations, and ours was not extreme as yet. We marched for a time, and the battalions were deployed in line in front of a tree line opening across a massive expanse of fields, leading to a small farm and orchard, marked on the maps as the Brawner Farm. The action commenced with an artillery exchange that went on for some time. The guns went silent, and the battalions on our left and right were sent forward. They closed towards the center, and encountered a very strong rebel line just this side of the farm, and the battle raged. The rebel line seemed to lap ours on both ends, and the center started to open a hole large enough to drive an attack through. It was ordered that it would be the 56th Pa. to fill the hole, and so off we went, in column of companies, and when we hit the line, deployed on first company, and opened in succession. We did indeed plug the hole, and the rebels did not advance in that direction. The fighting was fierce, and regular pugilistic affair. Our casualties were mounting, but the boys stood steady, and poured it into the lines of grey across the field in the dusk and falling darkness. As the ammunition began to dwindle, we were obliged to open the boxes of the wounded, and still kept fighting. But the ammunition ran out on the left and right first, they being in longer, and the Colonel on the left was down, and the battalions started giving ground, and the rebels were there to take it. Finally, we were also compelled to retire, which we did in good order, stopping and firing as we went. Darkness caused the engagement to cease. We marched from whence we came.
Another drizzled night was spent in our bivouac, but the spirits of the boys were never dampened. Songs and stories, and the laughing went on right up to, and in some cases, after taps.
Morning came, and the camp was wet and muddy, but the sky was lighter, and the promise of a good day for the Sabbath was upon us. But the day of the week did not change the army business at all. Revielle was sounded promptly at 7, and I arose and stood on the little knoll in front of our humble HQ path. I saw the finest sight, each Captain getting the companies on line, the orderlies calling the roll, and the soldiers going from support to order, multiply times five, and you can see me pleasure at our well oiled machine of a battalion. All should be proud to be part of this command. Reports were received and sent, the orders were transmitted by runners around the brigade, the police guard was mounted, and all was usual. Orders for a 9.45 A.M. reconnaissance were recieved and obeyed. Our battalion was formed as the 63d Pennsylvania Volunteers. Once done, the brigade was formed, and marched in the direction of the Junction. We were placed on the extreme left flank of the line, assembled and face toward an unfinished rail road cut, or more precisely, embankment. There we waited for the orders to engage. The plan was once again, to engage the left and right, to pin the enemy in place, and to then deliver an attack directly into the center of their lines, to smash through, and roll them up. We were the first to advance, which we did in column, then deployed, then forward, until we can in sight of the rebel positon behind the road. We came to a halt, unleased a battalion volley, then were ordered to prepare to chage, port arms, forward, double quick, march! With a yell the 63d Pa. stepped off and went right for the rebel line. The advance was right up to the cut, and our colors of the 63d were planted right in front of the rebels. But the rebels fired right into our faces, and many a man went down. We were ordered back, and under the brow, we reformed in line, angry as hornets, and unleashed a volley, and charged again. We did not have any better success. In this advance, our Col. Hays was wounded. Once more, we were ordered back, and reformed. And once more we vollied, and charged, passing over our own wounded as we went forward, they lending a spirit to us, but the momentum could not be gathered. Reform and charge once more. We were repelled a third time, and we retired. This time when we reformed, we were only a quarter of what we had started with. The boys were firm and staedy and they continued to fire at the rebel position to keep them in check. As I looked towards the center of the field, I saw the most sublime sight in battle. Here came a battalion from the right, towards the center, and out in the center, came an attacking column of regiments, straight for the center. Then you could see the first contact, and the sound of voices, both human and muskets raised to a din. The column kept moving forward, and it was clear that the line had been breeched. All the regiments went through it, and we continued to lock their right flank in postion in our front so they could not lend assistance to the center. A seeminly long time went by in this condition, but as I hear it now, the breaking of the line was met with rebel reserves, and the attack could not turn to roll the lines. The Union effort was checked, and after that long time, they were forced back and through the hole, and the rebel line was whole once more. The rebels then determined to conduct a general advance from the cut, which they did, forcing Kearney's assault to retire. But as duck and darkness fell, the rebels once more took up their position along the rail road, and we, only the quarter of us, stoppped firing, but held our ground. This ended the second battle of Bull Run.
We marched for the camps, sounded the general, loaded the baggage, and received orders to march, leaving the area for the Rebels, and moving to support Washington and our homes to the North. Those of us for duty are exhausted, but the unfortunate wounded and killed are more unfortunate. We do not know what will become of the 63d, only God and Pope know for sure. Please write often, pray for us all, and for our Country.
Your obedient servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.