Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

145th Anniversary First Bull Run Event Report

Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation
July 22-23, 2006
Middletown, Virginia.
Centerville, Virginia
July 23d, 1862

Dear Friends,

Having arrived not too long ago from the highways and turnpikes running west from Washington, I am now situated in the true seat of war in the heart of Virginia. We have hurried to consolidate our army here in response to the movements of the traitors. We arrived in good order, had some consternation finding our command, but all was worth it as we had the farthest camp from the turnpike, but the most nicely settled one, in a corner of a large field, with two bordering tree lines that provided shade and fuel.

Our camp swelled quickly under Major Buffington with four strong companies being commanded, from left to right, by Capt. Herzog, Capt. Meussig, Capt. Hooks, and Capt. Peacock. A fifth company was assigned detached led by Capt. Mike Kelley. The ground was gently sloping from the headquarters, to the kitchens, and thence down the streets, and to the color line, affording a grand view of all the camp and its activities from our little vantage point.

Orders started coming through, and the Officers Call to Brigade was one of an organizational and command alignment nature. We were aligned under the division command of Gen. Valuska. We returned to our battalion, and had our own Officers and NCO's call, where we passed the orders down to the companies and enjoyed the hospitality of friends.

The morning brought a fine day, and was graced by the first sight of the companies turned out for roll, and morning reports streaming into our battalion office. After we got up some coffee, we conducted a guard mount parade that came off without a hitch, and several smiles on the faces of the men for some strange reason. It soon came to be known that the guards were the lucky ones, as the fatigue orders were to detail men for wood detail, for water datail, and a special fatigue was formed to build a bonfire size pile of slash wood dragged from all quarters and piled just beyond the center of our color line.

The day wore on hot, but breezy, and the men did their best to keep cool. Around 1.00 the battalion was formed and we conducted a short dress parade as the 2d New Jersey, and performed a weapons inspection, then marched for the division formation. What a spring in our Jersey steps, as all felt very brassy and bold. Order from above were starting to be confusing, "form here", "join there", "wait for support", and other fits and starts and stops. Seems like the army is not ready for a concerted push, only a lollygag.

We marched, passed a line of artillery, and went into line to the left of the guns at the bottom of a slope. Up to the top, and over, it was expected that the enemy would approach. We had our left company "detached" then "attached", then "detached" again in a mass of confusion. We finally were ordered forward, and the cheers went up, and the flags went forward. Just as we were cresting the hill in line, a vista of the battlefield opened before us, and just then, the clouds also opened upon us. The rain came driving so hard that it was side ways, and the firing became a little dampened. We were strong enough to dissuade the enemy lines from attacking us, and the battle seemed to shift to our left. We marched by the left, and went into line again, pushing a very strong line of rebels, and they working to push us. We stood there and bravely slugged it out, each taking the stock of the other line, with all the little commands and wonderful uniform varieties that this consolidation of troops could offer.

After a time, we were able to advance some, and through a fence line, we halted to catch our breath a little. We were in the rear of a battery of guns, and were posted to protect them. After a time, the rebel waves came crashing up in front of the knoll where the guns and our boys were posted. The guns fired, and we went forward, clashed at close range with the enemy, but were being overwhelmed on both flanks by their sheer numbers. We were obliged to retire, and we did so through and past the guns to the rear. Looking back, the guns were quickly harnessed and dragged out of harm's way by the fleetest of teams. That was a sight to be seen. Men and horses, nostrils flaring, hooves, feet, and wheels thundering away from the danger.

From this point it was an unchecked path back to camp, and while traveling that route, we saw the right of the federal line, comprised of the Federal Regulars, being attacked by the rebel cavalry in strength. The Regulars formed a square in a matter of seconds, and received the attack of the cavalry, which they repeled nicely. They then marched again, and again the cavalry returned, and they formed square once more, and received the attack. The cavalry could see that the formation could not be broken when the Union cavalry came to the infantry support and engaged the rebels directly. This forced the disengagement of the rebels and the fighting tapered off to the end.

The day was done, and back in camp, we all rested, watered, ate, and slept. The bonfire planned was cancelled, and the camp was quite quiet.

The next morning was again clear and sunny. There was no guard mount scheduled, our Major one to observe the Sabbath, and yet the men asked for a guard mount parade. They were denied. Church call was held mid morning, and another Division Officers call. Around 1.00 we once more held a dress parade as the 69th New York. All the havelocks and red shirts were evident. After parade, inspection was conducted, and the Major instructed every company in the manual of arms according to Scott. This produced a very visible and effective presentation of the 69th, and a great comraderie in the ranks. We posed the battalion for a photograhper journalist, and the image was recorded for posterity.

We had a visit from a amiable old man, dressed in sack and army trousers, but the growth of white whiskers upon his face told of his years. His chest was bedecked with a myriad of medals from campaigns past, and he proceeded to tell us of what was to come in the future, when men would congregate and honor the works we are now advancing. He had a great story to tell and a wonderful apperarance, something of a premonition.

We marched once more for the engagement, and effectively executed the same plan as the day before, without the pelting rain. As we advanced to our left, the rebel resistance was stronger, and we advanced, and advanced, and advanced, finally charging their right flank, rolling them up and through the fence line. There was some confusion created by a big man on a horse smoking little things, and his minion messenger running back and forth wheezing orders at us, but they were ignored. Gen. Valuska commanded us directly. The exhilaration was very strong, the boys were pumping. We rested briefly again before taking up the support of the battery. When the action opened again, we advanced upon the rebels, when the remnants of the 5th New York Zouaves came over the crest from our rear, and pitched right onto our right, and started fighting with us like daemons. They were the survivors of their regiment, and were escaping with their colors, and joined in to help us fight. But even their help was not enough to swing the gates our way. We were being slowly pushed back, and back, and back, when Major ordered us to retire, and reform on the other side of the crest. We did move to the rear quickly, amoungst the thundering artillery horses, and some, but not all of the command did halt and reform. The Zou-Zous were right in the thick of it with us, and I saw a couple of them get in the middle of our square, and quickly remove their flag from the staff, and stuff it in the breast of the bearer's coat. We all fought like daemons firing from our stand, when the Major yells, "ok, boys, the jig is up, we need to run!", and so run we did with the rebels right after us, actually collaring by hand some prisoners that were not as fleet of foot. And we ran, we ran as far as we could, then we ran some more, all the way into the night.

Every history that I now read regarding the Battle at Bull Run, tells of the heroes of said battalion or regiment that helps in the rear guard, supporting the safety of the withdrawal of the rest of the army to safety. I for one did not see any of that action on this day, but did see the streams of blue heading east towards the safety of the Washington metropolitan environs. I did see the regulars execute the squares against the cavlary once more, and it was a text book lesson, so well executed, you could tell they were Regulars. They did protect themselves and some of the routed army.

We had a bit of confusion bringing the wagons up, but we were able to pack the camp as quickly as it went up, and we were off in fine shape and spirits, the event was one for the records.

Your humble friend,

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