Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Shenandoah '62 Preservation Event Report
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June 2-4, 2006
Cross Keys & Port Republic, Va.
Port Republic, Va.
June 4, 1862
After a long march down the valley, we arrived at a little church along a country road where all kinds of commotion were occuring. The forces of the Federal Army were being marshalled here to operate in the vicinity of the infamous Stonewall Jackson and his forces. We in this department have thus far, since early May, been engaged and occupied by this campaign to keep Jackson in this valley, and he has been fighting to keep us out.
The little church, aforementioned, is in Luray valley, just to the north and west of the end of Massanutten. We were recorded on arrival, and directed by wagons to our humble bivouac camp. It was on the grounds of a larg efarm. Actually, everything for miles around here are large farms, and the beauty of the farms, fields, mountains, and streams makes a yankee farm boy yearn for home. Once in camp, the main body of troops started arriving piece meal after a time. The commissary was present, the Form 13s were filled, and the rations doled out. Rations were quite plentiful, and consisted of bacon, onions, potatoes, coffee, sugar. All were prepared in anticipation of a continued campaign. We awoke after a pristine night, and the morning reports showed 190 in the battalion, under Col. Watson. The morning was spent with a little company drill, just to remind the boys of their sore feet, and soon a formation was called, and off we marched by the left flank. We crossed some swampy bottom land, and formed in line of battle along a fence line across a field, with our front towards a crest some 150 yards away. In due time, the orders were received to move forward, and so the 8th NY did so, flags flying, Lt. Col. as the point d'apui. No sooner then he crested teh rise, and our flags came on, we were totally surprised by a rebel battalion who arose from behind some rail fences, and laid into us. We were not prepared to return fire, and in the course of what seemed only seconds, we were repeled, and had left many a man on the field.
We scurried back down the hill, through the bottoms, now held by a herd of angry beef, and our crossing was contested by them. Some appropriate bayonets and swords checked their advance, and we reformed on the other side a fraction of force we left with. We could hear the rebel yell, and the screams of the wounded.
We were rested a bit, then transported by every farm conveyance available to a place called McGayesville. Once there, we were rested some, then put in motion along the hills and dales, banks, and bottoms of the valley. We tramped along at a good clip, and enjoyed the fine surroundings a great deal. The air was full of bantering, jokes, and joys. Every once in a while, the column was halted, and once in a while we counter marched. We pulled up next to a fine homestead along a creek, and the owners invited us in to their dooryard. We were allowed to fill our canteens, and they laddled out fresh lemonade and cookies to every man of the troop. What a wonderful discovery to find such Union hearts in the midst of this rebelious valley. We rested our sore feet, some added socks, others removed some. We gave them three time three in thanks and marched off with a lighter step. We approached and then marched along side the South fork for some time, when we were halted and counter marched once more. All in three years, I have been lost since leaving Washington any way, and in such a sublime valley was to not care lost or found. What we all care about is not being surprised by Stonewall again.
We arrived at our evening camp ground, just off the road, and next to the river, and a rail road. The commissary was right up, and the evening rations included incredibly, a Virginia smoked ham one to a company. Also, saurkraut, yams, bread, coffee, sugar. Bully for the Commissary. Our Major was off just before supper, and was reported bathing in the South fork. Some of the boys claimed they were blinded. I for one would have liked to see that regardless! The evening ended early, as the snoring spread across the open fields. In the middle of the night, a train was heard, and the rumblings came closer and closer, until it almost tossed the covers off me. The train passed just a rod from my pallet, and that is how I realized that on the other side of the fence line I was on, was indeed the road bed. Beware the cinders.
Morning came and so did the morning parade. Reports were taken, and then the front rank was faced to the rear, and hats were passed down the line like Sunday collection. The funds were to preserve the lands about us for posterity. Well spent. We were put under arms, and marched to the south, crossing the valley floor towards the mountains. We crossed the river, and went up a ridge beyond a coaling, where we were deployed in line of battle almost to the crest, looking down into a large ravine area.
On the crest, we built a most substantial breastworks with a vigor that veteran soldiers are known to put into self protection. An hour or more passed, and the works got stronger. We put out some skirmishers, and waited for the attack. And it came in due time. The rebels came on in a frenzy, slammed hard into our skirmishers, sending them in, then on to our main line. We replied with a withering volley, followed by fire from every direction. The rebels tried to overlap our lines, and we extended to greet them. They were pushed back. After a time, they came again. Almost the same results, as some of our right flank came round to smack them as they attacked our front. A very messy ordeal there in the woods and the ravine. They were repulsed once more. In the quiet time, many a man was dreading a repeat, others were sure that it was done, that the rebels could not come again, just when.. they came again, yelling and hollering all the way. They hit us hard, and we were stretched thin. Some were out of ammunition, and the position became untenable. The orders were passed to fall back, and rally down the hill. And for the most, they got through the trail down the hill. The Major and I were scooped up by the swarming rebels, and were pushed to the ground, and told not to move, or die. Once the motion was passed, some confederate officers acknowledged us, asked some questions, but were too preoccupied with their own dispositions to worry about our weak answers. In time, they moved on, and left us behind. We made our way back to our lines through the woods. We took the rolls, reported to command, and were dismissed back to our companies. We took the conveyances back to the little church, where the whole episode of Cross Keys and Port Republic had begun. We said our good byes to friends and enemies, and collapsed with happy faces and sad feet.
Your obedient servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.