Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers

Company A, Inc.

145th Anniversary of the Battle of McDowell Report

May 4-6, 2007
McDowell, Virginia

Dear Friends,

Tensions in the western Shenandoah Valley have erupted in battle over the past several days, and our army is now abandoning the McDowell vicinity. Those that you know are mostly well.

We concentrated the troops of the 82d Ohio Volunteers and the 3d Virginia Loyals here in the little town of McDowell Friday. Our trip up the valley, and then into the mountains to the west was uneventful, but for the wagon we had started on breaking down along the way. After transferring our equipments to a second wagon, we proceeded and made good time on the trip. We arrived in McDowell around sunset, and found our way to our camp or camps as it was. The companies of the 82d were sprinkled in every side yard and open lot from one end of the town, near the white church, to the other, in the side yard at the George Washington Hull plantation. The Hull house is certainly the finest in town, and maybe in Virginia. It is a fine brick manor house of three floors, and large expanse. The first company was camped adjacent to the brigade headquarters, next to the general store. Gen. Watson, making the museum his own, and the staff operations in the front yard. The second company was situated in the garden next to a fine house, adjacent to the white church. Third company was at the Hull property. Our battalion headquarters were in a back yard behind a small house, and next to a brick church.

Arriving, I was greeted by a rather pleased QM Hornbaker, who was in advance setting the camps. He was pleased to hand over all the general and special orders that brigade had been generating for our arrival, and take a well deserved break from all the leg work he had been performing on our behalf. Sgt.Major and I set to pitching our tents and setting up the battalion desk and offices to commence the business of army administrivia. After dark, the Lt.Colonel arrived, and was apprised of the situations and we took a tour of the companies, instructing the officers and non-commissioned, setting the paperwork and details for our new situation in progress. There was a brigade officers meeting at the white church that evening, and all was in preparation for facing the enemy very soon at this place.

The evening was spent quietly around our fires, and it was a bit strange not to be surrounded by the boys, but rather have to hike to each company. Hal, Nate, Don, and Joe are with the second company, Dan and I at battalion. We chat with them on guard, and sometimes in their streets during the day when time and circumstances allow.

In the morning, Saturday, revielle brought roll calls, and morning reports. Sgt.Major helped me consolidate them, checked the arithmetic, and off to brigade with the reports. QM Hornbaker commenced putting together the company ration returns for the battalion, and detailed men from each company to draw rations. The AAG at headquarters rejected my consolidated due to errors in arithmetic, and I was embarrassed at my lack of sharpness in executing my position. I humbly took the forms back and revised them corrected. In the meantime, QM went to draw first, and was also rejected, due to my errors, and was also sent to revise his forms, with the consequence that the 82d would now draw last. We got through it well, but the rations drawn were only in adequate supply.

The battalion mounted a police guard at 9:00 A.M. and posted six sentries. Guard tent was located at brigade HQ, and the guards were constantly in contact with the women, children, and some young ruffians of the environs. All were treated civilly, but with some caution as to their intentions towards Lincoln's soldiers. Some depredations were reported to HQ, but never confirmed.

The remaining soldiers for duty were drilled in their companies, and otherwise occupied in packing and cooking in anticipation of changing events. Around 3:00 P.M. artillery and skirmishing from the 3d Virginia was heard as the first contact with the advancing Rebels under Jackson arrived in the valley of the Bullpasture river. All forces were ordered into line in full marching order, and advanced to meet the enemy. There was a high bluff to which we faced, and the enemy soon appeared at the top, firing down on us, and us up at them. They tested our strength, tried to turn either flank, and we were strong enough to hold. They then determined to attack the center, and came charging over the brow, and down the incline in great force. The 82d held, fired, then charged them directly to buy time for the rest to withdraw, before withdrawing ourselves. We beat it to the south along the river, and did not stop until safely out of McDowell. It is now in enemy hands, or taken from enemy hands, depending on your point of view.

We halted, took the rolls, and determined that several of our men were missing, captured, or wounded. We headed south some more, and turned into the forests at the base of a large mountain, to bivouac for the night, most all our baggage being gobbled up be the rebels. At this time it commenced to rain, and not just sprinkle. All the boys set to building shebangs and the like. I completed our ordinance returns, and the Form 22 for casualties. I did not create them in duplicate,but reported them to the AAG, who determined for me to only provide a consolidated count to him, and for me to keep the original forms bearing the names and the dispositions so that the line company commanders could write home to these men's families. Another lesson learned. Still raining, I personally elected to sit under a tree, or just lay with my rubber blanket, as my experiences have taught me that the effort of building any elaborate shelter of such primitive materials does no good over just covering yourself when it is time to repose.

There were detailed from each company in the brigade 6 men for advanced guard. Several did not want to go, and several others did. Those that wanted to were successful in changing the minds of the reluctant to the positive, and the guard was mounted and marched off up the mountain to watch and warn of the enemies approach for the duration of the night.

The rain continued and there was several that left their bivouac to seek shelter in barns and churches, but the bulk of the veterans just stuck to the camp, and took it all in stride. "All in three years." Dan and I did steal into town, now held by the Confederates. We witnessed blazing fires at our old headquarters, and the rebels dry in our tents. We also witnessed grand hospitality of the citizens of McDowell for the rebel soldier gathered in reverie on every veranda. Now, that was not the reception the locals gave our boys in blue. A rebel officer by the name of Dave asked us in passing in the night if we would care to spend the night in the church. We thanked him for his hospitality, but we declined. We wandered back to our bivouac otherwise undetected and unmolested. About midnight, the rains slowed, the stars came out, and the cold front came on. It continued to sprinkle on and off during the early morning, and I for one was never so happy to hear revielle that Sabbath morning and bring an end to my wet nap.

The men were put in line directly. I tried to piece together a consolidated morning report without the assistance of the company reports due to the dire circumstances. This was my second mistake at reporting, because in the confusion, I did not account for all the men sheltered away, nor the bulk of the men detailed for advanced guard. In fact, the Lt.Colonel was not present, and so the command of the 82d devolved on Capt. Peacock. My morning numbers did not account for changes since yesterday, and the AAG let me know that. So, the line was formed and the brigade moved out in the direction of the guards, up Sitlington's Hill, towards the expected enemy position.

After marching up and up and up for about two miles, we neared a saddle along the ridges, and deployed into line. Soon, from over the crest of the mountain came the rebel attack, and we stood our ground and fired like fiends at the foe. They attacked us in waves, and we continued to shift our lines to our left, towards the crest of the hill. Soon, they attacked once more, but could not break our lines, and we moved toward the crest, which we obtained. The fight lasted all of about an hour, and that was all. Casualties were moderate on both sides. Our position on the crest was now deemed unsupportable, since the rebels were feared to be bringing artillery to bear on the hill, and upon the town itself. At that point, the military value of McDowell was none, and the withdrawal through town, and to the north towards Franklin was ordered.

We have started our march north, without much encumberance of baggage, left behind with the citizens of McDowell, but are glad to be on the move, and away from Thomas Jackson and his army. I hope to face them again soon, with a better position and a larger army of our own. We will prevail. The 82d Ohio Volunteers served admirably, like veterans all. I hope that we will not see more of the country, but will end it here in the valley, and be home to the Buckeye state before the harvest.

Your humble servant,

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