Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Fort Trumbull Living History Weekend Report
Fort Trumbull State Park
E-Mail Us for More Information!
August 16-17, 2008
New London, Conn.
August 17, 1863
Fort Trumbull, New London, Conn.
I am very pleased to be back on Connecticut soil once more, and enjoying my special duty from the seat of war back home to train and escort the recent draftees and substitutes for the Old Eighth back again.
I arrived in New London on Friday evening, and found the appearance of the Fort Trumbull very pleasant. The old granite fort was quite an imposing structure on the peninsula just below the town, guarding the Thames river and the harbor along with Fort Griswold, of Revolutionary fame, across the way on the Groton side of the river. As I made my way from the road to the fort, I was welcomed by our Corporal Hamil, also detailed, along with Sgts. Bayreuther and Rossberg. We settled into our company street, established on the parade grounds just outside the sally port of the fort. There were several draftees and substitutes arriving and reporting for duty. They were mostly boarded up in the garrison rooms of the fort so that they might be easier to account for. They seems to be mostly pleasant people, but not the most happy one could imagine. The story would not improve from my first impressions. The first night in New London was a little cloudy and a gentle but steady rain commenced. I for one was quite used to a good soaking, but nonetheless, retired to the barracks in the fort for some time. It did appear to me that the air inside the fort was not all that healthy, so I adjourned to my spacious wedge tent for the evening.
In the morning, the drums beat revielle, and the men were called out and rolls were called. Not to anyone's surprise, there were several instances of no answers from the names called. The security in the fort was quite strict, but not quite strong enough. Several had simply slipped away. Such is the worth of the draft. The ones that did stay were instructed, admonished, and yet welcomed to the ranks of our veteran regiment. They were instructed in the manual of arms, loading in nine times, school of the soldier and school of the company. Mid morning found the Corporals leading fatigue details around the fort. One detail polished the Rodmans on the South Battery, others were posted and instructed as police guards, and still others were detailed to straighten the barracks. There was a detail of some of the beset boasters of marksmenship, and trial and target shooting session was conducted for the sharpshooters recruitment. One private failed to hit the board at all, another only hit it twice outside the mark, and one private put all his shots inside the white circle. He was granted detail to the sharpshooters, the lowest man was awarded a pair of spectacles.
Around 10.00 A.M. it was announced that Governor William Buckingham had arrived via carriage from the station to inspect the Fort, and the men. He indeed had arrived, and I hurried to greet him. I found him in good spirits, accompanied by his wife, and eager to see to the well-being of the Connecticut men there as well as those at the front. The Governor is indeed a remarkable man. He is knowledgable, eloquent, earnest. He is also a successful man both in politics and business. He is one of the founders of the Norwich Free Academy, and donates 1/5th of his income for good works every year. We toured the fort, and he found all in order, then dismissed me and his military escort, and proceeded to stroll the grounds and engage the public.
We called in the first relief, and had some time for dinner. After that, we assembled the entire company inside the fort, on parade, where the Governor inspected the troops, and addressed the new soldiers as well as the public. He was brief, but well received. Our Corporal Hamil also addressed the public, discussing and describing the equipments and tactics of the army such that they may better understand our demonstrations. We proceeded to march out of the fort to the south parade, where we demonstrated to him and the public how quickly the new soldiers can learn the drill, and learn to shoot as a company. The demonstration got a little hot and sweaty, but I assured the men that they should enjoy their good fortune to be here in New London on the breezy bay, rather than in the bowels of Virginia breathing dust. Their time will come to appreciate the subtle differences and degrees of suffering.
Upon the evening, many of the soldiers were allowed to dine in town, with their families, for the last time. Most took advantage of the situation, and headed to an Irish pub. The Corporal and I enjoyed a fine pork loin that he has procured and prepared upon the campfire as we are more used to eating. There was plenty and it was very well appreciated. The rations available at home are nothing compared to those of the southern campaign. We passed the beautiful night around the fire, talking and joking, and turned in once the fort gates were closed and locked.
The morning came as it is want to do, bringing us a Sabbath of sublime weather. The rolls were called, and yes, there were still more vacancies. How these slippery men get away is quite remarkable. What is more remarkable is that they seem to believe that they will get away with it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Then...
As the orderly and I were discussing the posting of the guard, it seemed that suddenly, there were no men around at all. Indeed they were all out of camp. Assuming that Corporal Hamil was on fatigue with them, we resumed our conversation. It was soon heard from around the side of the fort a chant, "We want pay, we want pay". It was determined that the men had been put up to this demonstration by the Corporal himself. Sgt. and I proceeded to them, and at once arrested the two Corporals amongst the men, and escorted them to the guard house, and put them behind bars under guard. The rest of the men were admonished to get back to their details or suffer the same. All went well, until, being the Sabbath, and I feeling generous, proceeded to the guard house. I was going to allow the corporals to apologize, and I would suspend their sentence. However, all I found there was the guard unconscious on the ground and the cell door thrown open, the room empty. The guard at the sally port reported no one passing, so I scoured the fort with my eyes, but found no prisoners.
I returned to camp, and was gathering a detail to trap them on the point, when they were seen behind the magazines. They had escaped the fort via some trap door, but were quickly snagged once spotted outside. They were both disciplined to carry a full water keg about the perimeter of the camp, but it took some time for Hamil to loose his sand. Once aware that their acts were not going to amount to much, they both returned to duty, and nothing more was said of the whole affair. Such an example for the draftees had to be set, and I hope it made a mark on their minds what the army expected of them, and what they could expect from the army.
In the afternoon we once again formed, inspected, drilled, demonstrated, and fired our weapons for us and the public. Soon, the fort was ordered closed to the public, and the company was ordered to break camp and pack the trains for the trip south. I was pleased to be home in Connecticut, but the company I encountered here was not that interesting. I do not wish to be among the bombproofs and stay-at-homes any longer. I do wish to soon be in a worse place with better friends within the week. I do hope that some of you might have the opportunity to stop here and see me before I am off. We here that the trains will be running from here to Saybrook, thence to New Haven, by steamer to New York, then to Fortress Monroe, and finally over to Portsmouth to rejoin the regiment. We had 119 draftees assigned on the first day here at Fort Trumbull. There are considerably less today. I imagine I will be measured by the number we can deliver to the Colonel in Portsmouth.
Lincoln and Liberty !
All for the Union,
Your humble servant,
Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.