Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
Gettysburg 145th Aniversary - "At High Tide"
June 27-29, 2008
July 5, 1863
Our forward camping detail, composed of Sgt.Maj. Dan and Adjutant Kim arrived on the fields of Gettysburg in the mid afternoon on Thursday. We were not hurried, and did pass through the town and looked around some in search of shoes. We spent some time south of town looking around the Round Tops, the Wheatfield, and the Peach Orchard, prior to reporting to camp. We arrived there, and found the provost, then the commander, General Air himself. We were escorted to the camp of the USV3R and it was very agreeable indeed. The camp consisted of about an acre of ground in a pleasant glade of trees, nicely spaced to give maximum shade, and had been grazed to provide flat dry grassy spaces upon which to tent. We proceeded to erect a fly for the HQ and field desk, then set to pitching our shelters in the double long style for protection from the thunderstorms anticipated. We laid out six company streets, and then set to relaxing as the forces began to roll in. We went into town for some supper, and returned to a relaxing night in the company of the new arrivals. Sleeping was pleasant, and by the morning the acreage was filled with closely packed tents and soldiers.
Friday morning dawned with the continuing arrival of the troops. We once again ran the guard and procured a fine breakfast back in town at the Avenue where we met more soldiers eating. We made a loop or two through the MacPhearsons Ridge and East Cemetery Hill areas, and returned to our duties at camp. We directed and jockeyed the camp until all were in place about the place by late afternoon. The boys of the Eighth were present in grand numbers, and all appeared to be in good health and fine spirits. The Colonel and Major arrived about sundown, and we erected a large fly for their abode at the head of the camp. All was well accounted for, and everything was in first rate order. There was an officers call at eight o'clock, and we were introduced to each and every staff officer for the entire event. Quite a cast of characters, or should I say the usual suspects. We passed another pleasant night in the company of all our friends, and once again slept well.
Reveille was sounded Saturday at 6:30 A.M., and all the companies poured onto their streets for role, the morning reports were filed, and the work of consolidation covered my desk for some time. The aggregate for duty was reported to brigade at 175 officers and men. There was a field and staff officers meeting to review the plan of battle for the day. The battalion was formed on the little log road that constituted our color line in our little woods, and we marched off to the south. We passed hill and dale, and trees and fields, and started to feel the Pennsylvania sun. We went into column of companies, and marched north once more, to the sound of skirmishing. The blue bunting flag of the 56th Penn. Vols. was flying along with us. As we advanced, the order to double quick was given, and as we approached a long ridge, we were ordered to deploy quickly, which was done with veteran precision. We were faced with the enemy advancing in large numbers, and we very quickly were ordered to load, aim by the right oblique, and fire. Such was the first regimental volley of the battle of the century. We held for some time, and when low on ammunition, we were obligated and then ordered to retire in order, which the boys did with a grudge. We were retired to a place under the brow of the hills, and got some water, rested, and were sent back in.
We reformed in line of battle as the 151st Penn. Vols. The boys of the 150th were to our front, engaged. They were starting to run low on ammunition and were in need of relief. The orders came for us to take their place in line, and so we executed a passing of troops, by the right of companies to the front, and very quickly were in their place checking the advance of the enemy in that quarter.
As the fight wore on, the enemy numbers were compelling our lines to tighten with the losses, and the pressure soon forced all of the Union troops here to fall back through town to the hills beyond, which we did with some speed and alacrity.
We were returned to camp where we got up some dinner rations, some fine jar of sweet pickles appeared that tasted better than candy. We rested the most of the afternoon. We were called to fall in around 5.00 P.M. and the battalion was marched to the open field beyond the camp in the trees, and an evening dress parade of the 107th Ohio Volunteers was held. We were inspected, and then marched to the base of Cemetery Hill and deployed among the other lines of defense there. The brow of the hill was glistening with the muzzles of many a cannon, and the skies beyond were gathering storm clouds as we settled in for the time being. But the clouds threatened, and the lightning and thunder commenced and rolled quickly towards us. The orders came to march back to camp as discretion became the better part of valor. The storm hit just as the last were off the hill, and it commenced blowing and driving rain for an hour or two. It did then pass, and was not heard or seen again. Once more, a pleasant night among all our friends was passed in camp, and the sleeping was very comfortable.
Sunday morning Reveille was also at 6.30 A.M., and the rolls and reports followed the same mundane army pattern as any day before. Consolidated present for action was 170 officers and men. We enjoyed a breakfast of fried side of bacon, potatoes, soft bread, and coffee with the 28th Mass. Vols. There was an 8.00 A.M. Catholic service, and orders to fall in for Inspection at 9.00 A.M. The time came, and our senior captain Muessig was in command of the camp. We formed, and marched to the drill grounds. We were in line of battle, and went into column of companies by form column of companies, on first company, right in front, battalion, right face, march. The inspection was conducted by the book, or rather, by reading the book, and all went well. Conduction the Inspection was good instruction for all involved, and many questions were asked as we went through the operations. It was a good instructional effort.
From that formation, we had our weapons inspected, and were joined by the company of the 116th NY to flesh our our Irish Brigade. We marched to the rendezvous point, and were put in column of regiments, left in front, then marched to the top of the crest of Cemetery Ridge. There we were met by our brigade chaplain, Fr. William Corby. He compelled us all to kneel in column of regiments, and gave us all the sacrament of absolution. It was a very moving experience, and many a head was bowed in prayer for the last time this side of Heaven.
The order came to march by the left flank to the south to support the actions proceeding precipitated by the movement forward of Sickle's Third Corps. We moved in three parallel flank marches, the green flags of the brigade snapping in the breeze. As we approached the edge of the wheatfield, we were halted and ordered to deploy. We were ordered to face by the rear rank, then deploy brigade, on the third regiment, by inversion, brigade, right face, march. That put us all on the line of battle, inverted by flank, and by the rear rank in front. Some confusion was sensed, but the veterans of the irish Brigade now knew the fight was at hand. We all advanced in that line of battle, again all guiding center on the green flags we love. The fighting started almost immediately, and the losses started to mount. We fought closely with the rebels, and surprised some, overrunning them and taking them prisoners. But we slammed into a strong line of Kershaw's South Carolinians, and the fighting was severe. The wheatfield turned into a tornado of death. The Irish stood to it, but were compelled to retire from lack of ammunition and lack of support. We came out with some confusion, and reformed our lines at the base of Little Round Top. The reserves there bolstered our line, and the Confederate forces were reluctant to push further.
We marched by route step to our initial launching place, retired the green and the spades, and were moves back to Cemetery Ridge. We witnessed the gallant and heroic charge of the 1st Minnesota to our right, and saw the carnage they experienced in plugging the lines. We went forward as the 153rd Penn. Vols, the "Harpers Ferry" regiment. They were captured at the battle of Antietam, and had recently been paroled, and they were angry. Their charge also was necessary to plug the holes in the Union line, and we did that with a fierce intent, and while loosing many an officer and man, we stemmed the tide of the enemy assault at that place on the line.
That was about the last thing we were required to do. The Colonel spoke of his thanks to all, and bade everyone safe traveling to their next locale. Dismissed. The packing of the camp took only about one tenth the time to set it up, and within an hour or two the little woods was turned back to how we found it almost three days ago. The feet and wagons hauled off everything, and the woods were clear and quiet again. The threat of invasion was gone, and the Pennsylvania farmland was returned to normal once more.
All are well in spite of our trials. The heat was ferocious, but the breezes sustained us. Only a few were sun struck, one or two dangerously. Our boys are well, Bob has carelessly lost his haversack, but found again, I has eated all his food. I might sell it back to him when we cross paths next. Hal had been missing but the insurance man seemed not to care. We are mostly exhausted but in high spirits after such a decisive victory for our army and our country. The rebels are surely whipped now. All for the Union!
Your humble & obedient servant,
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Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.