Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
South Congregational Church, Hartford, Connecticut Event
Sunday, October 13, 2013
The Eighth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry
152 Years Later – The Meeting at South Church, Hartford, Connecticut
Good morning. It is an honor to be asked by my Captain to say a few words about the history and experiences of the Eighth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.
We were organized at Camp Buckingham, named after our illustrious war-governor, William Buckingham, in Hartford, during the month of September, 1861. It was shortly after the war began and the Union had suffered its disastrous defeat at Bull Run.
We felt impelled to stand forth in defense of our sacred Union to make certain that the work of our grandfathers, the revolutionary forbears of this great nation, was not undone at the hands of secessionists.
The Eighth was commanded by Colonel Edward Harland of Norwich. Before our departure from Hartford on October 17th, our colonel felt it important that the regiment and its loved ones gather together here at South Church, to commit ourselves to one another and gain the almighty’s blessing; that we not falter in the work that would come before us. It was 152 years ago this very day that we filled the pews of this sacred place. Can you feel the echoes of our history, of our cause?
Just days later, we left Connecticut, for a fortnight stay at a camp of instruction in Jamaica, Long Island. On November 1st we proceeded to Annapolis, Maryland, and in January, 1862, we sailed with General Ambrose Burnside’s grand expedition to the South. We witnessed our first battle at Roanoke Island on February 7th, though we did not fight there, being held in reserve.
Our baptism of blood came at Newbern, North Carolina on March 14th. We fought hard and aided in the capture of five hundred Confederate troops. We also lost our first men.
Private Halsey Phelps of Company B – he was from East Windsor – and Private Charles Patterson of Company I – from Roxbury – were killed and four others from our regiment were wounded. This saddened our men, but steeled us in the cause for which we were fighting.
The personal bravery of Colonel Harland amid the whistling bullets, together with his skill and cool-headednesss as a tactician, and his evident desire to shield the men from harm whenever possible, gave us a confidence in him which was never afterward shaken.
For the next several months we marched throughout the region, performing various duties, until a long march brought us to western Maryland, where we were engaged in the greatest and most devastating day of the war. It remains the bloodiest day in American history. At Antietam the Union and Confederate armies lost a combined 23,000 killed and wounded. The slaughter was horrible, and the Eighth had its share of suffering. It was our worst loss during the war, with 194 killed, wounded, and missing.
The war dragged on for two more years, and we fought at places that live on in our nation’s memory – Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the trenches at Richmond.
In the midst of this slaughter, our devotion never wavered. In December, 1863, 310 of our original members re-enlisted as veterans. In January, 1864, we came home to Connecticut for a brief furlough. We enjoyed the warmth of our families and the fires of our own homes.
But return to the field we did, serving until we were mustered out on December 12, 1865, after four years and two months of service. During that time we lost 264 men killed in battle, mortally wounded, or who died from disease. Another 405 survived their often grievous wounds. 84 of our men were captured. One of our gallant band, Corporal Nathan Hickok of Company A – from Danbury – was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing a Confederate flag.
Our tattered colors in the Hall of Flags, in our State’s Capitol Building, only a short distance from where I stand today, speak more eloquently of the Eighth’s service than I can do. The brave men who helped to make and maintain the Eighth’s honorable record did not suffer or die in vain if the blessings of constitutional liberty are duly appreciated by those in whose behalf we laid down our lives.
The men who stand before you are the descendants and history keepers of the Eighth Connecticut. We travel throughout this state and the nation making sure that the devotion of men who came before us lives on through our memories and deeds. The camaraderie that kept the Eighth fortified in the dark days of war still exists among these men and their families. We have marched together, sweated on the fields and shouldered muskets where the original Eighth did, and, in whatever small way we can, carry on their legacy.
We offer to you today an invitation to join us in remembering and living this history. Join the men of the Eighth. Be a part of this history by joining the regiment. For it is only in remembering what forged and maintained this Union of States that we can continue to remember its value. Now more than ever, with the challenges that face us domestically and internationally, we need to heed the words of our founders – we are greater together than apart. E pluribus unum – out of many, one.
Dr. Matthew Warshauer,
Central Connecticut State University,
Connecticut Civil War Commeration Committee
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Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.