Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Company A, Inc.
155th Anniversary Seven Days Battles
June 3-4, 2017
Endview Plantation and Lee Hall Plantation
Newport News, Va.
Harrison's Landing, Virginia
The gods of war have been working their will with the strength and determination of soldiers on both sides here on the Peninsula between the James and the York rivers. The news from here since the middle of May has been nothing but clashes after maneuvers after battles.
We arrived near the Yorktown battlefield on Friday afternoon, after braving the roads and the clogging train of wagons. We were set up in a comfortable woods of tall tulip trees, and a soggy soft ground under them that would not accept a tent peg at first chance. The ground seemed to quiver with ticks, and other black and slippery things were seen on the ground and in the trees. None the less, the boys made a good camp and were up to their duties.
Saturday morning dawned and we had a good breakfast of coffee, eggs, ham, and corn bread. Then we took the company off for a good drill, covering manual of arms, skirmish drill, and company fire evolutions. The standard joke is that what you drill you will not use. This time the drill was essential. The company drill was followed by a battalion drill where none of the staff were available, so a junior company captain tried his hand at it. We drilled ploying and deploying column of companies, and by the right of companies to the rear, &c, &c. It was halted just before becoming noticeably incompetent.
We were called out as the One hundred and first Pennsylvania Volunteers. We were marched through the countryside, and took up manning a well built earthwork called "Casey's Redoubt" in the vicinity of Fair Oaks. It was freshly well constructed, and mounted two guns. We were posted to the right rear of the fort. The command kept eyes peeled to the front for the motion of the Rebels towards our works. We were posting infantry to our left extending into the woods, and to the right extending across the road.
Soon enough, we heard that dog like yipping of the Rebels approaching. When we could first see them across the open and through the woods, their front extends well beyond ours in the fort, and they were in three lines deep. It certainly was clear that we were outnumbered. We opened on them with the guns and then with the muskets. We pored it into them, but soon the pinchers were closing and we are ordered out of the fort one company at a time to retreat and hold a line to support the overall withdrawal. We fought the holding action but for only a few moments, then retired well to teh rear and into the woods. Thus ended the action of Fair Oaks.
The afternoon brought orders to turn out at dusk as the color company and the Third New Jersey for action near Gaine's Mill. We were marched off by the flank and posted to the far left side of our front. The action opened, and the many troops went forward to meet the Rebel onslaught, including the 5th NY Zouaves. We were then ordered to our feet, and shifted to the far right flank, went onto line, and took that spot of a regiment that was out of ammunition and retired to the rear. We pored it in by battalion, by company, and by file. The weapons were getting quite warm, and the firing was mostly by the left oblique to give the boys the best targets on the field. We tried to push some, abut soon the rebel ticks were streaming out of the woods, and we could not fire fast enough to stem their advance. The orders were to stay steady, and that finally was an order to retire, which came too last to effect our escape. The colors were run to the rear, but the most of us weer bagged on three sides, and then surrounded and taken prisoner. Such was the scenario of the Fourth New Jersey, not the Third.
The evening was spent in good favor, with a very good rations draw of fresh beef, lots of vegetables, and the making of a large stew. Good meal indeed. Off to sleep with the chickens, hoping to rise with the roosters, and not the Rebels.
Sunday reveille was before sunrise, so we were up, roll called, and coffee boiling before the orders came to form and march for the wagons for a short haul. We were dropped in the Virginia sun once more, and made our way to a wooded wagon track into the woods, where were were posted in line, and facing to the north. We were now the Sixty-third Pennsylvania at Glendale. It was determined by goo reconnaissance, that the rebel infantry was pushing our way. Our first and fifth companies was put out as skirmishers, covering the regiment, and sent forward some 100 yards of more to engage and delay the Rebels. And we did this with great effect, our skirmishers fought like dogs, and took careful aim, and wasted no lead. We were compelled to retire in front of their heavy skirmish line on front of their main line of battle.
We pulled back to the fields above the road, and soon they came on line for our positions. They were able to overwhelm a gun to our front right. We were order forward in line, then arms port, then charge bayonet. We ran right into the rebel lines around the gun, and resorted to hand to hand work to drive them off. They yielded the ground, and they covered it with wounded on their way. We were not supported to remain, and thus we also had to withdraw.
We rested under the shade of some pines near the Lee Hall plantation house, and were soon called to the crest of a hill overlooking the ground to the river. We were now the Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers at Malvern Hill. We were behind a solid line of federal guns. We were posted to the right of the line. Soon we could see in the distance long lines of Rebels advancing in line of battle on our left wing. On they came, and were hammered by the guns, opening wide holes in their lines as they approached. Soon the infantry was called up to the line of guns, ans started throwing little lead down field at them with similar results. They wavered and retreated. They came again. And on our front on the right wing, we came under the attention of a longer and deeper line of Rebels advancing. We held our fire, let the artillery devastate them with case and canister, then we added to the load our 40 rounds, and that seems to stop them all in their tracks, Their power and command had melted away, leaving only a wounded mass in front of our guns. This victory was providential since it was covering the retreat and withdrawal of McClellan's army from Harrison's Landing, thus ending the last Seven Days of Battles.
We wound our way back to our camp, sounded the General, struck the place, loaded it on the wagons, and also left the Peninsula with a wave of the hat to our United States Volunteers Third Regiment command and comrades for a very well planned, supported, and executed anniversary event. It was well worth the investment in another top shelf Rear Rank Production.
Lincoln & Liberty,
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Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.