THE COUNTY REGIMENT
OF THE SECOND REGIMENT OF CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEER HEAVY ARTILLERY, ORIGINALLY THE NINETEENTH VOLUNTEER INFANTRY, IN THE CIVIL WAR
DUDLEY LANDON VAILL
LITCHFIELD COUNTY UNIVERSITY CLUB MCMVIII
Copyright, 1908, by DUDLEY L. VAILL
This volume is one of a series published under the auspices of the Litchfield County University Club, and in accordance with a proposition made to the club by one of its members, Mr. Carl Stoeckel, of Norfolk, Connecticut.
HOWARD WILLISTON CARTER, Secretary.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Governor Buckingham Frontispiece
Rev. Hiram Eddy facing page 7
Presentation of Colors, September 10th, 1862 " 10
The first encampment in Virginia " 14
Fort Ellsworth, near Alexandria, May, 1863 " 19
In the Defences. Guard mount " 23
General Sedgwick " 26
The first battle " 35
Colonel Wessells " 47
Colonel Kellogg " 61
Colonel Mackenzie " 76
Colonel Hubbard " 84
Monument at Arlington " 98
For those who dwell within its borders, or whose ancestral roots are bedded among its hills, the claims of Litchfield County to distinction are many and of many kinds. In these latter days it has become notable as the home of certain organizations of unique character and high purpose, which flourish under circumstances highly exceptional, and certainly no less highly appreciated.
It is as part of the work of one of these that there is commemorated in this volume an organization of an earlier day, one distinctively of the county, in no way unique in its time, but of the highest purpose—the regiment gathered here for the national defence in the Civil War.
The county's participation in that defence was by no means restricted to the raising of a single regiment. Quite as many, perhaps more, of its sons were enrolled in other commands as made up what was known originally as the Nineteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry; but in that body its organized effort as a county found expression, and it was proud to let the splendid record of that body stand as typical of its sacrifices for the preservation of the Union.
Though the history of that regiment's career has been written in full detail, the purpose of this slight repetition of the story needs no apology. There is sufficient justification in its intrinsic interest, to say nothing of a personal interest in its members, men who gave such proofs of their quality, and whose survivors are still our neighbors in probably every town in the county.
There is also something more than mere interest to be gained, in considering historical matters of such immensity as the Civil War, in giving the attention to some minute section of the whole, such as the account of individual experiences, or of the career of a particular regiment such as this; it is of great value as bringing an adequate realization of the actual bearing of the great events of that time upon the people of the time. The story of a body of Litchfield County men, such men as we see every day, drawn from such homes as we know all about us, is a potent help to understanding in what way and with what aspects these great historical movements bore upon the people of the country, for the experience of this group of towns and their sons furnished but one small instance of what was borne, infinitely magnified, throughout the nation.
It will readily appear that the subject might furnish material for a notable volume. In the present case nothing is possible save a brief sketch of the matter, made up chiefly, as will be seen, of citations from the published history of the regiment, and from such other sources of information as were easily accessible. Among the latter must be noted the records of the Regimental Association, to which access was had through the courtesy of its secretary, D. C. Kilbourn, Esq., of Litchfield, and his assistance, as well as that of H. W. Wessells, Esq., of Litchfield, to both of whom the securing of most of the illustrations used is due, is gratefully acknowledged.
THE COUNTY REGIMENT
In spite of the labors of unnumbered chroniclers, it is not easy, if indeed it is possible, for us of this later generation to realize adequately the great patriotic uprising of the war times.
It began in the early days of 1861 with the assault on Fort Sumter, which, following a long and trying season of uncertainty, furnished the sudden shock that resolved the doubts of the wavering and changed the opinions of the incredulous. Immediately there swept over all the northern states a wave of intense national feeling, attended by scenes of patriotic and confident enthusiasm more noisy than far-sighted, and there was a resulting host of volunteers, who went forth for the service of ninety days with the largest hopes, and proportionate ignorance of the crisis which had come to the nation. Of these Connecticut furnished more than her allotted share, and Litchfield County a due proportion.
The climax of this excited period was supplied by the battle of Bull Run. There was surprise, and almost consternation, at the first news of this salutary event, but quickly following, a renewed rally of patriotic feeling, less excited but more determined, and with a clearer apprehension of the actual situation. The enlistment of volunteers for a longer term had been begun, and now went forward briskly for many months; regiment after regiment was enrolled, equipped, and sent southward, until, in the spring of 1862, the force of this movement began to spend itself. The national arms had met with some important successes during the winter, and a feeling of confidence had arisen in the invincibility of the Grand Army of the Potomac, which had been gathering and organizing under General McClellan for what the impatient country was disposed to think an interminable time. A War Department order in April, 1862, putting a stop to recruiting for the armies, added to the confidence, since an easy inference could be drawn from it, and the North settled down to await with high hopes the results of McClellan's long expected advance.
Then came the campaign on the Peninsula. At first there was but meagre news and a multitude of conflicting rumors about its fierce battles and famous retreat, but in the end the realization of the failure of this mighty effort. To the country it was a disappointment literally stunning in its proportions; but now at length there was revealed the magnitude of the task confronting the nation, and again there sprang up the determination, grim and intense, to strain every nerve for the restoration of the Union.
The President's call for three hundred thousand men to serve "for three years or the war" was proclaimed to this state by Governor Buckingham on July 3rd (1862), and evidence was at once forthcoming that it was sternly heeded by the people. To fill Connecticut's quota under this call, it was proposed that regiments should be raised by counties. A convention was promptly called, which met in Litchfield on July 22nd; delegates from every town in the county were in attendance, representatives of all shades of political opinion and individual bias, but the conclusions of the meeting were unanimously reached. It was resolved that Litchfield County should furnish an entire regiment of volunteers, and that Leverett W. Wessells, at that time Sheriff, should be recommended as its commander.
Immediate steps were taken to render this determination effective; the Governor promptly accepted the recommendation as to the colonelcy, recruiting officers were designated to secure enlistments, bounties voted by the different towns as proposed by the county meeting, and the movement thoroughly organized. Although there was a clear appreciation of the present need, the dozen or more Connecticut regiments already in the field had drawn a large number of men from Litchfield County, and effort was necessary to gain the required enrollment. There had been many opportunities already for all to volunteer who had any wish to do so, but the call now came to men who a few weeks before had hardly dreamed of the need of their serving; men not to be attracted by the excitement of a novel adventure, but who recognized soberly the duty that was presenting itself in this emergency, and men of a very different stamp from those drawn into the ranks in the later years of the war by enormous bounties. It is reasonable to think that pride in the success of the county's effort was a factor in stimulating enlistments; announcement that a draft would be resorted to later was doubtless another. Just at this time, also, the return from a year's captivity in the South of the Rev. Hiram Eddy of Winsted, who had been made prisoner at Bull Run, furnished a powerful advocate to the cause; night after night he spoke in different towns, urging the call to service fervently and with effect.
It is to be noted that at the same time that this endeavor was being made to fill the ranks of a regiment for three years' service, recruiting was going on with almost equal vigor under the call for men to serve for nine months, and three full companies were contributed by Litchfield County to the Twenty-eighth Infantry, which bore a valiant part in the campaign against Port Hudson in the following summer. It is possible to gain some idea of how the great tides of war were felt throughout the whole land by imagining the stir and turmoil thus brought, in the summer of 1862, into this remote and peaceful quarter by the engrossing struggle.
* * * * *
In the last week in August, the necessary number of recruits having been secured, the different companies were brought together in Litchfield and marched to the hill overlooking the town which had been selected as the location of Camp Dutton, named in honor of Lieutenant Henry M. Dutton, who had fallen in battle at Cedar Mountain shortly before. Lieutenant Dutton, the son of Governor Henry Dutton, was a graduate of Yale in the class of 1857, and was practising law in Litchfield when he volunteered for service on the organization of the Fifth Connecticut Infantry.
The interest and pride of the county in its own regiment was naturally of the strongest; the family that had no son or brother or cousin in its ranks seemed almost the exception, and Camp Dutton became at once the goal of a ceaseless stream of visitors from far and near, somewhat to the prejudice of those principles of military order and discipline which had now to be acquired. The preparation and drill which employed the scant two weeks spent here were supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel Kellogg, fresh from McClellan's army in Virginia, and he was afterwards reported as delivering the opinion that if there were nine hundred men in the camp, there were certainly nine thousand women most of the time.
With all possible haste, preparations were made for an early departure, but there was opportunity for a formal mustering of the regiment in Litchfield, when a fine set of colors was presented by William Curtis Noyes, Esq., in behalf of his wife. A horse for the Colonel was given also, by the Hon. Robbins Battell, saddle and equipments by Judge Origen S. Seymour, and a sword by the deputies who had served under Sheriff Wessells.
On September 15th (1862), the eight hundred and eighty-nine officers and men now mustered as the Nineteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry broke camp, made their first march to East Litchfield station, and started for the South, with the entire population for miles around gathered to witness, not as a holiday spectacle, but as a farewell, grave with significance, the departure of the county regiment.
"In order to raise it," says the regimental history, "Litchfield County had given up the flower of her youth, the hope and pride of hundreds of families, and they had by no means enlisted to fight for a superior class of men at home. There was no superior class at home. In moral qualities, in social worth, in every civil relation, they were the best that Connecticut had to give. More than fifty of the rank and file of the regiment subsequently found their way to commissions, and at least a hundred more proved themselves not a whit less competent or worthy to wear sash and saber if it had been their fortune."
* * * * *
The regimental officers were: Colonel, Leverett W. Wessells, Litchfield; lieutenant-colonel, Elisha S. Kellogg, Derby; major, Nathaniel Smith, Woodbury; adjutant, Charles J. Deming, Litchfield; quartermaster, Bradley D. Lee, Barkhamsted; chaplain, Jonathan A. Wainwright, Torrington; surgeon, Henry Plumb, New Milford.
Colonel Wessells, a native of Litchfield, and a brother of General Henry W. Wessells of the regular army, had been prominent in public affairs before the war, and served for twelve years as Sheriff. Ill health interfered with his service with the regiment from the first, and finally compelled his resignation in September, 1863. Later he was appointed Provost Marshal for the Fourth District of Connecticut, and for many years after the war was active in civil affairs, being the candidate for State Treasurer on the Republican ticket in 1868, Quartermaster-General on Governor Andrews' staff, and member of the General Assembly. He died at Dover, Delaware, April 4, 1895.
Washington in September, 1862, while relatively secure from the easy capture which would have been possible in the summer of the previous year, was not in a situation of such safety as to preclude anxiety, for Pope had just been beaten at Bull Run and Lee's army was north of the Potomac in the first of its memorable invasions of the loyal states. On the very day of his check at Antietam, September 17th, the Nineteenth Connecticut Volunteers reached the capital, and the next day moved into the hostile state of Virginia, bivouacking near Alexandria.
In this vicinity the regiment was destined to remain for many months, and to learn, as far as was possible without the grim teachings of actual experience, the business for which it was gathered. At first there was a constant expectation of orders to join the army in active operations; the county newspapers for many weeks noted regularly that the regiment was still near Alexandria, "but orders to march are hourly expected." It was good fortune, however, that none came, for not a little of the credit of its later service was due to the proficiency in discipline and soldierly qualities gained in the long months now spent in preparation.
The task of giving the necessary military education to the thousand odd men fresh from the ordinary routine of rural Connecticut life, fell upon the shoulders of Lieutenant-Colonel Kellogg, and by all the testimony available, most of all by the splendid proof they later gave, it is clear that it was entrusted to a master hand. Matters of organization and administration at first engrossed Colonel Wessells' attention; ill health soon supervened, and later he was given the command of a brigade. The regiment from its beginning was Kellogg's, and he received in due course the commission vacated by its first commander in September, 1863.
A thorough and well-tried soldier himself, he quickly gained the respect of his command by his complete competency, and its strong and admiring affection was not slow in following. There are men among us to this day for whom no superlatives are adequate to give expression to their feelings in regard to him. As the regimental history records of their career "there is not a scene, a day, nor a memory from Camp Dutton to Grapevine Point that can be wholly divested of Kellogg. Like the ancient Eastern king who suddenly died on the eve of an engagement, and whose remains were bolstered up in warlike attitude in his chariot, and followed by his enthusiastic soldiers to battle and to victory, so this mighty leader, although falling in the very first onset, yet went on through every succeeding march and fight, and won posthumous victories for the regiment which may be said to have been born of his loins. Battalion and company, officer and private, arms and quarters, camp and drill, command and obedience, honor and duty, esprit and excellence, every moral and material belonging of the regiment, bore the impress of his genius. In the eyes of civilians, Colonel Kellogg was nothing but a horrid, strutting, shaggy monster. But request any one of the survivors of the Nineteenth Infantry or the Second Artillery to name the most perfect soldier he ever saw, and this will surely be the man. Or ask him to conjure up the ideal soldier of his imagination, still the same figure, complete in feature, gesture, gauntlet, saber, boot, spur, observant eye and commanding voice, will stalk with majestic port upon the mental vision. He seemed the superior of all superiors, and major-generals shrunk into pigmy corporals in comparison with him. In every faculty of body, mind, heart, and soul he was built after a large pattern. His virtues were large and his vices were not small. As Lincoln said of Seward, he could swear magnificently. His nature was versatile, and full of contradictions; sometimes exhibiting the tenderest sensibilities and sometimes none at all. Now he would be in the hospital tent bending with streaming eyes over the victims of fever, and kissing the dying Corporal Webster, and an hour later would find him down at the guard house, prying open the jaws of a refractory soldier with a bayonet in order to insert a gag; or in anger drilling a battalion, for the fault of a single man, to the last point of endurance; or shamefully abusing the most honorable and faithful officers in the regiment. 'In rage, deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.' But notwithstanding his frequent ill treatment of officers and soldiers, he had a hold on their affections such as no other commander ever had, or could have. The men who were cursing him one day for the almost intolerable rigors of his discipline, would in twenty-four hours be throwing up their caps for him, or subscribing to buy him a new horse, or petitioning the Governor not to let him be jumped. The man who sat on a sharp-backed wooden horse in front of the guard house, would sometimes watch the motions of the Colonel on drill or parade, until he forgot the pain and disgrace of his punishment in admiration of the man who inflicted it."
It is not hard to understand the hold he gained, through a personality so striking and forceful, upon the men of his command; they were but boys for the most part, in point of fact, and open to the influence of just such strength, and perhaps also just such weaknesses, as they saw in this splendidly virile and genuine, and very human character.
Colonel Kellogg was a Litchfield County man, a native of New Hartford, and at this time about thirty-eight years of age. His education was not of the schools, but gained from years of adventurous life as sailor, gold-hunter, and wanderer. Shortly before the war he had settled in his native state, but he responded to the call for the national defence among the very first, and before the organization of the Nineteenth had served as Major of the First Connecticut Artillery. He lies buried in Winsted.
* * * * *
For more than a year and a half the regiment was numbered among the defenders of the capital, removing after a few months from the immediate neighborhood of Alexandria, and being stationed among the different forts and redoubts which formed the line of defence south of the Potomac.
Important as its service there was, and novel as it must have been to Litchfield County boys, it was not marked by incidents of any note, and furnished nothing to attract attention among the general and absorbing operations of the war. It was, still, of vast interest to the people of the home towns. The county newspapers had many letters to print in those days from the soldiers themselves, and from visitors from home, who in no inconsiderable numbers were journeying down to look in upon them constantly. There were of course matters of various nature which gave rise to complaints of different degrees of seriousness; there was not unnaturally much sickness among the men in the early part of their service; there were political campaigns at home, in which the volunteers had and showed a strong interest; there was a regrettable quarrel among the officers in which Lieutenant-Colonel Kellogg was placed in an unfortunate light, and the termination of which gave the men an opportunity of showing their feeling for him. All these matters were well aired in type; meanwhile the regiment, doing well such duty as was laid upon it, grew in efficiency for hard and active service when it should be called for.
The possibility of a call to action at almost any minute was seen in April, 1863, when orders came that the regiment be held ready to march. Reinforcements were going forward to the Army of the Potomac, now under Hooker, in large numbers; but the Nineteenth was finally left in the Defences. Thus months were passed in the routine of drill and parade, guard mounting and target practice, varied by brief and rare furloughs, while the lightnings of the mighty conflict raging so near left them untouched. "Yet," it is related, "a good many seemed to be in all sorts of affliction, and were constantly complaining because they could not go to the front. A year later, when the soldiers of the Nineteenth were staggering along the Pamunkey, with heavy loads and blistered feet, or throwing up breastworks with their coffee-pots all night under fire in front of Petersburg, they looked back to the Defences of Washington as to a lost Elysium."
* * * * *
It was in November, 1863, that the War Department orders were issued changing the Nineteenth Infantry to a regiment of heavy artillery, which Governor Buckingham denominated the Second Connecticut. Artillery drill had for some time been part of its work, and the general efficiency and good record of the regiment in all particulars was responsible for the change, which was a welcome one, as the artillery was considered a very desirable branch of the service, and the increase in size gave prospects of speedier promotions.
Recruiting had been necessary almost all the time to keep the regiment up to the numerical standard; death and the discharge for disability had been operating from the first. It was now needful to fill it up to the artillery standard of eighteen hundred men, and this was successfully accomplished. Officers and men were despatched to Connecticut to gather recruits, and their advertisements set forth enticingly the advantage of joining a command so comfortably situated as "this famous regiment" in the Defences of Washington, where, it was permissible to infer, it was permanently stationed, a belief which had come to be generally held. The effort, however, was not confined by geographical limits, and a large part of the men secured were strangers to Litchfield County. Before the 1st of March, 1864, over eleven hundred recruits were received, and with the nucleus of the old regiment quickly formed into an efficient command.
"This vast body of recruits was made up of all sorts of men," the history of the regiment states. "A goodly portion of them were no less intelligent, patriotic, and honorable than the 'old' Nineteenth—and that is praise enough. Another portion of them were not exactly the worst kind of men, but those adventurous and uneasy varlets who always want to get out of jail when they are in, and in when they are out; furloughed sailors, for example, who had enlisted just for fun, while ashore, with no definite purpose of remaining in the land service for any tedious length of time. And, lastly, there were about three hundred of the most thorough paced villains that the stews and slums of New York and Baltimore could furnish—bounty-jumpers, thieves, and cut-throats, who had deserted from regiment after regiment in which they had enlisted under fictitious names and who now proposed to repeat the operation. And they did repeat it. No less than two hundred and fifty deserted before the middle of May, very few of whom were ever retaken and returned to the regiment. There were rebels in Alexandria who furnished deserters with citizens' clothes and thus their capture became almost impossible."
At first, and perhaps to some extent always, there was a mental distinction made by the men between those who had originally enlisted in the "old Nineteenth," and the large body which was now joined to that organization, many of whom had never seen the Litchfield hills. But there was enough character in the original body to give its distinct tone to the enlarged regiment; its officers were all of the first enlistment, and the common sufferings and successes which soon fell to their lot quickly deprived this distinction of any invidiousness. The Second Artillery was always known, and proudly known, as the Litchfield County Regiment.
There came to the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery, on May 17, 1864, the summons which, after such long immunity, it had almost ceased to expect.
The preceding two weeks had been among the most eventful of the war. They had seen the crossing of the Rapidan by Grant on the 4th, and the terrible battles for days following in the Wilderness and at Spottsylvania, depleting the army by such enormous losses as even this war had hardly seen before. Heavy reinforcements were demanded and sent forward from all branches of the service; in the emergency this artillery regiment was summoned to fight as infantry, and so served until the end of the conflict, though for a long time with a hope, which survived many disappointments, of being assigned to its proper work with the heavy guns.
It started for the front on May 18th (1864), and on the 20th reached the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, and was assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, of the Sixth Corps, now under Major-General Horatio G. Wright, another leader of Connecticut origin, who had succeeded to the command of the Corps on the death a few days before of Litchfield County's most noted soldier, John Sedgwick.
The famous series of movements "by the left flank" was in progress, and the regiment was in active motion at once. For more than a week following its arrival at the front it was on the march practically all the time while Grant pushed southward. To troops unaccustomed to anything more arduous than drilling in the Defences at Washington, it was almost beyond the limits of endurance. At the start, without experience in campaigning, the men had overburdened themselves with impedimenta which it was very soon necessary to dispense with. "The amount of personal effects then thrown away," wrote the chaplain, Rev. Winthrop H. Phelps, "has been estimated by officers who witnessed and have carefully calculated it, to be from twenty to thirty thousand dollars. To this amount must be added the loss to the Government in the rations and ammunition left on the way." On some of the marches days were passed with scarcely anything to eat, and it is recorded that raw corn was eagerly gathered, kernel by kernel, in empty granaries, and eaten with a relish. Heat, dust, rain, mud, and a rate of movement which taxed to the utmost the powers of the strongest, gave to these untried troops a savage hint of the hardships of campaigning, into which they had been plunged without any gradual steps of breaking in, and much more terrible experiences were close at hand. Of these there came a slight foretaste in a skirmish with the enemy on the 24th near Jericho Ford on the North Anna River, resulting in the death of one man and the wounding of three others, the first of what was soon to be a portentous list of casualties.
* * * * *
The movements of both armies were bringing them steadily nearer to Richmond, and but one chance now remained to achieve the object of the campaign, the defeat of Lee's army north of the Chickahominy and away from the strong defences of the Confederate capital. The enemy, swinging southward to conform to Grant's advance, finally reached the important point of Cold Harbor on May 31st. Cavalry was sent forward to dislodge him, and seized some of the entrenchments near that place, while both armies were hurried forward for the inevitable battle. The Sixth Corps, of which the Second Artillery was part, reached its position on the extreme left near noon on June 1st, having marched since midnight, and awaited the placing of other troops before the charge, which had been ordered to take place at five o'clock.
It would have been a fearful waiting for these men could they have known what was in store for them. But they were drugged, as it were, with utter fatigue; the almost constant movement of their two weeks of active service had left them "so nearly dead with marching and want of sleep" that they could not notice or comprehend the significant movements of the columns of troops about them preparing for battle, or the artillery which soon opened fire on both sides; their stupor, it is related, was of a kind that none can describe. They heard without excitement the earnest instructions of Colonel Kellogg, who, in pride and anxiety at this first trial of his beloved command, was in constant consultation with officers and men, directing, encouraging, explaining. "He marked out on the ground," writes one of his staff, "the shape of the works to be taken,—told the officers what dispositions to make of the different battalions,—how the charge was to be made,—spoke of our reputation as a band-box regiment, 'Now we are called on to show what we can do at fighting.'" The brigade commander, General Emory Upton, was also watching closely this new regiment which had never been in battle. But all foreboding was spared most of the men through sheer exhaustion.
At about the appointed time, five in the afternoon, the regiment was moved in three battalions of four companies each out of the breastworks where it had lain through the afternoon, leaving knapsacks behind, stationed for a few moments among the scanty pine-woods in front, and then at the word of command started forth upon its fateful journey, the Colonel in the lead.
The first battalion, with the colors in the center, moved at a double quick across the open field under a constantly thickening fire, over the enemy's first line of rifle pits which was abandoned at its approach, and onward to the main line of breastworks with a force and impetus which would have carried it over this like Niagara but for an impassable obstruction. Says the regimental history, "There had been a thick growth of pine sprouts and saplings on this ground, but the rebels had cut them, probably that very day, and had arranged them so as to form a very effective abatis,—thereby clearing the spot and thus enabling them to see our movements. Up to this point there had been no firing sufficient to confuse or check the battalion, but here the rebel musketry opened. A sheet of flame, sudden as lightning, red as blood, and so near that it seemed to singe the men's faces, burst along the rebel breastwork, and the ground and trees close behind our line was ploughed and riddled with a thousand balls that just missed the heads of the men. The battalion dropped flat on the ground, and the second volley, like the first, nearly all went over. Several men were struck, but not a large number. It is more than probable that if there had been no other than this front fire, the rebel breastworks would have been ours, notwithstanding the pine boughs. But at that moment a long line of rebels on our left, having nothing in their own front to engage their attention, and having unobstructed range on the battalion, opened a fire which no human valor could withstand, and which no pen can adequately describe. It was the work of almost a single minute. The air was filled with sulphurous smoke, and the shrieks and howls of more than two hundred and fifty mangled men rose above the yells of triumphant rebels and the roar of their musketry. 'About face,' shouted Colonel Kellogg, but it was his last command. He had already been struck in the arm, and the words had scarcely passed his lips when another shot pierced his head, and he fell dead upon the interlacing pine boughs. Wild and blind with wounds, bruises, noise, smoke, and conflicting orders, the men staggered in every direction, some of them falling upon the very top of the rebel parapet, where they were completely riddled with bullets,—others wandering off into the woods on the right and front, to find their way to death by starvation at Andersonville, or never to be heard of again."
The second battalion had advanced at an interval of about seventy-five yards after the first, and the third had followed in turn, but they were ordered by General Upton to lie down as they approached the entrenchments. They could not fire without injury to the line in front, and could only hold their dangerous and trying position in readiness to support their comrades ahead, protecting themselves as they could from the fire that seemed like leaden hail. There was no suggestion of retreat at any point and several hundred of the enemy, taking advantage of a lull in the firing, streamed over the breastworks and gave themselves up, but through a misunderstanding of the case the credit of their capture was given to other regiments, though clearly due to this.
The history continues: "The lines now became very much mixed. Those of the first battalion who were not killed or wounded gradually crawled or worked back; wounded men were carried through to the rear; and the woods began to grow dark, either with night or smoke or both. The companies were formed and brought up to the breastworks one by one, and the line extended toward the left. The enemy soon vacated the breastwork in our immediate front, and crept off through the darkness." Throughout the terrible night they held their ground, keeping up a constant fire to prevent an attempt by the enemy to reoccupy the line, until they were relieved in the early morning by other troops; they had secured a position which it was indispensable to hold, and the line thus gained remained the regiment's front during its stay at Cold Harbor. Until June 12th the position was kept confronting the enemy, whose line was parallel and close before it, while daily additions were made to the list of casualties as they labored in strengthening the protective works.
The official report of General Upton reads in part as follows: "The Second Connecticut, anxious to prove its courage, moved to the assault in beautiful order. Crossing an open field it entered a pine-wood, passed down a gentle declivity and up a slight ascent. Here the charge was checked. For seventy feet in front of the works the trees had been felled, interlocking with each other and barring all further advance. Two paths several yards apart, and wide enough for four men to march abreast, led through the obstruction. Up these to the foot of the works the brave men rushed but were swept away by a converging fire. Unable to carry the intrenchments, I directed the men to lie down and not return the fire. Opposite the right the works were carried. The regiment was marched to the point gained and, moving to the left, captured the point first attacked. In this position without support on either flank the Second Connecticut fought till three A.M., when the enemy fell back to a second line of works."
The regimental history continues: "On the morning of the 2nd the wounded who still remained were got off to the rear, and taken to the Division Hospital some two miles back. Many of them had lain all night, with shattered bones, or weak with loss of blood, calling vainly for help, or water, or death. Some of them lay in positions so exposed to the enemy's fire that they could not be reached until the breastworks had been built up and strengthened at certain points, nor even then without much ingenuity and much danger; but at length they were all removed. Where it could be done with safety, the dead were buried during the day. Most of the bodies, however, could not be reached until night, and were then gathered and buried under cover of the darkness."
The regiment's part in the charge of June 3rd, the disastrous movement of the whole Union line against the Confederate works, which Grant admitted never should have been made, was attended with casualties which by comparison with the slaughter of the 1st seemed inconsiderable. There were, in fact, losses in killed and wounded on almost all of the twelve days of its stay at Cold Harbor, but the fatal 1st of June greatly overshadowed the remaining time, and that first action was indeed incomparably the most severe the Second Connecticut ever saw. Its loss in killed and wounded, in fact, is said to have been greater than that of any other Connecticut regiment in any single battle.
The reputation of a fighting regiment, which its fallen leader had predicted, was amply earned by that unfaltering advance against intrenchments manned by Lee's veterans, and that tenacious defence of the position gained, but the cost was appallingly great. The record of Cold Harbor, of which all but a very small proportion was incurred on June 1st, is given as follows: Killed or died of wounds, one hundred and twenty-one; wounded, but not mortally, one hundred and ninety; missing, fifteen; prisoners, three.
General Martin T. McMahon, writing of this battle in "The Century's" series of war papers, says: "I remember at one point a mute and pathetic evidence of sterling valor. The Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery, a new regiment eighteen hundred strong, had joined us but a few days before the battle. Its uniform was bright and fresh; therefore its dead were easily distinguished where they lay. They marked in a dotted line an obtuse angle, covering a wide front, with its apex toward the enemy, and there upon his face, still in death, with his head to the works, lay the Colonel, the brave and genial Colonel Elisha S. Kellogg."
Such was their first trial in battle.
Immediately after receiving news of the action of June 1st, Governor Buckingham had sent a commission as colonel to Lieutenant-Colonel James Hubbard. He, however, was unwilling to assume the responsibility of the command; this had been his first battle, and he "drew the hasty inference that all the fighting was likely to consist of a similar walking into the jaws of hell. He afterwards found that this was a mistake."
Upon General Upton's advice, therefore, the officers recommended to the Governor the appointment of Ranald S. Mackenzie, then a captain of engineers on duty at headquarters, and this recommendation being favorably endorsed by superior officers up to the Lieutenant-General, was accepted, and Colonel Mackenzie took command on June 6th.
Of the man who was now to lead the regiment, Grant in his Memoirs writes twenty years later the following unqualified judgment: "I regarded Mackenzie as the most promising young officer in the army. Graduating at West Point as he did during the second year of the war, he had won his way up to the command of a corps before its close. This he did upon his own merit and without influence." Such a statement from such a quarter is enough to show that once more the Second Connecticut was to be commanded by a soldier of more than ordinary qualities, a fact which was not long in developing.
Colonel Mackenzie's active connection with the regiment lasted only some four months, but they were months of great activity and afforded such occasions for proof of his abilities that his speedy promotion was inevitable. He never achieved the general popularity with his men that had come to his predecessor, nor cared to, but he did gain quite as thoroughly their respect through his mastership of the business in hand. It was not long after he assumed command that, as the regimental history says, the men "began to grieve anew over the loss of Kellogg. That commander had chastised us with whips, but this one dealt in scorpions. By the time we reached the Shenandoah Valley, he had so far developed as to be a far greater terror, to both officers and men, than Early's grape and canister. He was a Perpetual Punisher, and the Second Connecticut while under him was always a punished regiment. There is a regimental tradition to the effect that a well-defined purpose existed among the men, prior to the battle of Winchester, to dispose of this commanding scourge during the first fight that occurred. If he had known it, it would only have excited his contempt, for he cared not a copper for the good will of any except his military superiors, and certainly feared no man of woman born, on either side of the lines. But the purpose, if any existed, quailed and failed before his audacious pluck on that bloody day. He seemed to court destruction all day long. With his hat aloft on the point of his saber he galloped over forty-acre fields, through a perfect hailstorm of rebel lead and iron, with as much impunity as though he had been a ghost. The men hated him with the hate of hell, but they could not draw bead on so brave a man as that. Henceforth they firmly believed he bore a charmed life."
Colonel Mackenzie's advancement was brilliantly rapid, as Grant states, and at the time of Lee's surrender he was in command of a corps of cavalry, which had shortly before taken an important part in the battle of Five Forks under his leadership.
When the war ended he became colonel of the Twenty-fourth Infantry in the regular army, and later received a cavalry command, gaining much distinction by his services in the Indian campaigns in the West and on the Mexican border. He was made brigadier-general in 1882, shortly after placed on the retired list, and died at Governor's Island in 1889.
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The unsuccessful assault on Lee's works at Cold Harbor marked the end of the first part of Grant's campaign. The next move was to swing the army southward to the line of the James River and prepare to move upon Richmond and its defences from that side. This change of base was one of General Grant's finest achievements, admirably planned, and so skilfully executed that for three days Lee remained in total ignorance of what his adversary was doing. The Second Connecticut withdrew from its position on June 12th, late at night, reached the river on the 16th, and, moving up it in transports, was disembarked and sent toward Petersburg, to a point on the left wing of the army. It reached position on the night of the 19th and entrenched. The usual occurrences of such marches as attended this change of scene were varied for the men, as the regimental history suggestively relates, by a notable circumstance—a bath in the river. "It was the only luxury we had had for weeks. It was a goodly sight to see half a dozen regiments disporting themselves in the tepid waters of the James. But no reader can possibly understand what enjoyment it afforded, unless he has slept on the ground for fourteen days without undressing, and been compelled to walk, cook, and live on all fours, lest a perpendicular assertion of his manhood should instantly convert it into clay."
The operations against Petersburg had been going on for some time when the regiment arrived, and for two days it lay in the rifle pits it had dug under continual fire, with frequent resulting casualties. It was "the most intolerable position the regiment was ever required to hold. We had seen a deadlier spot at Cold Harbor, and others awaited us in the future; but they were agonies that did not last. Here, however, we had to stay, hour after hour, from before dawn until after dark, and that, too, where we could not move a rod without extreme danger. The enemy's line was parallel with ours, just across the wheat field; then they had numerous sharpshooters, who were familiar with every acre of the ground, perched in tall trees on both our flanks; then they had artillery posted everywhere. No man could cast his eyes over the parapet, or expose himself ten feet in the rear of the trench without drawing fire. And yet they did thus expose themselves; for where there are even chances of being missed or hit, soldiers will take the chances rather than lie still and suffer from thirst, supineness, and want of all things. There was no getting to the rear until zig-zag passages were dug, and then the wounded were borne off. Our occupation continued during the night and the next day, the regiment being divided into two reliefs, the one off duty lying a little to the rear, in a cornfield near Harrison's house. But it was a question whether 'off' or 'on' duty was the more dangerous."
On the 21st, relieved from this post, the regiment was moved to a new position further southwest and about the same distance from the city of Petersburg, which lay in plain view and whose city clocks could be heard distinctly. The Sixth Corps was engaged in an operation having the purpose of breaking Lee's communications with the South by the line of the Weldon Railroad, and in the course of this the Second Connecticut took part in a "sharp skirmish" with Hill's Division, on June 22nd, an affair which to other experiences would be notable as a battle of some proportions. The desired result was not gained; the attempt on Petersburg, which if successful might have hastened the end of the Confederacy by six months, and which came so near success, was changed to besieging operations, and for some time Grant's army lay comparatively quiet. In its four days in action here, the regiment suffered as follows: Killed or died of wounds, fifteen; wounded but not mortally, fifteen; missing, three; prisoners who died, five.
On July 9th came the orders which took the Second Connecticut for many months away from its place before Petersburg, where, after the activities described, it had settled down to a less exciting course of constructing batteries, forts, and breastworks, and laying out camps, with days of comparative peace and comfort notwithstanding several alarms showing the possibility of more arduous service.
The Confederate Army which had been sent under General Early into the Shenandoah Valley to create a diversion in that quarter, had unexpectedly appeared on the Potomac in a sudden dash upon Washington, then defended chiefly by raw levies. Part of the Sixth Corps had been detached from Grant's army and sent to protect the capital a few days before; now the rest of the corps, including the Second Connecticut, was hurried north and reached Washington just in time to defeat Early's purpose. He had planned to storm the city on the 12th, and with good prospects of success; it was on that very day at an early hour, that the reinforcing troops arrived. They were hurried through the city to the threatened point, and the enemy, seeing the well-known corps badge confronting them at Fort Stevens, and recognizing that the opportunity was gone, promptly retreated, after an engagement in which the Second Connecticut took no active part. This occasion was notable by reason of the fact that for the only time during the war President Lincoln was under fire, as he watched the progress of affairs from the parapet of Fort Stevens.
The pursuit which began at once entailed some hard marching, but the enemy could not be brought to a stand. It continued for several days until the Valley of the Shenandoah was reached, when Early, as was supposed, having hurried back to join Lee at Petersburg, the Sixth Corps was marched again swiftly to the capital. Here it developed that the authorities had decided to keep part of the forces sent for their protection, to man the defences, since Early's attempt had come so dangerously near succeeding, and the Second Connecticut was chosen to remain. On July 25th it was moved into the same forts it had occupied when called to the front two months before, and here it might have remained through the rest of its term of service, if Early had, as was presumed, gone back to join Lee at Petersburg. But it was learned now that he had faced about when the chase ceased and was again threatening a northward move. The Sixth Corps was therefore ordered against his force once more, the Second Connecticut going from the anticipated comforts of its prospective garrison duty with anything but satisfaction. "The men who had rolled into those cosy bunks with the declared intention of 'sleeping a week steady,' were on their cursing way through Tenallytown again in twenty-four hours, marching with accelerated pace toward Frederick to overtake the brigade of the red cross, to which they had so lately bidden an everlasting adieu. Oh, bitter cup!"
After much marching and counter marching they found themselves on August 6th at Halltown in the Valley. For more than a month the army, now placed under the command of General Sheridan, was occupied in organizing and manoeuvering for the projected campaign, which the presence of the hostile force in that important quarter necessitated.
Though on a much smaller scale than the operations in which the regiment had borne a part since it had been in active service, the impending action in the Shenandoah Valley was recognized as being of great importance. Grant's official report, speaking on this point, says: "Defeat to us would lay open to the enemy the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania for long distances before another army could be interposed to check him," and aside from the military aspect of the matter, the political campaign then agitating the loyal states made the result of the struggle here of profound influence.
The campaign's activities began with the battle of the Opequan, or, as it is perhaps more often designated, of Winchester. General Sheridan took advantage of an opportunity for which he had been patiently waiting by moving his forces to the attack at daylight on the morning of September 19th, and before noon the engagement was fierce and general, both assault and defence being made with equal spirit and determination; that part of the Sixth Corps which comprised the Second Connecticut, however, had taken small part in it, being held in reserve.
It was about midday that in a counter charge against the Union center, the enemy found a weak point at the junction of the Sixth Corps with the Nineteenth, of which they quickly took advantage, breaking the line and driving back the troops on the flanks of both corps in great disorder. Their successful advance and the flight of the opposing forces gave such assurances of victory that more than one Confederate writer says that at this point the battle which had raged since daylight was won. Jefferson Davis himself wrote, years after, of the charge: "This affair occurred about 11 A.M., and a splendid victory had been gained,"—a judgment which lacked finality. In fact, had the separation of the wings of Sheridan's army been accomplished, as it was threatened, the result would have been utter disaster; just now, however, Upton's brigade, of which the Second Connecticut formed a large part, was brought up to the point of danger. The charge was checked, the enemy in turn driven back, and the Union line re-established.
In the regimental history it is related that the brigade was pushed forward gradually, "halted on a spot where the ground was depressed enough to afford a little protection, and only a little,—for several men were hit while lying there, as well as others, while getting there. In three minutes the regiment again advanced, passed over a knoll, lost several more men, and halted in another hollow spot, similar to the first. The enemy's advance had now been pushed well back, and here a stay was made of perhaps two hours. Colonel Mackenzie rode slowly back and forth along the rise of ground in front of this position in a very reckless manner, in plain sight and easy range of the enemy, who kept up a fire from a piece of woods in front, which elicited from him the remark, 'I guess those fellows will get tired of firing at me by and by.' But the ground where the regiment lay was very slightly depressed, and although the shots missed Mackenzie they killed and wounded a large number of both officers and men behind him.
"About three o'clock, an advance of the whole line having been ordered by Sheridan, the regiment charged across the field, Mackenzie riding some ten rods ahead, holding his hat aloft on the point of his saber. The distance to the woods was at least a quarter of a mile, and was traversed under a fire that carried off its victims at nearly every step. The enemy abandoned the woods, however, as the regiment approached. After a short halt it again advanced to a rail fence which ran along the side of an extensive field. Here, for the first time during the whole of this bloody day, did the regiment have orders to fire, and for ten minutes they had the privilege of pouring an effective fire into the rebels, who were thick in front. Then a flank movement was made along the fence to the right, followed by a direct advance of forty rods into the field. Here was the deadliest spot of the day. The enemy's artillery, on a rise of ground in front, plowed the field with canister and shells, and tore the ranks in a frightful manner. Major Rice was struck by a shell, his left arm torn off, and his body cut almost asunder. Major Skinner was struck on the top of the head by a shell, knocked nearly a rod with his face to the earth, and was carried to the rear insensible. General Upton had a good quarter pound of flesh taken out of his thigh by a shell. Colonel Mackenzie's horse was cut in two by a solid shot which just grazed the rider's leg and let him down to the ground very abruptly. Several other officers were also struck; and from these instances as well as from the appended list of casualties some idea may be gained of the havoc among the enlisted men at this point. Although the regiment had been under fire and losing continually from the middle of the afternoon, until it was now almost sunset, yet the losses during ten minutes in this last field were probably equal to those of all the rest of the day. It was doubtless the spot referred to by the rebel historian, Pollard, when he says, 'Early's artillery was fought to the muzzle of the guns.' Mackenzie gave the order to move by the left flank and a start was made, but there was no enduring such a fire, and the men ran back and lay down. Another attempt was soon made, and after passing a large oak tree a sheltered position was secured. The next move was directly into the enemy's breastwork. They had just been driven from it by a cavalry charge from the right, and were in full retreat through the streets of Winchester, and some of their abandoned artillery which had done us so much damage stood yet in position, hissing hot with action, with their miserable rac-a-bone horses attached. The brigade, numbering less than half the muskets it had in the morning, was now got into shape, and after marching to a field in the eastern edge of the city, bivouacked for the night, while the pursuit rolled miles away up the valley pike." Night alone, wrote General Wesley Merritt, saved Early's army from capture.
To the losses of the day the Second Connecticut contributed forty-two killed and one hundred and eight wounded, the proportion of officers being very large.
Unlike their previous severe engagement at Cold Harbor, the regiment had the thrilling consciousness of complete victory to hearten them after this battle, and, later, when the full history of the day was learned, the realization that they had played a part of no little importance in attaining it.
The moment when they were brought into action was a critical one. General Sheridan, in his report summing up the operations of the campaign, said: "At Winchester for a moment the contest was uncertain, but the gallant attack of General Upton's brigade of the Sixth Corps restored the line of battle," and of this brigade the Second Connecticut formed fully half. Upton's report gave high praise to Colonel Mackenzie, and said: "His regiment on the right initiated nearly every movement of the division, and behaved with great steadiness and gallantry."
The victory itself, with the sequel which followed so promptly three days later, had an importance far beyond its purely military value, through its marked effects upon public sentiment throughout the country; it brought to one side jubilant satisfaction, and gave a corresponding depression to the other, and it elevated Sheridan at once to that high place in popular affection which he always afterwards held. That it was "the turning-point of the fortunes of the war in Virginia," was the verdict of a Confederate officer of high rank, and Nicolay and Hay in the "Life of Lincoln" describe it as "one of the most important of the war."
As for the Litchfield County regiment, among its many proud memories, none surely holds a higher place than that of the worthy and effective part it took in this day's work, forming, as it did, so large a part of the brigade which, in the words of General Upton's biographer, turned possible defeat into certain victory.
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General Sheridan's method of operation could hardly be held as dilatory. It would doubtless have commended itself more highly to his men if it had been somewhat more so, when at daylight on the morning after the splendid success of September 19th they were ordered in pursuit of Early's army.
The Confederate forces had taken position on Fisher's Hill, considered the Gibraltar of the Valley, and according to Sheridan, almost impregnable to a direct assault. Two days were occupied in bringing up troops and making dispositions for the attack. The Second Connecticut reached its assigned position on the 21st near midnight, and found itself "on the very top of a hill fully as high as Fisher's Hill, and separated from it by Tumbling River. The enemy's stronghold was on the top of the opposite hill directly across the stream."
On the 22nd more or less skirmishing took place all day. A force had been sent round the enemy's left flank; the attack it delivered late in the afternoon was a complete surprise to Early's men, and an advance by the whole Union line quickly routed them.
To make this charge the regiment moved down the steep hill, waded the stream, and moved up the rocky front of the rebel Gibraltar. How they got up there is a mystery,—for the ascent of that rocky declivity would now seem an impossibility to an unburdened traveller, even though there were no deadly enemy at the top. But up they went, clinging to rocks and bushes. The main rebel breastwork, which they were so confident of holding, was about fifteen rods from the top of the bluff, with brush piled in front of it. Just as the top was reached the Eighth Corps struck the enemy on the right, and their flight was disordered and precipitate. The Second Connecticut was the first regiment that reached and planted colors on the works from the direct front.
They were marching in pursuit all that night and for three succeeding days, until the chase was seen to be hopeless and the army faced northward again. Four killed and nineteen wounded were added at Fisher's Hill to the growing record of the Second Connecticut's losses.
Such complete failure in their campaign had, it was now believed, eliminated the enemy in the Shenandoah Valley. The Sixth Corps was accordingly ordered back to Grant's army before Petersburg after a few days of rest, and was moving toward Washington on its way when there came a sudden change of orders.
Early, reinforced and once more ready, was again in the works he had been driven from at Fisher's Hill. The corps, recalled to join the forces of Sheridan, went into camp along the north bank of Cedar Creek on October 14th, and here there soon took place one of the most thrilling and dramatic conflicts of the war.
"For the next few days," the history of the regiment states, "there was much quiet and a good deal of speculation among the troops as to what would be the next shift of the scenes. The enemy was close in front, just as he had been for weeks preceding the battle of Winchester, but this attitude which might once have been called defiance, now seemed to be mere impudence,—and it was the general opinion that Early did not wish or intend to fight again, but that he was to be kept there as a standing threat in order to prevent Sheridan's army from returning to Grant. And yet there was something mysterious in his conduct. He was known to be receiving reinforcements, and his signal flags on Three-top Mountain (just south of Fisher's Hill) were continually in motion. From the top of Massanutton Mountain his vedettes could look down upon the whole Union army, as one can look down upon New Haven from East Rock, and there is no doubt that the exact location of every camp, and the position of every gun and every picket post were thoroughly known to him. Nevertheless, it seemed the most improbable thing in the world that he could be meditating either an open attack or a surprise. The position was strong, the creek and its crossings in possession of our pickets both along the front and well out on either flank." But Early himself, being in difficulties his enemy knew nothing of, says, "I was compelled to move back for want of provisions and forage, or attack the enemy in his position with the hope of driving him from it, and I determined to attack."
His plan was, like his adversary's at the last encounter, a surprise around the left flank with a feint on the right, and it was carried out on the morning of October 19th with complete success. General Sheridan had been called to Washington a few days before, as no active operations seemed imminent, and the army lay feeling quite secure.
Good fortune attended the attacking forces, and the surprise was perfect. General Merritt writes: "Crook's (Eighth Corps) camp and afterwards Emory's (Nineteenth Corps) were attacked in flank and rear, and the men and officers driven from their beds, many of them not having time to hurry into their clothes, except as they retreated, half awake and terror-stricken from the overpowering numbers of the enemy. Their own artillery in conjunction with that of the enemy, was turned on them, and long before it was light enough for their eyes, unaccustomed to the dim light, to distinguish friend from foe, they were hurrying to our right and rear intent only on their safety. Wright's (Sixth Corps) infantry, which was farther removed from the point of attack, fared somewhat better, but did not offer more than a spasmodic resistance." Nevertheless, they made Early "pay dearly for every foot gained and finally brought him to a stand," as Nicolay and Hay record.
The history of the Second Connecticut tells the story of the day as follows: "Most of the regiment were up next morning long before Reveille and many had begun to cook their coffee on account of that ominous popping and cracking which had been going on for half an hour off to the right. They did not exactly suppose it meant anything, but they had learned wisdom by many a sudden march on an empty stomach and did not propose to be caught napping. The clatter on the right increased. It began to be the wonder why no orders came. But suddenly every man seemed to lose interest in the right, and turned his inquiring eyes and ears toward the left. Rapid volleys and a vague tumult told that there was trouble there. 'Fall in!' said Mackenzie. The brigade moved briskly off toward the east, crossing the track of other troops and batteries of artillery which were hurriedly swinging into position, while ambulances, orderlies, staff officers, camp followers, pack horses, cavalrymen, sutler's wagons, hospital wagons, and six-mule teams of every description came trundling and galloping pell mell toward the right and rear and making off toward Winchester. It was not a hundred rods from our own camp to the place where we went into position on a road running north. General Wright, the temporary commander of the army, bareheaded, and with blood trickling from his beard, sat on his horse near by, as if bewildered or in a brown study. The ground was cleared in front of the road and sloped off some thirty rods to a stream, on the opposite side of which it rose for about an equal distance to a piece of woods in which the advance rebel line had already taken position. The newly risen sun, huge and bloody, was on their side in more senses than one. Our line faced directly to the east and we could see nothing but that enormous disk, rising out of the fog, while they could see every man in our line and could take good aim. The battalion lay down, and part of the men began to fire, but the shape of the ground afforded little protection and large numbers were killed and wounded. Four fifths of our loss for the entire day occurred during the time we lay here,—which could not have been over five minutes,—by the end of which time the Second Connecticut found itself in an isolated position not unlike that at Cold Harbor. The fog had now thinned away somewhat and a firm rebel line with colors full high advanced came rolling over the knoll just in front of our left not more than three hundred yards distant. 'Rise up,—Retreat,' said Mackenzie,—and the battalion began to move back.
"For a little distance the retreat was made in very good order, but it soon degenerated into a rout. Men from a score of regiments were mixed up in flight, and the whole corps was scattered over acres and acres with no more organization than a herd of buffaloes. Some of the wounded were carried for a distance by their comrades, who were at length compelled to leave them to their fate in order to escape being shot. About a mile from the place where the retreat commenced there was a road running directly across the valley. Here the troops were rallied and a slight defence of rails thrown up. The regimental and brigade flags were set up as beacons to direct each man how to steer through the mob and in a very few minutes there was an effective line of battle established. A few round shot ricochetted overhead, making about an eighth of a mile at a jump, and a few grape were dropped into a ditch just behind our line, quickly clearing out some soldiers who had crawled in there, but this was the extent of the pursuit. The whole brigade (and a very small brigade it was) was deployed as skirmishers under Colonel Olcott of the One Hundred and Twenty-first New York. Three lines of skirmishers were formed and each in turn constituted the first line while the other two passed through and halted, and so the retreat was continued for about three miles until a halt was made upon high ground, from which we could plainly see the Johnnies sauntering around on the very ground where we had slept."
Once more could Early claim the credit of a victory of which at night he was to find himself again deprived. Sheridan's famous ride, his meeting and turning of the tide of fugitives, is the feature of the day's occurrences which will always live in the popular memory. It is a significant hint of the scale of such a battlefield to know that the men of the Second Connecticut had no visual perception of his presence that day, though they heard the cheering occasioned by his appearance in other parts of the scene, and in his report there is mention of a meeting with Colonel Mackenzie, whom he tried to persuade to go to the rear on account of his wounds.
The Confederate belief in their victory was not unreasonable, but it was now to suffer an astonishing upset. Weary and demoralized with success, they were entirely unprepared for the vigor of their opponents, who after repulsing their last assault, quickly reformed the lines and prepared for a general advance. Sheridan writes: "This attack was brilliantly made, and as the enemy was protected by rail breastworks and at some portions of his line by stone fences, his resistance was very determined."
The history of the Second Connecticut gives a detailed account of its movement, first against a stone wall in front which after some opposition was abandoned by the enemy, who then "attempted to rally behind another fence a little further back, but after a moment or two gave it up and 'retired.' Not only in front of our regiment, but all along as far as the eye could reach, both to the right and left, were they flying over the uneven country in precisely the same kind of disorder that we had exhibited in the morning. The shouts and screams of victory mingled with the roar of the firing, and never was heard 'so musical a discord, such sweet thunder.' The sight of so many rebel heels made it a very easy thing to be brave, and the Union troops pressed on, utterly regardless of the grape and canister which to the last moment the enemy flung behind him. It would not have been well for them to have fired too much if they had had ever so good a chance, for they would have been no more likely to hit our men than their own, who were our prisoners and scattered in squads of twenty, squads of ten, and squads of one, all over the vast field. At one time they made a determined stand along a ridge in front of our brigade. A breastwork of rails was thrown together, colors planted, a nucleus made, and both flanks grew longer and longer with wonderful rapidity. It was evident that they were driving back their men to this line without regard to regiment or organization of any kind. This could be plainly seen from the adjacent and similar ridge over which we were moving,—the pursuers being in quite as much disorder (so far as organizations were concerned) as the pursued. That growing line began to look ugly and somewhat quenched the ardor of the chase. It began to be a question in many minds whether it would not be a point of wisdom 'to survey the vantage of the ground' before getting much further. But just as we descended into the intervening hollow, a body of cavalry, not large but compact, was seen scouring along the fields to our right and front like a whirlwind directly toward the left flank of that formidable line on the hill. When we reached the top there was no enemy there! They had moved on and the cavalry after them.
"Thus the chase was continued, from position to position, for miles and miles, for hours and hours, until darkness closed in and every regiment went into camp on the identical ground it had left in such haste in the morning. Every man tied his shelter tent to the very same old stakes, and in half an hour coffee was boiling and salt pork sputtering over thousands of camp fires. Civil life may furnish better fare than the army at Cedar Creek had that night, but not better appetites; for it must be borne in mind that many had gone into the fight directly from their beds and had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours.
"Men from every company started out the first thing after reaching camp to look for our dead and wounded, many of whom lay not fifty rods off. The slightly wounded who had not got away had been taken prisoners and sent at once toward Richmond—while the severely wounded had lain all day on the ground near where they were hit while the tide of battle ebbed and flowed over them. Some of the mortally wounded were just able to greet their returning comrades, hear the news of victory, and send a last message to their friends before expiring. Corporal Charles M. Burr was shot above the ankle just after the battalion had risen up and started to retreat. Both bones of his leg were shattered and he had to be left. In a few minutes the rebel battalion which I have already mentioned came directly over him in pursuit, and was soon out of his sight. Then being alone for a short time he pulled off the boot from his sound leg, put his watch and money into it and put it on again. Next a merciful rebel lieutenant came and tied a handkerchief around his leg, stanching the blood. Next came the noble army of stragglers and bummers with the question, 'Hello, Yank, have you got any Yankee notions about you?' and at the same time thrusting their hands into every pocket. They captured a little money and small traps, but seeing one boot was spoiled they did not meddle with the other. Next came wagons, picking up muskets and accoutrements which lay thick all over the ground. Then came ambulances and picked up the rebel wounded but left ours. Then came a citizen of the Confederacy asking many questions, and then came three boys who gave him water. And thus the day wore along until the middle of the afternoon when the tide of travel began to turn. The noble army of stragglers and bummers led the advance—then the roar of battle grew nearer and louder and more general, then came galloping officers and all kinds of wagons, then a brass twelve-pounder swung round close to him, unlimbered, fired one shot, and whipped off again—then came the routed infantry, artillery, and cavalry, all mixed together, all on a full run, and strewing the ground with muskets and equipments. Then came the shouting 'boys in blue,' and in a few minutes Pat Birmingham came up and said: 'Well, Charley, I'm glad to find you alive. I didn't expect it. We're back again in the old camp, and the Johnnies are whipped all to pieces.'"
The victory was as complete and satisfying as it was spectacular; the enemy was at last so thoroughly beaten that a dangerous attitude could not be taken again. It was a fitting close for Sheridan's famous campaign in the Shenandoah Valley.
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To the Second Connecticut the day at Cedar Creek brought losses nearly as heavy as were suffered at Winchester just a month before: thirty-eight killed, ninety-six wounded, and two missing, besides a large number made prisoners,—an entire company having been captured early in the morning while on picket,—of whom eleven died in captivity. These losses were in fact proportionately even larger than those met with at Cold Harbor, as the hard service of the preceding months had reduced the regiment's effective strength to about twenty-five officers and seven hundred men present for duty.
General Sheridan's report on the Shenandoah campaign gave high praise to Colonel Mackenzie, who, as a result of his conduct, received a promotion and was commissioned brigadier-general in December. His disability from the two wounds received at Cedar Creek, however, necessitated his relinquishing the command of the regiment immediately after that engagement, and this devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel James Hubbard; to him in due course came the colonel's commission, and he led the regiment throughout the rest of its career.
Colonel Hubbard, though born in Salisbury, had lived in the West before the war, and first saw service with an Illinois regiment. Returning to Connecticut, he assisted in raising a company for the Nineteenth, and was mustered in as its captain. He was steadily promoted until the death of Colonel Kellogg brought him naturally to the command of the regiment; but, as has been said, his own modest estimate of his qualifications for this responsibility caused him to decline the appointment. When it came to him a second time he accepted, and proved by his subsequent handling of the regiment a worthy successor to the remarkably able soldiers under whom he had served, winning the brevet rank of brigadier-general in the final campaigns. His ambition was, a comrade wrote, to do his full duty without a thought for personal glory; and he enjoyed in a high degree the respect and affection of his command. He died in Washington, where he lived for many years, on December 21, 1886, and was buried in Winsted.
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The brilliant victories in which the Second Artillery had borne so worthy a part, and the re-election of President Lincoln in November (1864), put an end to all anxieties as to danger in the quarter of the Shenandoah, which before Sheridan's campaign had been a region of fatal mischance to the national cause from the beginning of the war. As a consequence the Sixth Corps was once more ordered to rejoin Grant's army, and the regiment left the historic valley on December 1st, arriving on the 5th before Petersburg, where it was assigned a position near the place of its skirmish on June 22nd.
"Then it was unbroken forest," says its history; "now, hundreds of acres were cleared, and dotted with camps. A corduroy road ran by, and a telegraph, and Grant's railroad. No other such railroad was ever seen before, or ever will be again. It was laid right on top of the ground, without any attempt at grading, and you might see the engine and rear car of a long train, while the middle of the train would be in a valley, completely out of sight. Having reached Parke Station, we moved to a camp near Battery Number Twenty-seven, and went into the snug and elegant little log houses just vacated by the Ninety-fourth New York. This was a new kind of situation for the 'Second Heavies.' The idea of being behind permanent and powerful breastworks, defended by abatis, ditches, and what not, with approaches so difficult that ten men could hold five hundred at bay, was so novel, that the men actually felt as if there must be some mistake, and that they had got into the wrong place."
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For two months no fighting fell to the regiment's lot, for though the Union commanders and armies were ready and eager to make an end of the war as soon as possible, little could be done during the winter. Though this inactivity brought perhaps some relief from the rigors of army life, the men had numerous reminders that they were still in active service. One of the chief events of this season the history of the regiment describes as follows: "On the afternoon of the 9th (December, 1864), the First and Third Divisions of the Sixth Corps were marched to the left, beyond the permanent lines, and off in the direction of the Weldon Railroad, to prevent any attack on the Fifth and Second Corps, now returning from their expedition. After going for about six miles we halted for the night, in a piece of woods. It was bitter cold when we left camp, but soon began to moderate, then to rain, then to sleet; so that by the time we halted, everything was covered with ice, with snow two inches deep on the ground, and still sifting down through the pines. It was the work of an hour to get fires going,—but at last they began to take hold, and fuel was piled on as though it did not cost anything. Clouds of steam rolled out of the soaked garments of the men, as they stood huddled around the roaring, cracking piles,—and the black night and ghostly woods were lighted up in a style most wonderful. The storm continued all night, and many a man waked up next morning to find his legs firmly packed in new fallen snow. At daylight orders came to pack up and be ready to move at once; which was now a difficult order to execute, on account of many things, especially the shelter tents;—for they were as rigid as sheet-iron and yet had to be rolled up and strapped on the knapsacks. Nevertheless it was not long before the regiment was in motion; and after plodding off for a mile to the left, a line of battle was formed, vedettes sent out, trees felled and breastworks built, and at dinner-time the men were allowed to build fires and cook breakfast. Then, after standing until almost night in the snow, which had now turned to sleet, the column was headed homeward. Upon arriving, it was discovered that some of the Jersey Brigade had taken possession of our log snuggeries, and that their officers had established their heels upon the mantels in our officers' quarters, and were smoking the pipes of comfort and complacency, as though they had not a trouble in the world, and never expected to have. But they soon found that possession is not nine points of military law, by any means. An order from Division Headquarters soon sent them profanely packing,—and the Second Heavies occupied."
Though weeks were spent in such comparative comfort and immunity as the present situation afforded, the men felt as if they were resting over a volcano which might break into fierce activity at any moment; and as the winter passed signs of the renewal of the struggle multiplied on all sides.
On February 5th (1865), part of the Second Connecticut was ordered to move out to support and protect the flank of the Fifth Corps, which was engaged near Hatcher's Run, and accordingly left the comforts of the camp and bivouacked for the night a few miles away. The history of the regiment says: "It was bitter cold sleeping that night—so cold that half the men stood or sat around fires all night. In the morning the movement was continued. A little before sundown we crossed Hatcher's Run and moved by the flank directly into a piece of woods, the Second Brigade under Hubbard leading the division and the Second Connecticut under Skinner leading the brigade. Wounded men were being brought to the rear and the noise just ahead told of mischief there. Colonel Hubbard filed to the left at the head of the column along a slight ridge and about half the regiment had filed when troops of the Fifth Corps came running through to the rear and at the same moment General Wheaton rode up with 'oblique to the left, oblique to the left,' and making energetic gestures toward the rise of ground. The ridge was quickly gained and fire opened just in time to head off a counter fire and charge that was already in progress, but between the 'file left' and the 'left oblique' and the breaking of our ranks by troops retreating from in front, and the vines and underbrush (which were so thick that they unhorsed some of the staff officers) there was a good deal of confusion, and the line soon fell back about ten rods, where it was reformed and a vigorous fire poured—somewhat at random—a little to the left of our first position. The attempt of the enemy to get in on the left of the Fifth Corps was frustrated. Our casualties were six wounded (some of them probably by our own men) and one missing. The position was occupied that night, and the next day until about sundown, when the brigade shifted some distance to the right and again advanced under an artillery fire to within a short distance of the rebel batteries and built breastworks. The rebel picket shots whistled overhead all the time the breastworks were building, but mostly too high to hurt anything but the trees. At midnight the division moved back to quarters, arriving at sunrise. Having taken a ration of whiskey which was ordered by Grant or somebody else in consideration of three nights and two days on the bare ground in February, together with some fighting and a good deal of hard marching and hard work, the men lay down to sleep as the sun rose up, and did not rise up until the sun went down."
The routine of picket duty, inspection, alarms, and orders to be in readiness which came not infrequently, continued for another succession of weeks, varied now by the constant arrival of deserters from the enemy, who were coming into the Union lines singly and in large parties almost daily, and revealing the desperate condition on the other side. Preparations went on for what all felt was to be the final campaign; and this opened for the Second Connecticut on March 25th, when the famous assault on Fort Stedman was made by the enemy, Lee's last attempt at offensive operations.