Shipping Out from Hartford

17 October 1861 – 4:00pm

On this day, the 8th Connecticut is officially transferred to federal service and Colonel Harland fulfills his orders to report with the regiment for additional training in New York. Baggage and soldiers are loaded and the regiment departs Camp Buckingham in Hartford via ship bound for the Camp of Instruction on Long Island, NY (Jamaica). Cheering crowds greet the soldiers as they make their way down the Connecticut River. The unit strength is at 1,016. It will never be that high again.

As it[the ship] passed towards the river, the departing soldiers were greeted with waving flags and resounding cheers from proud relatives and friends, and grateful strangers, who only knew them as a part of the grand Union army going eagerly forth to offer vicarious atonement for the sins of the nation.[1]

Although a multitude of rumors spread through the ranks, Oliver and the soldiers of the 8th CVI have no clue as to their destination. They must settle into the cramped quarters of the ship and wait. Much to their delight, the soldiers of Company A find some of the better accommodations aboard the boat.

Our quarters, that is Co. A’s, were in the gangway forward of the shaft. We spread our beds all over the floor and bunked in like a mess of pigs; some were in the water shoe deep. I managed to get a dry place and with my knapsack for a pillow slept soundly for about two hours when I heard my name called loud enough to start any living person to stand guard for an hour over our traps (?) and guns.[2]

18 October 1861

12:30am

After being relieved from his duty of guarding the baggage and weapons, Oliver finds that he is unable to accomplish any restful sleep probably caused by the combined effects of anticipation and the cramped quarters on the ship.[3]

4:00am

As the ship approaches New York City, the early morning fog begins to clear allowing the lights of the city to come into view for the soldiers of the 8th CVI.[4]

6:00am

There is great excitement among the soldiers as the ship puts ashore at Staten Island. In anticipation of leaving their cramped quarters, the soldiers of the 8th scramble to find their knapsacks and other equipment. The horses are taken off the ship first prompting the troops to don their knapsacks and prepare to disembark. Much to their disappointment after standing for hours, the troops are not allowed to leave the ship.[5] The vessel is holding in place for the Granite State to come up from New York. The U.S.S. Granite State was a wooden ship dating back to 1825 that was not used until the Civil War. There is some ambiguity about when it was first used in the war. If Oliver Case is correct about the name of the ship, it was being used as early as 1861 although some sources say it was not used until 1863.

9:00am

After over 17 hours on the ship and waiting for 3 hours at the ready to leave, the soldiers of the 8th are told they are not going ashore at Staten Island. The horses are reloaded and the ship follows the same path by which it came to Staten Island, passing New York City again enroute to a destination yet unknown to the passengers.[6]

 

 

An 1861 map of New York depicting many of the place names from Oliver’s letters including Staten Island, Hunter’s Point and Jamaica, Long Island.

3:00pm

The ship arrives at Hunter’s Point, Long Island. Some of the members of the regiment are allowed to leave the ship, but the troops of Company A wait for another two to three hours before disembarking the ship and boarding a train to their Camp of Instruction at Jamaica, Long Island. The troops of Company A have learned a hard lesson that veteran soldiers know too well as “hurry up and wait.” It’s been over 24 hours in cramped, damp quarters and as Oliver views the long day of delays he maintains his sense of humor writing, “All things must have an end and so did our waiting.”[7]

Evening

A heavy rain falling since the afternoon prevents the proper assembly of tents at the camp so the soldiers spend their first night on Long Island sleeping under a rainy sky. An abundant supply of cedar trees provides bedding for tired troops.[8]

19 October 1861 – Sunrise

Oliver and his fellow soldiers awake to find that the rain coupled with a heavy fog has left all the equipment including their guns wet and rusting. The soldiers will spend the day cleaning and drying before assembling and moving into their tents.[9]

20 Oct 1861

Oliver attends church at an unspecified location and visits with his cousin, Benejah Holcomb who is also a member of the 8th CVI serving in Company C.[10]

Benejah Holcomb is from Granby which is about two hours walking distance from Simsbury. He enlisted in Company C of the 8th CVI on September 11, 1861. He will be discharged for unknown reasons from the 8th on January 1, 1863. Holcomb is a descendant of Lieutenant Benejah Holcomb, a Revolutionary War hero, and also a distant cousin of Oliver and Abbie Case. It is not known whether Abbie and Oliver knew him to be a cousin or had some other association with him. He is mentioned in many of Oliver’s letters to Abbie making it seem that knowing of him was of some importance to her.

 


[1] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, Ledyard Bill, New York, 1868

[2] The Letters of Oliver Cromwell Case (Unpublished), Simsbury Historical Society, Simsbury, CT, 1861-1862

[3] IBID

[4] IBID

[5] IBID

[6] IBID

[7] IBID

[8] IBID

[9] IBID

[10] IBID

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